MARCH 2024


Forging their own path to success

Image courtesy of Clara Bastian / iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made in a wide variety of industries. In this Outlook Report, Dairy Foods is proud to highlight and celebrate 10 fascinating women working in the multifaceted dairy industry who are carving out their own unique path to success.

With a diverse background, Chobani’s Roberta Osborne, who grew up on a 100-herd dairy farm in Indiana, used her love of science, sustainability and livestock, along with higher- education degrees in Agricultural Engineering and Animal Science, to spearhead a Regenerative Agriculture program with Chobani and the Cornell University CALS’ Nutrient Management Spear Program.

Although she was born and raised in Araraquara, an agricultural city in the state of São Paulo in Brazil, ADM’s Gabriela Acetoze notes her career in ruminant nutrition — one of the most dynamic nutritional models within the livestock industry — took flight at the University of São Paulo School of Agricultural Engineering.

While most kids are playing with dolls and Legos, sisters Tracy Luckow, Ph.D. and Lori Gitomer were creating mini businesses. Four years ago, they co-founded Whipnotic, a flavored Whipped Cream with less sugar and swirls of delectable toppings to bring innovation to the category.

Also relatively new to the dairy industry, former Fortune 500 executive, Yin Woon Rani, CEO at MilkPEP, pledges to use her expertise in marketing communications to make milk relevant again and suggests it’s a “career-defining opportunity.”

With a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition, An Ho, director of Food Science and Product Innovation at the International Food Products Corp. (IFPC), had a decision to make in college: choosing between meat science or dairy science. She’s never regretted her decision.

While Lisa Brown started her career off in the packaging division at Mini Melts USA, some 17 years later, she’s now in charge of the entire manufacturing plant, team and production goals.

A fourth-generation owner at Nelson-Jameson, Amanda Nelson Sasse says dairy farms and dairy plants were a part of her everyday life. The fact that her great-grandfather and father founded Nelson-Jameson gave her an insider’s perspective on the dairy industry and the importance of giving back.

Although Jill Allen didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, the former 1997 Tillamook County Dairy Princess’ passion for cheese has taken her from Tillamook County in Oregon to literally around the country and the world in her role as a national and international cheese judge.

At Sargento Foods for 24 years, Kristi Jankowski rose through the ranks and has served as executive vice president of Innovation at the dairy company for 14 years.

Dairy Foods asked these fascinating leaders some thought-provoking questions about the mentors who inspired them, risks they took, and their challenges and aspirations. In some cases, responses were edited for space and clarity.

By Barbara Harfmann, Managing Editor

Women in the multifaceted dairy industry share their challenges, aspirations.

Forging their own path to sucess

Why did you seek out a career in the dairy industry? Tell us a little about your journey.

Gabriela Acetoze, Ph.D., P.A.S.
Director of Technical Sales – Ruminants, ADM, Chicago
Years with Company: 10

“In 2005 I started my bachelor’s degree in Ag Engineering. Back then, Dolly the sheep and herbicide-resistant corn were some of the hot topics surrounding bioengineering, and I was completely fascinated by it. I started all my basic classes with math, statistics, soil science, topography and crop science, but realized agronomy was far too static for my lively personality. Preparing the terrain, seeding, watering, treating and waiting for a crop to grow took too long in my eyes. Then I came across the department of animal science in the same school of ag engineering and started taking all my elective classes in ruminant nutrition, which is one of the most dynamic nutritional models within the livestock industry. After being an intern for many years in that field in Brazil, I was invited to an internship at University of California, Davis, which led me to a master’s degree in animal biology with emphasis in beef cattle nutrition and a Ph.D. in animal biology with emphasis in dairy cattle nutrition and metabolism, so that’s how I ultimately ended up building my career in the dairy industry.”

Cheek, Smile, Outerwear, Eyebrow, Sleeve, Dishware, Eyelash

Jill Allen
Director of Product Excellence in Research & Development (R&D) at Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), Tillamook, Ore.
Years with Company: 23 years

“I have spent more than two decades focused on all-things cheese and dairy from concepting to creating, grading to aging, packing to forklifting and more. I have worn a lot of hats at TCCA over the years. I was born and raised in Tillamook County, but I did not grow up on a dairy farm like many of my friends and neighbors. But in high school I landed a job milking cows. My passion for dairying helped me capture the coveted title of 1997 Tillamook County Dairy Princess. Then it was off to Oregon State University to pursue a degree in Agribusiness Management and Speech Communications. My passion for cheese has taken me from Tillamook County to literally around the country and the world in my role as a national and international cheese judge.”

