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Preliminary Judging: The first round of judging takes place in the New Hope Network office in Boulder, Colorado. Conducted by members of the New Hope Network content team, standards team, marketing team and NEXT Data & Insights team, our-in-house expert judges review hundreds of nominated products using these criteria to select 2-5 finalists in each category
Final Judging: The final round of judging is conducted by a panel of invited industry experts, spanning specialties such as investment, retail, brokerage, social media influence, sustainability and more. These judges join the New Hope Network content team, standards team, marketing team and NEXT Data & Insights team to select the single winners within each category!
Board Member, Naturally Boulder
Perspective: Finance & Operations
Susan Graf has served in leadership roles in a variety of different mid-sized CPG companies. Graf was Vice President of Finance and Administration at Bhakti Chai and Vice President of Operations at Leanin’ Tree, a Boulder greeting card manufacturer. She also led the Boulder Chamber for eight years as CEO, helping launch the Innovation Center of the Rockies, Naturally Boulder and CO-Labs. Graf now helps socially and environmentally conscious companies connect with the capital they need to fulfill their missions. She currently serves as Treasurer of the Board of both Naturally Boulder and the Colorado Enterprise Fund.
Personal Mission: I am passionate about values-driven organizations that are building healthier products, resilient communities and a regenerative economy for a more sustainable world. I work in impact banking because I move money to where it can be an agent for positive social, environmental and economic change. I am a champion of the B Corp community and businesses that are a force for good.
Executive Director, Sustainable Food Trade Association
Alyssa Harding is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Trade Association. She has an educational foundation in agricultural ecology and environmental policy. She previously managed Corporate Responsibility and External Relations at Justin’s, a Boulder-based nut butter company with a mission rooted in sustainability and community impact. Before Justin’s, she worked in the environmental sector for Colorado-based water conservation non-profits, and also spent time working in the solar industry developing renewable energy infrastructure. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Naturally Boulder and the Climate Collaborative, and has published articles with PowerHouse Growers, educating readers about food security and sustainable agricultural solutions.
Personal Mission: My personal mission has always been to drive institutional change through sustainability. My passion is to leverage collective impact programs to bring diverse stakeholders together. By building sustainable business models through community development, this approach allows me to broaden the scope and deepen the impact of my sustainability work.
Perspective: Brand Image Development
Ashley McLaughlin is a professional food photographer who specializes in capturing recipes, products, and ingredient images for cookbook creators and corporate partners alike. Ashley resides in sunny Colorado with her husband and 3 year old daughter, Lennon. Beyond the camera and kitchen, Ashley loves spending time with her family and friends and being active outside.
Personal Mission: To inspire and connect consumers to the natural foods industry, through thoughtful and authentic imagery.
Founder, Mad Agriculture
I was born next to the Chesapeake Bay. My origins run through me like a river. I have a M.S. and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I have diverse international experience in both private and public sectors, and have led research, service and outreach campaigns throughout Africa, Latin America and SE Asia. Currenly, I teach in the Masters of the Environment program at the University of Colorado Boulder. All of these experiences have led me to launch Mad Agriculture, with a mission to reimagine and restore our relationship to Earth. This purpose guides my personal and professional goals as a husband, father and light warrior pursuing good of all.
Personal Mission: My mission is to create a world where people and ecosystems thrive together. Through Mad Agriculture, my goal is to help brands create regenerative supply webs that enrich the Earth, rather than destroy it. Brands have extraordinary power to shape and create a more beautiful world; how we eat is how the world is used. Mad Agriculture helps brands realize this potential.
Supplier Diversity Lead, Target
As a part of the Supplier Diversity Team at Target Corporation, Karen Tobler leads the Supplier Diversity strategy for Health and Beauty, Essentials, Home and Hardlines. With more than 15 years of experience in business development, she specializes in connecting and supporting enterprises that are majority owned by women, ethnic minorities, LGBT persons, veterans and persons with disabilities as they navigate opportunities to gain business at the right place and right time. Karen wears many hats as she can be mentoring diverse suppliers on pitching to a Fortune 50 company one minute to working with industry colleagues the next minute on strategy and benchmarking. She sits on the board of the Retail Industry Group, which includes members from the top 16 retailers in the country. Throughout her career, she has worked with brands and organizations in the retail, real estate and nonprofit sectors on a variety of initiatives including multicultural marketing, professional development, and brand building. As a Latina woman and immigrant to the United States, Karen’s calling is help diverse entrepreneurs position themselves and their brands in the very best light, ensuring they can increase their odds of success.
Personal Mission: My personal goal is to support diverse owned companies in the natural products industry by helping them shorten their learning curves and strengthen their positioning as they work towards bringing “better for us” products to mass retail.
Founder & Principal , Smoketown Strategy LLC
Perspective: Brand Strategy
Ryan Pintado-Vertner is the Founder & Principal at Smoketown, a boutique consultancy that supports strategy, marketing and growth for emerging brands in the natural products sector. Its team of CPG veterans have a uniquely consumer-led approach, with services ranging from positioning and outsourced marketing management to consumer research and innovation. Clients include Steaz, Tio Gazpacho, Field + Farmer, and Siren Snacks.
Personal Mission: My mission is to create a more just, vibrant and sustainable world by enabling the success of just, vibrant and sustainable brands.