Alleviating Global Hunger with Valerie Vincent of Kraft Heinz

April 23, 2024

Play/Pause Download

Valerie Vincent is the Senior Manager, Global ESG and Foundation at The Kraft Heinz Company. She leads Kraft Heinz’s ESG reporting, engagement and corporate foundation strategy. Valerie is passionate about leveraging corporate scale to drive sustainability within organizations and throughout the global food and agricultural value chain.

John Shegerian: Have you been enjoying our Impact Podcasts and our great guests? Then please give us a thumbs up and leave a five-star review on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you consume your favorite podcasts. This edition of the Impact Podcasts is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States, and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Close Loop Partners. Close Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop partners, please go to

John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so honored to have with us today, Valerie Vincent. She’s the Senior Manager of Global ESG and Foundation at Kraft Heinz. Welcome Valerie to the Impact Podcast.

Valerie Vincent: Hey John, it’s really wonderful to be here.

John: It’s so wonderful to have you on. We’ve never had Kraft Heinz on before. We’ve never had you on before. So this is going to be a really great show and one that’s going to really make an impact on our listeners and our viewers. And before we get talking about all the important work you and your colleagues are doing at Kraft Heinz, can you share a little bit about the Valerie Vincent story? Where do you grow up and how did you get on this important and impactful journey that you’re on?

Valerie: Absolutely, John. So I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so on the other side of the world. I then went to school and spent the first part of my career in Singapore, so I consider both of those countries my home. Before sort of pivoting into sustainability and ESG, I actually worked in a really different world, so I worked in higher education largely around alumni cultivation and engagement, and I did a number of things. I was a researcher for a popular speaker series. I managed global programs, traveled around the world for big university events.

I absolutely loved my job. And I have such fond memories of my other life before sustainability. But I came to a point in my career where I had been doing it for a while and found that I was lacking sort of the impact and purpose in my career. So I had a wonderful time, but figured that I wanted to do something a little bit more and explore what impact I could have on the world and society at large. So at the same time, I was actually volunteering pretty heavily with a local NGO and a local organization in Singapore focused on environmental sustainability. It was actually an initiative that was trying to create a sustainable business out of transforming rooftops into farms[?] in Singapore to improve food security and just kind of create a sustainable business.

And I was doing that on the weekend. And at some point I figured to myself, I need to be doing that in my nine to five instead of doing that during the weekend. And I wanted to really be embedded into sustainability, food security and areas like that. So I figured I needed to go back to school to learn what environmental sustainability and social impact was about. And so I went to the University of Pennsylvania, completed my Master’s of Environmental Studies there. Fantastic program, learned so much about the world, and then just dove into a career in corporate sustainability and ESG, where since then I’ve been trying to get companies to do the right thing and be as honest and transparent as possible with external stakeholders. And it’s been an incredible career so far.

My experience personally has been in the food and agricultural landscape. I started off in agriculture doing some of their sustainability and climate work, and then with Kraft Heinz sort of moved downward on the value chain towards the consumer, where I now work with Kraft Heinz stewarding and helping to improve our impact on the environment and society for some of our very beloved brands here. And it’s a place that I’m really, really proud to work at today.

John: Hey, so explain the jump, though, because it’s sort of fun when you travel a lot you get to be in a country and you say, could I ever live here so when I’ve been in Singapore like I said if I was 22 again I could I could just have an amazing career I just love Singapore. What made you make the jump from Singapore to University of Pennsylvania? Why that cross-continental jump?

Valerie: Grass is always greener, John. Like when you grow up in Singapore, like it’s a beautiful country. I still love Singapore to this day. But that’s what you’re used to. You want to experience the world, you want to experience a different side of things. And I think when it comes to environmental sustainability, it’s also culturally very different how different countries deal with this issue. And I was really interested in how the environment and ESG issues were being perceived over here. Honestly, it was a really wonderful idea because I got to meet so many people who were so passionate about the area. I had some wonderful teachers and I just didn’t look back. It’s been a wonderful experience.

John: I love it. You’re the senior manager of global ESG and foundation work at Kraft Heinz. And for our listeners and viewers, to find Valerie and her colleagues at Kraft Heinz, please go to Of course, that will be in the show notes and things of that such. But Valerie, as you and I know, the world now of sustainability, ESG, circular economy could be read very narrowly, it could be read very broadly. Talk about your role. Is it a very broad role, a narrow role, in between? Where does it sit? And explain some of your day-to-day, how your day-to-day breaks out and week-to-week breaks out.