Smile, Dog, Dishware, Sleeve, Oval

Lisa Brown
General Manager of Manufacturing, Mini Melts USA, Trevose, Pa.
Years with Company: 17 years

“In 2007, when I started with the Mini Melts team, I worked in the packaging department. At that time, it was just a job, but within the first year, I knew this was more than just a job, it was a career. I submerged myself in the varying roles at Mini Melts. When I was in packaging, I worked closely with the supervisor, so that I became the backup when she was on vacation. When a position opened up in the warehouse, I took that job and ran with it. I was still working in the warehouse, when we were short a production worker, so in the downtime I went in and was learning the process of making the ice cream, from setting up the machines to the recipes to know that we were making the perfect product. With all those opportunities to grow, it helped me in making this my career.”

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An Ho
Director of Food Science and Product Innovation, International Food Products Corp. (IFPC), Fenton, Mo.
Years with Company: 20

“I received my B.S. degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Missouri. My emphasis was in dairy and dairy processing. The University of Missouri had two strengths — dairy and meat science. I took the dairy science route.

“I spent a lot of lab time in the ice cream plant and did my sensory product on soymilk, as it was a spinoff of what I learned from dairy processing. For product development, I created a soymilk based ice cream and realized that dairy based butter and chocolate chips enhanced the product greatly. My first professional employer was Balchem (Sensory Effects) testing carrageenan and making ice cream samples."

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Kristi Jankowski
Executive Vice President of Innovation, Sargento Foods Inc., Plymouth, Wis.
Years with Company: 24

“I didn’t. I think it found me and was meant to be. My parents both grew up on dairy farms in Wisconsin. Despite growing up in the city, I was always around cows and dairy. One of my first jobs in high school was in a cheese shop, and one of my first jobs in college was at a wine and cheese shop. I studied Food Science and Chemistry at a university that supported dairy, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I kicked off my career at Kraft Foods and worked on its Lunchables product, specifically on the cheese components, and now have been with Sargento Foods, a company that focuses on Real Cheese people, for over 24 years. So I think, unconsciously, I gravitated toward dairy and I was meant to be a part of this strong, vibrant, wholesome industry.”

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Tracy Luckow, Ph.D., President, and Lori Gitomer, CEO
Co-Founders of Whipnotic, New York, N.Y.
Years with Company: 4

“The business we decided to join forces on is Whipnotic, an innovative new flavored Whipped Cream. As a child, whipped cream was one of Lori’s favorite foods. She rediscovered it later in life when seeking low-sugar dessert options after giving birth to her daughter. So, for Lori, her career in dairy began as a personal passion, as a consumer and lover of the category. Tracy came to dairy from a slightly different angle. Her personal mission was to help make the food system healthier, by working within the industry to remove added sugar, fat, salt and artificial ingredients and to innovate with more functional, healthful, nutritionally dense ingredients. Dairy is one of the best canvases, since it’s naturally vitamin and protein rich, creamy and satiating.

“Whipped cream, in particular, has seen very minimal innovation in the grocery store over the past 75 years and seemed ripe for a makeover. We were very inspired by baristas in coffee shops, pancake houses and ice cream parlors who have been swirling chocolate, caramel sauces, and fruit purees into whipped cream to make it more multi-dimensional.”

Hair, Face, Smile, Glasses, Outerwear, Hairstyle, Eye, Azure, Sleeve, Happy

Roberta Osborne
Director of Farms and Sustainability, Chobani, Norwich, N.Y.
Years with Company: 8

“I went to Purdue University and received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agricultural Education and Animal Science. After graduating, I was recruited to be one of the first two female agriculture extension agents in Michigan for Michigan State University. Early in my career, I was one of the first people to bring MSU software and computers to balance dairy rations in remote counties, to ensure the cows were getting the nutrition they needed through their feed. During this time, I worked with hundreds of farmers to make sure they had adequate support. I went on to do similar work as an agriculture agent for the University of Maryland, then back to MSU, still as a dairy agent bringing new research and technology to dairy farms.

