In the spirit of fostering closer community and connection, we invite you to get to know our dedicated team members and learn more about their contributions to our vibrant community.

In this series, we not hope to not only foster stronger bonds within our team, but also to provide a valuable resource for our members and extended networks, so you always know the right person to reach out to when you have questions or exciting opportunities to share. In this first installment, we are thrilled to introduce Nikki Smith, the latest addition to the PBFA team – read on to learn about Nikki’s incredible experience, her new role at PBFA, and more.

Nikki Smith

Nikki Smith

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself! What perspectives, skills, or experiences are you most proud to bring to PBFA/I?

A: My plant-based journey began in 2001 (although since I was eight or nine, I’d wanted to ditch milk and meat but did not have the resources/knowledge to do so), and my grocery retail experience started in 2005. I worked as store management for Kroger in a variety of store formats. While embedded in the store, my area of direct oversight was the perishable departments (which included Natural Foods at the time). I later received the opportunity to be the Natural Foods Merchandiser and Buyer for the Central Division (located in Indianapolis). This gave me greater insight into plannograms, sales plants, selling events, marketing and promotions, procurement, and category management. I’ve also held roles in Kroger’s HR department on the Talent and Development team (training and education are still a passion of mine) and the Labor and Expense team as a Labor Forecaster (this switch from merchandising to operations allowed me to see how merchandising events are supported and how labor standards are created). I spent the past five years in an entirely different industry learning vertical integration, change management, client implementation, and leading a small but engaged team to some amazing achievements. I’m most proud to bring my knowledge of grocery retail and love of the plant-based industry together to PBFA as I believe that plant-based food is vital to grocery retailers as consumers demand sustainable and ethical foods.

Q: What is your role with PBFA?

A:  I am the Associate Director of Marketplace Development! I will help foster retail partnerships and create mutually beneficial opportunities for members to engage in retailers’ initiatives. I will also help out with the exciting food service side of Marketplace Development.

Q: What inspired you to get into your line of work? How does this connect to your “why” for working in the plant-based industry/food systems?

A: Honestly, getting into grocery retail was a bit of a fluke. I needed a job, and Kroger needed store management! I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up loving the environment and have sought out grocery retail experiences throughout my career (I have worked for natural foods co-ops, regional natural foods chains, and larger grocers such as Kroger and Sweetbay (formerly Kash & Karry). The why behind my transition to PBFA stems from my belief that everyone should be entitled to good food that promotes health (not only for the individual but for society and the planet). Retail is the frontline; for many folks, the grocery store/online retailer is all they know about our food system. By partnering with retailers, we can have a massive impact on the environment and animal welfare by ensuring changes happen where consumers are: in the stores!

Q: Take your pick! Answer one of the following: What’s your favorite: Dish, Hobby, Inspirational Quote, Book, or Animal?

A: First, my favorite fiction book is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. She creates a fully-immersive, magical world that I want to live in. I’ve read it once or twice a year since 2012 and think about the characters at least once a day. I have three copies on my bookshelf (one signed), but a total of six copies are in the house. 

My favorite non-fiction book is a tie. First, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist. This is an expansive, well-researched, and accessibly written book about the history of capitalism and exploitation. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the erasure of forced labor in the founding of the American economy. Second, The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown. This book is a readable and reliable account of the Donner Party. Bringing politics of the day, manifest destiny, and the hope of migration, this book illustrates the hubris of some and, for others, the desire for something better.