Valerie: All right, yeah. I think if I were to give it one word, I think I have a pretty broad role. And the way that my role has been broken down is that I wear essentially two hats at Kraft Heinz. So on one hand, I oversee our global ESG reporting strategy which includes of course, putting out our ESG report and other external facing ESG information, our readers and rankers, things like that. But that also includes things like governing our progress and our commitments and everything that goes into the ESG report, making sure we’re doing good in what we’re saying, and then making sure we have the right policies in place from an ESG perspective. And then of course our engagement with our external stakeholders to make sure that we’re doing the right thing as an organization. So that’s one hat and arguably that’s a whole job.

John: That’s a big hat by the way. That’s a big hat Valerie.

Valerie: Big hat, but I also [inaudible] hat and it’s a more emotive and fun part of my job where I help run the Kraft Heinz Foundation. So the Kraft Heinz Foundation has its mission to pursue alleviating global hunger. And I absolutely love this part of my job. So I think while I consider myself a seasoned professional in the ESG and sustainability space, I’m relatively new to the foundation and philanthropy space on my end. And so on one hand, I’m able to bring some of my sustainability knowledge into my foundation work by thinking about the environmental impact of the partnerships we have and the impact that we’re having. But I think more importantly, I’ve definitely been able to bring a beginner’s eye to the work that I’m doing with the foundation.

So for the first year and a half, for example, that I joined Kraft Heinz and started working with the foundation, I was in listening mode where I wanted to learn from everyone and absorb everything like a sponge. So I spent a good year and a half talking to our foundation partners and other stakeholders, like asking them, tell me what you do. Tell me what are the biggest issues in the world today? What are you seeing on the ground? And I think that served me really well in how I approach running the foundation with our foundation board as well. Even today, I think I’m a little bit more well seasoned expert for the foundation.

I’ve learned a little bit, but I think I still bring that beginner’s eye into the decisions and the strategy work that we’re doing today. Because I think at the end of the day, it’s really important for us as corporate foundations to be listening to what’s happening on the ground and our stakeholders. Because, we work in the corporation and sometimes don’t get to see what’s happening on the ground. So my foundation partners are my eyes and ears to what’s happening and I need to be very receptive to the work that they’re doing.

John: Help me out here a little bit, Valerie. And I don’t mean to put you on the spot. Just give me rough numbers. When I think of Kraft Heinz, I think of Kraft macaroni cheese, which is of course a comfort food for people, millions of people, not only in the United States, but around the world. And I think of course the iconic Heinz ketchup, which of course again is an iconic brand for everyone around the world. How big is Kraft Heinz? How big is it here in the United States? How big is it around the world as a company in terms of employees approximately and reach?

Valerie: Perfect, so we are a global company. Of course I think the brands that you know and love are largely the ones that you see here, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Heinz, Jell-O, we’ve got a number of brands. So in terms of size, revenue-wise, we’re a $26 billion company spanning the globe. In terms of employees, I want to say that we are in about the 37,000-38,000 employee range. And that’s sort of spread across the world and we have hubs in different areas.

John: The ESG report that you’re in charge of, big hat, that’s a big hat itself. Without the foundation, that’s a big hat value. I’m just calling it out. I’m impressed. When do you publish that every year? When does that come out?

Valerie: We publish it towards the September, October period every year.

John: And that lives on in perpetuity.

Valerie: Absolutely. It lives on our website.

John: Got it. If I was to say to you, so right now we’re taping the show we’re in the month of March. So let’s look back on February. Is your time split 50% the foundation 50% ESG or how do you balance? Either role itself is massive and very important. How do you juggle and do they interconnect at all? Do they interconnect a lot?

Valerie: They certainly do interconnect. So in terms of how I balance, so it ebbs and flows throughout the year. I think for with any sustainability professional, we’ve got our crunch seasons or reporting season where sometimes that’s 100% of what I do.

But then there are other times in the year where I’m 100% foundation and we’re really focusing on our impact there. I think the good news is I have a fantastic team that helps and supports in all of this. Not only the member of my team, but our larger Kraft Heinz. And I will talk a little bit about this later about how employees are involved with the work that we do in the foundation and also ESG at large. So I certainly never feel like I’m alone in this journey. It’s really a collective journey that a lot of us at Kraft Heinz are working toward.