“I grew up in the dairy industry. My family lived on a dairy farm with about 100 cows in Indiana; we milked the cows, raised the calves and crops. I loved dairy farming, and knew at a young age I wanted to pursue a career in the dairy industry.”

Smile, Dishware, Sleeve, Happy

Yin Woon Rani
CEO, MilkPEP, Washington, D.C.
Years with Company: 4-plus

“I am a relative newcomer — joining MilkPEP in October 2019, which was my first foray into the dairy industry. Before that, I had a 20-plus year career as an agency executive in New York working on a wide range of Fortune 500 CPG brands and most recently worked at Campbell Soup Co. for five years.

“Having worked on a wide range of foods and beverages, I am a huge advocate for milk and dairy as an essential, wholesome, nutritious product. If milk was ‘invented’ today, it would be seen as a miracle product. I was drawn to the MilkPEP role specifically because my background and expertise is all in marketing communications (“promotions”) — and the challenge to make milk relevant again seems like a career-defining opportunity to do important work.”

Vision care, Glasses, Eye, Sleeve, Eyelash, Happy, Eyewear

Amanda Nelson Sasse
Fourth-Generation Owner, Vice President of Philanthropy and Social Impact for Nelson-Jameson, President of the Nelson-Jameson Foundation, Marshfield, Wis.
Years with Company: 15

“Nelson-Jameson has been an enormous presence in my life for 40-plus years. My great-grandfather started it along with my grandfather, and my father dedicated his professional life to growing it into the integral part of the dairy industry that it is today. As a fourth-generation owner, I feel a profound sense of duty to both the company and to the dairy industry as a whole. I’m a custodian of Nelson-Jameson’s legacy, brand and reputation. It’s up to my siblings and me to maintain the level of excellence built by previous generations, and to preserve the integrity of our Golden Rule culture. However, it’s also up to us to lead Nelson-Jameson into a successful future by placing the right people in the right roles while capitalizing on the right opportunities. We are very serious in our responsibility in helping our dairy industry partners produce safe, quality products for people around our country and the world.”

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Do you have a mentor that has helped further your growth? Have you, in turn, mentored others?

Lisa Brown: “The owner of Mini Melts, Dan Kilcoyne, has spent countless hours helping me develop and grow. His commitment to developing the team at Mini Melts has had a direct impact on my career and capabilities. From recognizing my commitment to the organization, to providing me valuable feedback, both positive and constructive, Dan has had a significant impact on the leader that I am today. I try to emulate, and even think, ‘what would Dan do?,’ as I encounter the daily challenges of a dairy manufacturing environment.”

Kristi Jankowski: “Yes. George Hoff, Sargento Foods chief financial officer. George was at Sargento for decades and retired a few years ago. I had the privilege of learning from him and watching him lead. Under the toughest business circumstances and conflicts, George had an amazing talent to keep people feeling good and confident so that they could solve whatever problems faced them. He is truly the nicest man I have ever met and is the heart and conscience of our company. He understood that you can be a strong business leader and developer of people while deeply caring for people along their journeys.”

Tracy Luckow & Lori Gitomer: “Over the course of our careers, we have been so fortunate to intersect with brilliant, creative, patient, strategic minds with expertise spanning across a wide variety of disciplines within sales, marketing, accounting, public relations, product development and engineering. When we started Whipnotic, many of those mentors became our earliest investors and business partners and provide us with advice, support and encouragement every step of the way.

“In turn, we spend our free time sharing our story with Girl Scout Troops, high school and college classes with a specific focus on helping women and girls get interested in entrepreneurship. Women hold roughly 12% of patents and receive less than 2% of venture capital to fund their businesses. We’d like to help be part of the change, and to open doors for future generations of female entrepreneurs and inventors.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “My dad, John Nelson. Growing up, his wisdom seemed infinite to me. He knows so many things about so many things. He has both a head for industry and one for people, a rare combination for many leaders in the business world. Dad always told us that Nelson-Jameson employees were like family, and my siblings and I truly believe that. In fact, we recently established the Nelson-Jameson Foundation, so that our family is able to give back to our employees, community and industry through scholarship programs, need-based assistance funds and grants.”

Yin Woon Rani: “I am blessed with a robust and diverse network of mentors, sponsors, peers, advisors and friends. One of the most influential was someone I worked for at Grey for 10 years who was a boss, sponsor and mentor. I literally owe my career advancement to her support. I do try to ‘pay it forward’ when I can, and frequently try to help others in their career navigation in formal and informal ways. I am always touched when people I have worked with a long time ago still reach out for advice and support.”

