MARION, OHIO — Wyandot Snacks, a premier better-for-you contract snack manufacturer, may work behind the scenes in its snack production, but the company is making great strides to better the industry.
Led by Rob Sarlls, president and chief executive officer and 2020-21 SNAC International chairman, and Alicia Sexton, senior sales manager, Wyandot’s B Corp certification was issued in the first quarter of 2020, just two months before Mr. Sarlls was elected to his chairmanship at SNAC.
These milestones pave the way for Wyandot to live out its strategic initiatives as a socially conscious producer of better-for-you snacks.
The B Corp certification process measures a business’ social and environmental engagement, public transparency and legal accountability through a rigorous screening process known as the B Impact Assessment, governed by B Corp’s Standards Advisory Council.
Mr. Sarlls said he plans to leverage the B Corp status as a call to action for the snack industry.
“Whether it’s manufacturers or suppliers, members of the snack industry should be reinventing themselves as socially conscious stakeholders for the future,” Mr. Sarlls said.
He pointed out that during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, many organizations have already increased their social consciousness, making certifications such as B Corp more relevant than ever.
“We are a fast-forward, conscious, purpose-driven organization looking to do good with every bag of snacks we make.”
- Rob Sarlls, Wyandot Snacks
But the motivation to achieve the certification came long before the pandemic swept the country. In 2016 under Mr. Sarlls’ leadership, Wyandot revamped its strategic plan, including its core values, to place a heavy emphasis on the better-for-you snack market.
“As we spent more time as a company living, eating and breathing the better-for-you environment, we became aware of B Corp,” he recalled.
After doing the initial due diligence into the certification, Mr. Sarlls discovered that many of the requirements were things Wyandot was already doing.
“The heavy lifting for B Corp is proving, counting, tabulating and documenting your policies and procedures as well as your actions and practices to demonstrate B Corp core values, which is making conscious efforts to impact society in every business decision,” he said. “We did the initial homework, and we discovered, before even officially getting into the process, that we’re already close to hitting the required score.”
Mr. Sarlls also relied on leadership from Ms. Sexton to get the process moving and maintain engagement from all Wyandot teammates.
“The certification fit really well within our strategic initiatives,” Ms. Sexton said. “Sustainability is such a broad topic, and this really helped us define what it meant for us.”
With a background in quality, R&D and regulatory, Ms. Sexton was no stranger to seeking certifications such as SQF and BRC.
“Those are great certifications that are very policy-oriented,” Ms. Sexton said. “One thing that sets B Corp from something like a quality or kosher audit is that when you meet a set of standards and receive the certification, for the most part, you continue meeting those standards to renew that certification.”
All companies, however, are judged on the same five categories: governance, workers, community, environment and customers.
That said, B Corp certification is an evolving process.
“Things change in communities and with environmental standards,” she said. “Expectations evolve. So if you’re doing the same thing as you were doing when you received your certification, you might not be able to get it renewed when you reapply in three years. It’s something you always have to be thinking about improving. They’re constantly changing their standards, so you have to always be thinking about what’s next.”
Future plans for Wyandot include regional collaboration with other Ohio-based food and beverage B Corps for coordinated social and community-based activities after COVID-19 risks are mitigated and social distancing mandates are lifted.
“We are a fast-forward, conscious, purpose-driven organization looking to do good with every bag of snacks we make,” Mr. Sarlls said.
That’s a platform Mr. Sarlls understands well as he works to effect change in the snacking industry not only through Wyandot’s social and environmental issues but also as SNAC International chairman by evolving industry events such as the association’s new SNX conference, which will focus almost entirely on the education aspect of SNAC’s annual SNAXPO trade show.
SNX was rescheduled for March 27-29, 2022, in Phoenix after the 2020 SNAXPO show was postponed until March 28-30, 2021, in Charlotte, NC.
Although COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the industry, Mr. Sarlls is committed to his post as SNAC chairman and disruption and reinvention in the snack food industry.
“My goal for SNAC International is to ensure we are the first call for the emerging better-for-you snack businesses,” Mr. Sarlls said. “New brands must understand how manufacturing access, technology, and market reach link with food science to launch successful products that meet consumers’ ever exacting demands. SNAC serves as a one-stop shop for education, networking resources, and regulatory advocacy. Entrepreneurs and newer entrants to our fast-growing segment of the food industry can significantly enhance their future success as members of SNAC.”
Elizabeth Avery, president and chief executive officer of SNAC International, said Mr. Sarlls is well suited to help advance and enhance the organization’s mission during a period of intense social and consumer change.
“Rob’s commitment to our industry is evidenced not only by his success in transforming Wyandot’s market presence but also by the company’s increased commitment to social responsibility,” she said. “At the same time, he brings unique perspective and a can-do attitude to the SNAC board.”