John: And you have one team on the foundation that you work with and you have another team on the ESG that champions those issues and then creates advocates all throughout the company where people find their passion.

Valerie: Absolutely. It’s a very matrixed organization. We’re very agile and we’re always sort of problem solving and jumping and being innovative. So we’re very cross-functional in the work that we do.

John: Love it. So let’s go back to the foundation then. Let’s talk a little bit. My experiences as I’ve got to interview so many great people like you who run foundations at huge and iconic brands like Kraft Heinz, that they pride themselves on their partnerships. Can you talk a little bit about some of the partnerships that you’re real jazzed about at Kraft Heinz and at the foundation?

Valerie: Absolutely. I’m going to tell you a little bit about foundation, which will set the context for some of our partnership. But I’m so proud whenever I talk about the foundation with anyone in there, I’m happy to listen. So the mission of the Kraft Heinz Foundation is really to alleviate hunger and improve access to nutrition around the world. And we do this exactly like how you said, John. So we do this through strategic partnerships with community experts. And we focus on a lot of areas that are kind of along the spectrum of food insecurity from sort of direct hunger relief and emergency response, and then over into larger systemic issues like nutritional programs and improving world hunger.

So we kind of touch all of the different areas of world hunger. We have a goal at the foundation where we aim to provide 1.5 billion meals to people in need by 2025. And we started this goal up in 2019. In 2022, we were about 66% of the way there. And we haven’t finalized 2023 numbers yet. We’re still crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s there, but spoiler alert, we’re doing really well. And you will see sort of our progress in our next ESG report that comes out later this year. But I really can’t wait to show our progress in that area. But like you said, none of this progress would have been possible if not for our partners. And there is one partner that we particularly want to shout out, and that is our signature partner, Rise Against Hunger. And for those of you who don’t know Rise Against Hunger, Rise Against Hunger is an international humanitarian organization that is trying to grow a global movement around ending world hunger by empowering communities, nourishing individual lives and responding to emergencies sort of all around the world.

Subscribe For The Latest Impact Updates

Subscribe to get the latest Impact episodes delivered right to your inbox each week!
Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you or share your information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

And Kraft Heinz, we are really proud to say that we are their largest corporate partner and have been long-time partners with them as well. So our partnership has lasted, I believe, over a decade now and definitely since we became Kraft Heinz as an entity, but even before that in one of our predecessor institutions as well. So it’s been a long-time partnership that has sort of steadily grown over the years. And I’m really excited to announce that we have decided to extend this partnership with Rise Against Hunger, where we are going to be announcing that we’re extending this partnership through a contribution of $15 million to Rise Against Hunger over the next 3 years. And we’re really excited because this is really a testament to the strong partnership that we have with Rise Against Hunger and our joined goal of ending world hunger.

John: Valerie, there’s a lot of young people out there and other people out there that run great organizations that have great missions like Rise Against Hunger. Explain the trademark or what’s a tell for why choose them and what makes them stand out? I want to know what creates greatness for companies with amazing missions like Rise Against Hunger. I want to learn. I want our listeners and viewers to learn so when they’re going out and pitching wonderful foundations run by important and smart people like you, how they could catch your eye? Why do they continue to have the longevity of a partnership with you and keep winning the opportunity to earn your trust to continue their mission.

Valerie: We could write a thesis on this, John, because I absolutely love working with Rise Against Hunger. And I think it comes down to a couple of things. The individuals that I work with in Rise Against Hunger are some of the most intelligent, well-read, and knowledgeable people I know about hunger and the global hunger space. And so whenever I speak to them, I’m learning something new and I can tell that they’re on the ground and they’re experts in what they do.

So that comes across really clearly to me whenever I work with our colleagues from Rise Against Hunger. And so that’s a great tell to me, like, this organization is being run really well. I also really love how… So their focus is on global hunger. So they have a very specific focus that is very much in line with Kraft Heinz as a global food company. And so there’s that really clear overlap in our missions. And so that’s another thing that really drew us to Rise Against Hunger. But also while their focus is very specific to global hunger, there are lots of different areas that Rise Against Hunger taps into. So they are also looking at global hunger across the spectrum of issues, from direct feeding programs.

So for example, Rise Against Hunger has their signature meal pack that is a shelf stable rice soy blend pack that comes with a little micronutrient sachet that they ship over across the world to communities in need in last mile remote communities. That is an incredible way of getting nutrition to people all across the world. And fun fact, the micronutrient sachet that’s available in that meal packet was designed in part by, I’m sorry, by Kraft Heinz formulation scientists. So we’re really trying to not only supporting them on behalf of the foundation, but we’re also using some of our expertise as an organization to help some of their work.