Roberta Osborne: “Throughout my career I’ve had many mentors that have shown me the way and helped me pave a path for a fulfilling career in the dairy industry. Now I have the pleasure of being a mentor to others, which is really rewarding.

“Sustainability is a small world where many people know each other; the dairy world is also close knit. Throughout my career, I’ve had the ability to see many more women enter this space, and it’s been so nice to have a support system among us. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the fact that we really care about this industry and want the best for both the farmers and the cows.”

An Ho: “Dawn Manthei at Sensory Effects and David Gerfen at Dairy House (IFPC) have influenced me in a way that I am trying to dedicate myself in the right track with supporting the dairy and food industry. I have had 10 interns at IFPC during my time here and I hope that I was a mentor for their careers. A handful of the past interns work for IFPC.”

Gabriela Acetoze: “I was fortunate to have come across some of the brightest minds as I grew from an undergraduate student to a professional Ph.D. My first mentor in Brazil was Dr. Dante Lanna, a professor and beef nutritionist. Then Dr. Bob Sainz, who opened the doors for me at UC Davis. In graduate school, Dr. Heidi Rossow was Principal Investigator (PI) for both my master’s and doctorate, and with whom I had the privilege and honor to study alongside for five years. Dr. Rossow challenged me through unknown roads of ruminant nutrition, metabolism and energetics. In the industry, a former colleague and technical manager, Dr. Dwain Bunting, was also a great mentor to me. As a payback for these years of being mentored, I am fortunate to work at ADM, which is a company heavily focused on talent development and coaching. I have had many opportunities for coaching and mentoring colleagues, including the privilege to lead our ruminant technical team in North America under our Creation Design & Development Division.”

What initiatives have you instilled in your department/company that make you especially proud?

Jill Allen: “I have been a dairy products and cheese judge since 2013. On a cheese-judging trip to Cheddar, England — the international birthplace of cheddar cheese — I came up with the idea of creating a Tillamook version of the cheddar I tasted there. I came back to Oregon, pitched the idea to my mentor and then head cheesemaker, Dale Baumgartner, and alas the popular Tillamook English-Style Sweet Cheddar was born and is widely available today.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “I am most proud of launching the Nelson-Jameson Foundation (NJF) in late 2022. As the Golden Rule is Nelson-Jameson’s founding tenant, we’d had a long history of philanthropic activity and charitable giving. But founding the NJF helped us to focus and formalize our giving in a way that made it much more impactful and allowed for the establishment of new relationships and opportunities. We have programs in place to provide financial, emergency and educational support to employees and their families through scholarships, employee crisis funds and charitable donations.

“We also provide grants to 501c3 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that further the growth and success of our communities and our industry. In addition, the NJF also empowers our employees to take part in directing resources toward community causes like volunteer programs and matching gift programs. I am honored to lead the Foundation as its president, as it directly impacts the lives of so many people.”

Roberta Osborne: “I am especially proud of the Regenerative Agriculture program that I helped start in partnership with Chobani and the Cornell University CALS’ Nutrient Management Spear Program. The purpose of the program is to document dairy’s progress toward sustainability goals and help farmers further reduce the environmental impact of their farms. Through the program we are able to give our farmers sound data to back up their regenerative practices and show consumers how farms are working to improve sustainability.”

Gabriela Acetoze: “This year, ADM Animal Nutrition celebrates five years of ‘Coffee with the Techs.’ I envisioned this informal, virtual roundtable to bring many teams within our organization to an open discussion (with the feeling of being at a coffee shop) about diverse topics in animal nutrition. The topics range from a new internal research trial, trends or industry hot topics, to changes in feed regulations and regulatory affairs. During a ‘Coffee with the Techs’ meeting, you will find technical and business managers, regulatory, commercial and sales teams, and product managers joined by our leadership coming together as one team to better position ourselves to add value to the industry.”

Yin Woon Rani: “MilkPEP has always done amazing things to help make fluid milk appealing to consumers. Since I started, we really have doubled down on celebrating the strong benefits of fluid milk as well as inserting it into culture. Being focused on a challenger culture was a big unlock; letting us be brave enough to launch a wide range of ground-breaking marketing efforts like You’re Gonna Need Milk For That, Wood Milk, Milk PSA and #Team Milk.”

