Balancing Innovation with Social Responsibility, with Jan Tharp, CEO, Bumble Bee Foods

In this episode of the Beyond the Shelf: Product & Packaging Podcast, Laura Foti spoke with Bumble Bee CEO Jan Tharp on driving innovation at an iconic brand, protecting our natural resources, and empowering the next generation workforce.

Posted on 
March 28, 2022
Laura Foti
CMO, Specright

Every once in a while – if you’re lucky – you meet leaders that inspire you and open your mind to new things.

That’s how I felt a few years ago when I heard Jan Tharp speak at a packaging conference.

As the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, Jan is passionate about breathing new life into a category that has struggled in recent years – all while balancing commitments to people, product and planet.

In our conversation, we talked about her beginnings as a packaging engineer – and what every CEO should know about packaging – and how she drives innovation while balancing history at the helm of an iconic 120 year old company.

We also talked about the challenge of retail signage, our love for tuna as the ultimate, clean protein – and made Jan pick her favorite product.

Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.

You can catch the full episode here – and be sure to leave a rating or review if you liked the show – it helps others find the podcast.

On plant-based protein

“There’s no reason why we can’t have traditional wild caught seafood sit next to plant-based seafood, sit next to cell-based seafood, or other options that are out there, because ultimately you can’t continue to extract from the ocean and have growth. You’ve got to have other options.” – Jan Tharp

On her background as a packaging engineer:

“I think anyone who has a background in packaging has an advantage, just because it’s just such a phenomenal background especially for CPG when you think about it. It’s material, it’s branding, it’s equipment. It is the vehicle, really you think about a package and what it does, a packaging can be the brand. That is what gets people to decide, do they want product X, or product Y.“ – Jan Tharp

On sustainability

“[When it comes to sustainability] it’s protecting the resources that we all share so that our grandkids and their grandkids can still have a healthy ocean and we can continue to produce our great products, but you can’t do that in a vacuum. You’ve got to always be thinking about how these two concepts are interconnected. And they are. Product and packaging are inextricably linked. They have to be, you can’t look at one without the other.” – Jan Tharp

On empowering the younger generation of her workforce

“You’ve got to listen and give them the freedom and the flexibility to do what they believe is right. And the coaching to cheer them on, even when they make mistakes, because that’s the quickest way for them to learn the business. And you know what sometimes? Sometimes their ideas are far better than my ideas.” – Jan Tharp


Laura Foti

Laura leads marketing and investor relations at Specright. Prior to Specright, she led advertising and analytics at GE Digital, GE’s Industrial Internet software business. Before that, she was a consultant at Deloitte Digital working in enterprise digital transformation, where she helped clients design and deploy eCommerce experiences, develop revenue-driving mobile apps, and reimagine their global digital marketing strategy. Laura was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for marketing and advertising and Brand Innovators 40 Under 40 and 100 Women to Watch lists. She graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She resides in Newport Beach, CA.

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