John: That’s great. Explain the problem. Sometimes we get to go through our days and the challenges of our days and the car doesn’t start, the kids school teacher doesn’t show up. There’s lots of challenges that we all face that are really small when in comparison to the bigger world problems. How big is the hunger problem not only here in the United States, but around the world? Can you just give us sort of the elevator pitch on you’re helping to solve a problem that’s how big?

Valerie: I believe that this is one of the largest challenges in our time. And I think when it comes to global hunger, it’s largely an issue of allocation, where we’ve got lots of food available in the world, in some parts of the world, and nothing in other parts of the world. So it’s really the role of all of us to kind of figure out how we need to shift some of these things around and improve cycles of poverty and cycles of food insecurity to help end this issue. It sounds really simple in concepts, but it’s a lot more complicated. And this is why, as someone who runs the foundation, it’s my responsibility to talk to the people who know what they’re doing and understand that sort of those issues deep down in each specific country and jurisdiction. And that’s why partners like Rise Against Hunger and our many other partners are who we listen to and who we work with.

John: So you’re getting food and nutrition to people who need it not only here in the United States, but around the world through your foundation and with Rise Against Hunger.

Valerie: Oh, absolutely.

John: That’s so great. Talk a little bit about employee engagement, both on the foundation side and also on the ESG side. How do you build momentum and get early wins and to build a momentum that then becomes almost like the flywheel approach to deal with things, things start just taking off and then people just get so excited that you no longer have to create a call to action. They themselves are looking for the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Valerie: I have a short answer and a long answer. So the short answer here is that you need to start small and grow organically. You might want to start with the big program and the flashy program and then suddenly it dies out. But one thing I can say, particularly with our partnership with Rise Against Hunger, it’s been a slow organic growth. We started out with Rise Against Hunger planning one meal packing event, I believe, I think more than 10 years ago in our Pittsburgh office. And today, look at the part, the transformational partnership that we have today with them. And it’s because of that steady growth where we’ve consistently brought employees into the fray. Today, we of course plan global events to pack meals to send across the world.

We call it our hackathon, where in October each year we get our sites across the world excited where we pack meals towards a goal. Last year we hit 900,000 meals across the world. And this year we’re gunning for one million meals. And that’s one example of collaborating with employees and getting them more involved. But we volunteer with Rise Against Hunger in so many different ways from our micronutrient sachets where we get our R&D team to come and support.

Or another great example is working with our procurement team who are such fantastic people where they saw Rise Against Hunger and saw the need to help, and they use their skills with our suppliers, our ingredient suppliers, and our transportation suppliers, and help Rise Against Hunger connect some of the dots to help some of their emergency response. So we’re thinking about this strategically and seeing which parts of the business make the most sense and how can we connect those dots even further between both our organizations?

John: Got it. On the ESG side, Valerie, the ESG can be everything from net zero goals to reducing obviously water usage and water footprint, regenerative agriculture, since you’re also in the food industry. I mean, it could be a laundry list. How do you tackle what could be a very daunting laundry list of goals in ESG and sustainability to make it manageable and again to show wins and to show progress. How do you go about that and who do you use for your inspiration on putting together what you feel is the right and appropriate approach to ESG and the goals that lie there within.

Valerie: Yeah, at the end of the day, it comes down to our materiality assessment, our ESG materiality assessment, and we take a lot of care and effort in determining and talking to our stakeholders both internally and externally to figure out what are the topics that we can move the needle in and from there you kind of have to boil down your laundry list of topics. There’s so many things that we can do but it’s really important for us to pick and focus on the topics that we can drive actual change. And so once we get our materiality assessment, we kind of figure what are the topics that we can really make a difference in and then design our strategy around there.

So today we have a strategy that’s divided into three pillars. Our healthy living and community support pillar which contains a lot of our nutritional goals and our foundation, our meals goal, things like that. We’ve got our environmental stewardship pillar which contains our environmental goals related to our operations, our net zero goals, our packaging goals, and things like that. And then finally, we’ve got our responsible sourcing pillar, which contains goals and strategy related to responsible sourcing of our commodities as it relates to animal welfare and labor and human rights and those types of topics. And so that’s really the framework that we operate in for ESG at Kraft Heinz.

