Gary Hirshberg, 54
Call it the little yogurt company that could. Twenty six years ago, Hirshberg, then an environmental activist and aspiring entrepreneur, set out to demonstrate that business could be both profitable and sustainable. Last year, Stonyfield earned more than $300 million in sales and controlled about 7% of the total U.S. yogurt market. Now he plans to expand the business to be able to control 10%, and push the overall segment to 5% of all U.S. consumption in the future, up from 2.5% today. "My colleagues think I'm insane when I say this, but I couldn't be more excited about the new competition in organic foods and private labels," says founder Gary Hirshberg. "It means we've arrived." The company wants to go to the next level, says Hirshberg, creating sustainable packaging, such as edible cups, using 100% renewable energy in its facilities, and investing in a nutrition program that reduces cows' carbon footprint and makes more nutritious milk. Despite the economy, he hopes to increase revenues 15% this year.
"I have spent the last two decades trying to prove that our business was commercially viable and competitive, and at the same time committed to the environment and sustainability," says Hirshberg. "Now, the most satisfying thing is the fact that I can reach people I never would have reached as a nonprofit incarnation."