Jeffrey Sholl, PhD
Jeffrey Sholl, PhD, Principal/Chairman Rä Foods, LLC (parent of WAS) has 40+ years of experience in the processed food and fresh produce industries holding many senior management positions at the Pillsbury Company, GrandMet, Haagen-Dazs, and The Paul Ecke Ranch. He acquired the Green Giant Fresh Brand from GrandMet in 1995 and has been active in the fresh produce business ever since. Jeff provides passion and strategic direction for Ra Foods!
Susan Harlander, PhD
Susan Harlander, PhD has worked with the food industry for over 30 years. Prior to joining Land O’Lakes as Director of R&D and The Pillsbury Company as VP Green Giant R&D and Agricultural Research, Susan was Associate Professor of Food Microbiology at the University of Minnesota. She has over 110 publications and has served on numerous federal government committees for FDA, USDA, and the National Research Council. Susan is focused on food safety aspects of the Cold Grown process and helping team members and consumers understand food better, from farm to fork!
Antonio Ortiz is the Wild About Sprouts Director of Operations. In a career spanning over 20 years, Ortiz is an accomplished operational management professional and successful leader of diverse operational teams. Antonio brings the large-scale operations experience needed to expand our operations to meet the increasing demand for our fresh, living sprouts. Antonio and his team are prepared to spearhead the growth of Wild About Sprouts.
Chelsea Deusenberry is Wild About Sprouts' Continuous Improvement and Quality Manager. Chelsea has extensive experience in quality control, automation and robotics and GFSI audit experience for both FSIS and FDA production plants. Chelsea performs continuous gap analyses to determine areas of improvement in operational efficiencies and internal processes as well as tracks and analyzes product specifications. She is a key communicator with all levels of the organization.
Passionate about sprouts for more than 20 years
In 1997, Green Giant Fresh, owned by Jeff Sholl, was approached by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to lead the commercialization of broccoli sprouts. Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which has been extensively researched for its health-promoting benefits. Broccoli sprouts contain the most concentrated source of glucoraphanin, a precursor of sulforaphane, the compound which turns on the natural cellular defenses housed in all cells.
In 1998, we purchased a sprouting operation in the Bay area (named California Sprouts), developed a network of sprouters and introduced BroccoSprouts and a number of other sprout varieties and blends. Recognizing the potential microbial hazards associated with sprouted seed, in collaboration with The Pillsbury Company, USDA and FDA, we developed the 1999 “Guidance for Industry: Reducing microbial food safety hazards for sprouted seeds and sampling and microbial testing of spent irrigation water during sprout production.”
Because many sprouters did not adhere to the 1999 Guidance, since 1996, the FDA has investigated over 50 foodborne illness outbreaks associated with traditionally grown sprouts that resulted in over 2500 cases of illness, 200 hospitalizations, and at least 3 deaths. As a result of the continuing foodborne illness outbreaks associated with sprouts, major retailers foodservice outlets discontinued selling or using sprouts. California Sprouts provided safe, quality sprouts to retailers and foodservice for over 20 years without a single foodborne illness outbreak because we complied with all FDA guidance, but we were still painted with the same brush as the rest of the industry. We remained passionate about our product, but concluded any future would be based on developing a new process that addressed the safety issues. If we were unable to develop a safe process for growing sprouts, it was our decision to exit the business entirely. So, in 2014 we contracted with The Vista Institute, a small team of highly experienced food scientists to come up with a safer process for growing sprouts. After more than two+ years of research, an entirely new way to grow sprouts safely was developed.