John: Are there external consultants that help you with materiality or is it all internal and self reflective? Or is it a mixture thereof of both?

Valerie: The mixture of both. I will say it’s a heavy lift internally and we talk to lots of stakeholders. We bring lots of people into it, but we absolutely do get external stakeholders, sorry, external consultants to help us. It’s really good to have a third party as well, kind of help us think through some of these topics.

John: I’ve had the luck and the blessing to be doing this show now 17 years and meeting over 2000 amazing guests like you. Talk about the coolest fraternity in the world, the people like you that are in charge of global impact for their organization, foundation work, ESG or sustainability. How big is that fraternity and how often do you lean into that fraternity for both aspirational, thought leadership and also inspirational thought leadership?

Valerie: It’s a small, big world. I don’t know how else to describe it. I have been in this industry for a little bit now, and I’ve seen sort of the exponential growth of my industry. And so it started out like everybody knew everyone. And like I knew of everyone or I knew everyone. And today it’s growing beyond my wildest belief. But I still kind of like am very clued into the industry, particularly in Chicago there are plenty of round tables and group meets that me and my colleagues are a part of. And I do rely on many of them to kind of keep me going sometimes and share best practices, kind of our challenges. I think it’s mostly sharing some of the struggles that come with embedding sustainability into an organization. So I definitely rely on those communities pretty heavily.

John: Talk about inside and outside. Inside the industry, other food companies, other consumer brands, do you look a lot to those for benchmarking or do you look externally at companies that are in tech and chips and AI and all sorts of other industries for again, benchmarks and new ideas. Where do you find new thinking and new ideas that can help inform you as you continue in your journey at Kraft Heinz?

Valerie: I think it’s a leveled approach. So we definitely look at peers and experts in the area of the food and beverage industry because it goes back to materiality. They’re dealing with the same issues that we are and we want to hear from experts and look into experts who are dealing with farming issues, sustainable agriculture, because that’s very aligned with the issues that we are looking at. But that’s not to say we don’t look at the others. I think it’s really important for us to kind of take a step back and look at someone in the apparel industry or someone in a totally different industry to kind of rethink ways of doing sustainability. So I would say it’s a mix of both, but we primarily are looking to our industry.

John: That’s so cool. Talk a little bit about past, present or future projects that make you proud of what you do, but also get you excited to get out of bed to go climb the new mountain.

Valerie: I think so. A past project that has gotten me super excited and to bring it back to the foundation and our work with Rise Against Hunger, last year I had the privilege of going on what we call our impact trip with Rise Against Hunger, where they brought us to South Africa to see firsthand some of the work that they have been doing on the ground in and around Johannesburg. And it was such an eye-opening experience where it’s really easy to just look at impact in terms of numbers and words when you look at reports on your end, but to really see the tangible impact of what the partnership was bringing was truly a life-changing experience for me.

And for everyone who was on the trip as well, I remember coming back from that trip and feeling so energized. And from that trip, many of us started our own programs to kind of build that relationship further with Rise Against Hunger. And so there were so many benefits that kind of occurred after we came back from the trip to grow that partnership further. We had another group that just went to the Philippines this year, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. It’s really exciting. And I think that’s a really memorable moment for me.

John: Sure. And again, we’re going to put Rise Against Hunger, we’re going to put their website in any way to contact them in our show notes, because I want our listeners and viewers to be able to find them easily as well. Talk about present or future projects that you’re allowed to talk about that, like, say, okay, this is the next mountain. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to be able to get over this bit, do this big one here.

Valerie: I will admit some things that we’re not allowed to talk about yet that I’m really excited about. I think progress on our goals and new and upcoming goals that we’re thinking about. But just know that there’s a lot cooking.

John: There’s a lot cooking at Kraft Heinz. Well, Valerie, you’re amazing. You and I know that ESG foundation work and sustainability work has no finish line. It’s truly a journey. I want you to know you’re always welcome back on the Impact Podcast to share your continued journey at Kraft Heinz because it’s fascinating and it’s important and it’s impactful. I thank you for your time today. I thank you for everything that you’re doing. For our listeners and viewers to find Valerie and her colleagues and all the impactful work they’re doing at Kraft Heinz, please go to Valerie Vincent, you’re a sustainability and ESG rock star. Thank you again for making the world a better place.

Valerie: Thank you, John. I appreciate it.

John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit