A Conversation with Elysabeth Alfano: Plantbased Business Consultant and Reporter

When and Why Did You Go Vegan?

I had been trying to go vegan my whole life.  Even at the age of five, I can remember not being able to chew meat.  I hated how it felt in my mouth and made me sick to my stomach: the grease, the gristle, the intense chewing on muscle, the ugly color.  

But my parents-who are wonderful people-worried that I would die if I didn’t eat meat.  So, they punished me for being finicky.  I would spend hours alone at the dinner table after everyone had gone, not allowed up from my seat until I ate the meat.   And I couldn’t do it. So, I just sat there. 

I got crafty and started hiding the meat in my pants pockets, underneath the table legs and at the bottom of the garbage.  I was found out, however, and they sent me to my room for lying, again not being able to hang out with everyone while they watched TV. 

Fast forward waaaay into my adult years, I thought: this is what it means to be an adult.  We know what we are doing is wrong and we do it anyway.  I couldn’t have expressed the horrors of factory farming at 5, but I knew instinctually that eating meat was antithetical to anything good for my body, mind or spirit and was against what I felt was right.  As an adult, I knew of factory farms, but kept my ideas to myself, ordered mostly vegetarian meals without fanfare and still participated in pepperoni pizza thinking, I guess this is how it goes.  I ate cheese unknowing of the freakoid, horror show that is dairy.  

Then my nephew came home from his first break from University of Oregon where he was a freshman as a member of the ensemble football team.  He announced that the nutrition coach said that for anyone on the team: no meat, no dairy (although fish was allowed.) 

I was beside myself.  I had been waiting my whole adult life for the ‘permission’ I never got as a kid and I was immediately mad.  I knew it all along, I thought.  I knew it!  I knew meat wasn’t good for me!  Powered by the official word I had been seeking my whole life, I was vegan then and there.  I immediately stopped all meat and dairy and soon after happily stopped eating fish and honey. 

What are you working on now? 

Most people know me for the Awesome Vegans Influencer Series on JaneUnchained FB Live, which is also a podcast, a syndicated radio show and a weekly column in The Beet magazine, and the Plantbased Business Hour live on my Linkedin page, which is also a podcast and weekly column, along with the Plantbased Business Minute, on Vegconomist-the vegan business magazine.   

On Awesome Vegans, I focus on all the cool vegans doing cool things: celebs, doctors, athletes, musicians, etc.  On Plantbased Business Hour, I focus on the leaders who are making plant-based options a reality for the masses: CEOs, scientists, investors, entrepreneurs, etc. 

However, both of those are side-gigs that I do primarily as a volunteer effort to help get information out to the public on a plant-based lifestyle and plant-based business. 

My personal background is not in journalism but in business. In fact, I started my career after getting an MBA at the Kellogg Company in Brand Management. I was one of two people who ran Special K and Frosted Mini-Wheats.  

So, my personal expertise is marketing and business strategy.  Coupled with my knowledge in the plant-based space, the majority of my time is spent helping plant-based brands with strategy, growth and marketing and PR. Plus, I know everyone, so that is helpful to make connections and bring forces together.  

I also help larger companies that are looking to navigate the plant-based space and would certainly consider working with meat and dairy to help them switch to and be successful with a plant-based business model, product line, and consumer marketing strategy.

Finally, I do an enormous amount of public speaking about plant-based business and also write opinion pieces on plant-based business trends. 

I know. I know. It sounds like a lot and it is.  But these three areas: the two shows and corresponding columns, the business consulting, and the public speaking all feed into and support one another. I keep thinking How am I going to slow down?, but I haven’t figured that out yet. 

What Do You Like About Working With Brands?

I love that I am helping put each piece of the plant-based puzzle in place for a successful whole picture.  We need platform brands that help the eco-system. We need food brands, of course.  We need co-manufacturing middle operators to help us scale.  We need writing and reporting to help people understand the shift in the food system and why it is good for their health, their future and their wallets.   All of these are critical pieces of the puzzle and I love that I am helping, along with so many others, by using all the tools in my toolbox to get these pieces in place.  

How Do you See yourself growing in this space?

I am excited to do more mainstream reporting and public speaking on plant-based business. I am also excited to help drive consumption of bigger vegan brands (plant-based and those wanting to be plant-based0 so they can take over real estate in the grocery store. I still love working with smaller brands, too.  I am working on a book.

What excites you most about this work? 

Being a part of the change for people, the planet and animals and having that feeling that we are pushing the ball up the mountain and are just about to have it reach the top and roll down the other side. 

You always end your interviews with the same questions intended for quick off-the-cuff answers. So we have to ask you the same in return! 

What Are Your Predictions? 

Factory farming will be dead in my lifetime.

Favorite Phrase? 

I have two: Nose to the Grindstone, Eyes to the Sky and A body in motion stays in motion.  I use them both almost every day.

 Favorite Snack? 

Peanut Butter and Sweet Apples (together) or Air-popped Popcorn with Bragg’s Amino Acids and Nutritional Yeast. 

What do you wish you knew 10 years ago that you know now? 

I wish I realized that you always, always have to advocate for yourself.  Don’t let anyone else decide your health or your fate. You must advocate for yourself. 

How Can people find you?  

ElysabethAlfano.com, Elysabeth@ElysabethAlfano.com

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