Lisa Brown: “Our food safety plan. Implementing that and training new employees coming in how important the safety and quality of our product is. In the end, our goal is to delight our consumers. Of course, we want Mini Melts to taste good and live up to the Mini Melts name, but none of that is possible without the highest quality and food safety of our ice cream. When a new team member joins the team, nothing is more important than instilling in them a sense of pride in the product and the need to produce safe quality products for our consumers.”

An Ho: “I like to be transparent with information. I like detailed notes that can be accessed so that scientists and colleagues can learn from various tests, trials and customer feedback. I want to emphasize how valuable shared knowledge is. I think team building is important. When people are comfortable around each other, it makes the challenging work much easier.”

Kristi Jankowski: “At Sargento, we continue to innovate and never stop working together to create new products for consumers. I deeply value this constant growth and innovation. You can find this in programs like our patent development or accolades for our Balanced Breaks, such as our team receiving three Nielson IQ Breakthrough Awards in less than 10 years. I also am proud of my team and those across the brand who come to work every day with passion for Sargento and creating new ideas.”

What are some of the most important rules you live by?

Gabriela Acetoze: “The main ones are God, integrity, honesty. To know that in everything I have been involved in, I gave my best at that time, sometimes coming short but not because I wasn’t trying my very best to succeed. A career is just a snapshot of our lifetime, so I would like to know I have left more behind than I have taken with me during my journey.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “I try to live by the principles of the Golden Rule. I try to practice kindness, understanding and tolerance, and hope that the same is practiced toward me. In addition, being a leader in business can be daunting, especially when some of the decisions that you make can affect so many people. That’s why I keep a copy of the following Winston Churchill quote on my desk to keep things in perspective: ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.’”

Kristi Jankowski: “Understand what your company needs you to do for them in order for it to be successful. Understand what makes your company run and how you can contribute and leverage your talents to move it in a positive direction. And the most important rule to live by in life? It is a journey and there is no true destination. Life is worth exploring and learning along the way.”

An Ho: “Dairy is not glamorous, but so nutritional and here to stay in various forms. The more support for the industry, the better we can help it thrive.”

Roberta Osborne: “‘Make decisions based on sound science.’ I believe that if you follow this rule, it will always boil back down to truth, and ultimately will be the best decision for everyone. Also, be prepared to embrace change and new research. We are on a path for continuous improvement in the dairy industry.”

Lisa Brown: “Taking pride in the work that I am doing. No matter what the task is that I’m working on, I put 100% into that. At the end of the day, looking back at what I’ve done, I want to know I did my absolute best to accomplish that task. It’s important to note that the pride I take in my role at Mini Melts reflects on the team that I manage.”

When did something start out badly for you but in the end, it was great?

Kristi Jankowski: “When we were developing our Balanced Breaks product line, we definitely struggled with a few different factors, internal and external. We could have stayed true to our guardrails and instead step away from the opportunity to meet the needs of our consumers solely based on our financial targets. Instead, we decided to take a risk and go for something that we truly believed the consumers wanted and needed and trusted that the business case would come together given the potential growth. Eight years later, our Balanced Breaks has been a significant contributor to our growth and helped generate $1.8 billion in revenue.”

Yin Woon Rani: “Like many others, the COVID impact in 2020 on MilkPEP was tumultuous — especially as a new CEO. We were set up to sponsor the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but the games were postponed, so we had to react and respond very quickly in an uncertain environment. We were able to bring back ‘Got Milk?’ featuring a wide range of influencers and athletes — including Katie Ledecky’s memorable swim across a pool with a glass of chocolate milk balanced on her head that garnered global media attention.”

Lisa Brown: “Ha ha. There was an incident at Mini Melts known as ‘Lidgate.’ It happened over three years ago, but is still talked about. We were in our busiest time of the year and we ran out of lids for our ice cream cups. It was my responsibility to order ingredients and packaging materials at the time and 100% my fault. We struggled for weeks to get the packaging materials we needed for our products. I was devastated at the time and felt like a failure. But, I learned from it. I recognized the complexity of the supply chain for our products for the first time and since then have never lost sight of the details needed to make sure that our product is there at the point of purchase to delight our customers. That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.”

An Ho: “I was in the beginning of my career and the company that I was working for was filing for bankruptcy. I loved working there, but knew I had to keep my options open. I was active in the Institute of Food Technologists. And, I was told there was an open position at IFPC. It was Dairy House at the time. I took the leap and have been with the company for 20 years, now.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “When I first joined Nelson-Jameson, dad started me as an outside salesperson. He said it was the best way for me to learn about all that Nelson-Jameson does and also get to know the customers that we serve. I was terrified. Not only did I experience a bit of imposter syndrome, but studying our product offerings and our customers’ processes were absolutely daunting. But, even though I lacked confidence in my abilities, my dad’s confidence in me never wavered and that gave me the courage to be a functioning, semi-successful sales person for almost three years before moving into another role within the company. The strong foundation I had gained from my sales experience proved to me how important it is in your career to have someone who not only mentors you, but also champions you. I try to keep that in mind when interacting with people just starting out at Nelson-Jameson.”

What challenges are you currently grappling with?

An Ho: “We are growing as a company and there are always growing pains. Staffing at the production plant is challenging. I visit the plant weekly and it seems to be running smoothly, but I know it's a lean crew. The employees are dedicated and I hope to do more to alleviate people working around the clock.”

Yin Woon Rani: “We are proud of what we have accomplished at MilkPEP over the history of the checkoff, but I am clear-eyed and focused on getting to the next level of efficiency and effectiveness with our marketing dollars. Like many in dairy, we need to do more with less. Dairy — and milk in particular — is in the middle of a culture war, although still consumed and appreciated by the vast majority of Americans. We need to be assertive and proactive to claim our rightful place in the narrative around health and wellness, as well as sustainability.”

Lisa Brown: “Personally, I still grapple with delegating responsibility and authority. I’ve been with Mini Melts for a long time and know the responsibilities and duties of just about every role in the organization. That makes it hard for me to delegate and let the team run with challenges. I want to solve the problems for them as opposed to letting them struggle a bit and overcome their own challenges to learn and grow. Just as I did. I continue to learn how to delegate and focus more on the long term as the general manager as opposed to the day to day.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “Currently, our biggest challenge (and opportunity) is probably growth. It’s obviously a positive ‘problem’ to have, however it comes with a unique set of decisions: How do we best fund this growth? Do we have the resources (both tangible and intangible) to support it? How much growth is too much, too fast? We need to be tremendously careful in making sure that our employees, supply chain partners and customers experience the same high level of excellence and subsequent success that have come to associate with Nelson-Jameson. If they feel any of our growing pains, we know it’s too much and immediate adjustments need to be made.”

Kristi Jankowski: “It is tough time for consumers and for employees. The world is in constant stimulation given technology today. News is 24/7 and social media is a facet of our lives that is difficult to turn away from. There is so much information and stimulation. It's hard for us to slow down, relax and know who and what to trust. This drives burnout in personal and professional lives and it stifles creativity and contentment. I am trying to find ways to personally detach from the unnecessary stimulation and provide the same environment for my team and build products that consumers can trust and make their lives easier in this time of ‘always on.’”

Do you have a motto you live by or best advice you can share?

Tracy Luckow & Lori Gitomer: “The philosopher Carl Jung once said, ‘Life really does begin at 40. Up until then, you are just doing research.’ As two entrepreneurs who started our business in our 40s, this quote really resonates for us. Up until our 40s, every company we’ve worked for, person we’ve interacted with and project we’ve led has been the perfect training ground to gain the necessary confidence, connections, resources, experience and vision to create our own company.”

Roberta Osborne: “Always be open to more learning. This is my Golden Rule and the best advice I’ve learned. Technology continuously changes and there are always new ways of doing things. If you’re open to learning, you truly have endless possibilities.”

Gabriela Acetoze: “As a young girl back in Brazil, my heart was full of dreams and my eyes full of places I wanted to see. I saw a world of opportunities and new beginnings ahead of me and I did not shy from many obstacles, challenges and hurdles to get to them. Countless times, I heard people saying, ‘You can’t do that, it’s too hard, you won’t be able to handle it,’ and every single time I devoted myself three times harder to get it accomplished. I once heard that ‘To live a life many want to live, it will require you to do things many don’t want to do,’ and that spoke volumes to me. So, my best advice would be to, first and foremost, have a good sense of self-awareness, to know who you are, to know your purpose in life and in your career, to understand what motivates you, what keeps you up at night and each day work hard to live in the center of all of this.”

An Ho: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

Lisa Brown: The best advice I can give is take pride in the work that you’re doing. No matter what the task is that I’m working on, I put 100% into that. At the end of the day, looking back at what I’ve done, I want to know I did my absolute best to accomplish that task. I learned this even before joining Mini Melts when I was working at that medical supply company. My manager back then saw something in me and I try to prove her right every day.”

Kristi Jankowski: “Never stop trying. I am persistent, tenacious and a problem-solver. The solution may not be exactly what you think it needs to be but there is always a step forward and perhaps a new solution we cannot envision until we start moving forward and trying.”

Yin Woon Rani: “Work hard to be the best version of yourself. Even if you are different than the norm or conventional wisdom — you will thrive when you are able to access your personal superpowers.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “I think it’s important to not define yourself by your gender when approaching your career. Growing up, my parents instilled in me that I could achieve anything I wanted, as long as I worked at it. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something simply because I was ‘a girl.’ Now, I’m trying to inspire that same sense of confidence and possibility in my young daughter.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to add or stress?

An Ho: “Dairy in the form of milk, protein, ice cream, cultured products, cheese and bakery will always be around. It’s not just a trend.”

Roberta Osborne: “I believe that nutrition should be the numerator in the environmental impact equation. There are so many options on the market now for nutritious foods. However, it’s important to remember that milk and dairy gives some of the highest levels of nutrition for the least amount of environmental impact, and America’s dairy farmers are some of the most efficient in the world.”

Lisa Brown: “Don’t be afraid of change. I was always afraid of change, afraid of what it would mean, but once I started to accept it, it always turned out to be something beneficial. Learning new things will only help your personal growth.”

Tracy Luckow & Lori Gitomer: “Yes, we’d like to share the news that we’re very excited about the expansion of Whipnotic across more than 300 Kroger stores. This major retail expansion marks a significant scale-up across 28 states for our brand.

“Kroger shoppers are food trend setters, who love quality, superior ingredients and heightened flavor; we can’t wait to see what they 'whip up' with Whipnotic!,” says Luckow. “A swirl of colorful whipped cream pairs perfectly with so many Kroger fan favorites throughout the store, from ice cream and cake to coffee, hot cocoa and bowls brimming with berries.”

Adds Gitomer: “Consumers are reimagining the role of whipped cream in their lives with Whipnotic. Unlike traditional whipped cream, typically reserved for special occasions, Whipnotic has proven to be incremental to the category, embraced as a daily delight, which is why our brand is selling twice as many units, per store, per week than the category average. We’re thrilled Kroger sees the potential too. We know the sky is the limit.

“Each of the four Whipnotic whipped cream flavors (Strawberry Swirl, Vanilla Salted Caramel, Brownie Batter and Peach Mango) are available in stores nationwide and online at

Whipnotic is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBENC).”

Jill Allen: My cheese expertise captured the attention of the Oxford dictionary folks. Want to know more about marinated cheeses or the ins-and-outs of the wires used to slice cheese? My perspectives landed in the Oxford Companion to Cheese… on pages 159 and 523 to be exact.

“As for Tillamook cheese, each day I hold it to the same exceptionally high standards of any cheese that crosses my judge’s palate. I am an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. This accreditation is a version to a wine sommelier that requires a minimum of 4,000 hours cheese work experience to even take the certification test.”

Amanda Nelson Sasse: “I feel a strong sense of loyalty and tradition in continuing on my family legacy. Nelson-Jameson has been such a big part of my life in so many ways; I want to help it grow and succeed in any way I can. I’m excited for the future, and honored to be able to shepherd the company to new levels of success. I’d also like to thank the dairy industry for supporting us in such profound ways. They make Nelson-Jameson possible.”

Kristi Jankowski: “As a leader, I believe it is critical that we provide safe environments for those we lead to grow and thrive. Innovation is difficult work and carries a lot of risk. We can only be successful if we allow our people to try, fail, learn and keep moving forward. This is where creativity blossoms and team members can bring their best selves to the problem-solving table that ultimately delivers products that fulfill unmet needs and delights our consumers and customers.”

Yin Woon Rani: “We are all operating in uncertain times with a lot of polarization and fragmentation of opinion. The dairy industry needs to be open and realistic about what the external forces and voices affecting the business are saying, and be willing to address those criticisms and barriers openly and transparently.” DF