From the Hive

Communicating Amid Sustained Crisis

By Megan Lacy, Wild Hive Account Director

If you’re feeling exhausted right now, you’re in good company. Amid a global pandemic, economic concerns and civil unrest, crisis fatigue is becoming a new normal that you, your employees and your family are experiencing. This fatigue can translate into your communications, but now more than ever, maintaining strong communications remains critical.

Over the past several months, we’ve been working with our clients to address their pressing needs and a few themes are arising as we navigate their unique challenges. Here are some of our key takeaways for communicating in this sustained crisis:

  1. Be nimble with your internal communications channels: It’s likely  you’ve already made changes to your internal communications. Depending on the size of your organization, these changes may vary from more regular team meetings to video calls to new channels and platforms you’re using to keep people feeling connected, engaged and informed. Gain employee feedback on how these channels are working and be prepared to adjust to meet the evolving needs of your workforce. Whether you are the leader of your organization or the head communicator, be prepared to look at new ways to communicate with your teams and keep your communications short, to the point, and consistent. The content of what you are communicating is as important as how you’re communicating it.
  2. Find ways to be a helper: We are in an ongoing crisis with no foreseeable end, which means every industry has a role in helping to address the current crisis. Find what your organization is uniquely able to offer to assist in the crisis and do this. Listen to your employees about the opportunities they see for your organization to support people through the crisis. Don’t expect media coverage for it. Don’t expect a pat on the back. Do it because it’s the right thing, and with no known end to the pandemic or economic fall-out or civil unrest, this is the new normal. As an added bonus, your employees will feel empowered, and you’ll have positive results to reinforce with them through your improved communications channels.
  3. Amplify your own voice: The media landscape is dominated by the crises at-hand, and the space for earned media coverage is small. Lean into or create new channels of your own to tell your story. If you’ve been considering launching a newsroom or new channel, now is the time to do it. Make sure your content is relevant to your audiences, but don’t be afraid to be your own advocate.
  4. Listen and be prepared to change your approach based on what you learn: Communications is a two-way street. The news about the pandemic in particular is constantly changing, and as leaders and communicators, we must be prepared to shift course based on new information. Now is the time to enhance your media monitoring and social listening tools to ensure you’re capturing your audience’s perspectives. Ensure these tools are helping you analyze information quickly and easily. Reach out to your key stakeholders just to check in and understand the challenges they are facing.
  5. Be transparent, authentic and empathetic in your messaging and approach: Everyone is trying to find a relevant voice in these narratives. Some are authentic, genuine and truly helpful; others are opportunistic, self-serving and may be virtue signaling. As important as it is for organizations to be proactive, it’s equally important that they be deliberate, thoughtful and measured during this time. Asking “why this?” and “why now?” before communicating is a helpful way to ensure the answers to those questions align with your organization’s values. You are not expected to have all the answers in this crisis; you are expected to offer clarity, thoughtfulness and empathy in your communications. Be prepared to break down the challenges your organization is facing and even slow down to ensure you are addressing the issues at hand with transparency, honesty and integrity.

We don’t know when the crises we’re facing will end, so focus on your core values, providing value to your audiences, and keeping the lines of communication open internally and externally.



Go, Amazon Go.

By Allison Beadle, founder & CEO of Wild Hive

Having started my food marketing career working for one of the most innovative grocery companies in the world, Central Market/H.E.B., you could say I have a “thing” for grocery stores. So, naturally I have been looking forward to checking out Amazon Go in Seattle.

I love the convenience of Amazon. But I really do not enjoy the user experience of Amazon. I find the site incredibly overwhelming—I’ve been an Amazon Prime customer for years, so you’d think I’d have it down, but I don’t. It’s too crowded, there’s too much information, it’s not intuitive, and sometimes I just can’t find my bearings.

Could the online jungle of Amazon actually pull off a decent brick and mortar shopping experience?

I’m here in Seattle and just checked out Amazon Go this morning. And yes, Amazon has pulled it off.

Some takeaways from my shopping experience. And a video and photo gallery up on the Wild Hive Instagram account.

  • As you approach the store entrance, there is a wall of windows into the kitchen where Amazon employees are preparing all of the fresh takeout food that is sold in the store. Win. The kitchen is pristinely clean, and I can see what they’re making. It’s REAL.
  • A super friendly Amazon employee, David, stands at the entrance to greet the shoppers. He’s wearing a bright orange sweatshirt, so there’s no mistaking that he’s with Amazon. He immediately welcomes me and asks me to open my AmazonGo app. I let him know that I’m a newbie, and he walks me through the process with the most delightful attitude.
  • The store is very small—just 1,800 square feet—but it does not feel cramped or busting-at-the-seems with products. There is a nice balance of signage throughout the store. I immediately feel like I know what I’m doing. This “real world” Amazon shopping experience is much better than the online experience.
  • For now, Amazon Go is giving reusable shopping bags to its customers for free. Smart. If they could figure out a way to do this permanently it would be a big win. Relieve your shoppers of having to remember to bring in their reusable bag or charging them a buck to buy one to add to the collection at home.
  • The product assortment is impressive—tightly curated to cover the essentials whether you are shopping for conventional, natural and organic, or specialty items. Whatever kind of customer you are, Amazon Go has you covered. They have clearly nailed the data analytics.
  • And all product categories you would find in a traditional grocery store are covered. You can even buy a single roll of toilet paper.
  • They’ve even got a few products to simply surprise and delight—small, lesser-known brands and even limited-time local brand partnerships. I bought a Theo Chocolate/Amazon Go dark chocolate bar.
  • There is only one other employee working on the floor. She’s restocking items and working the beer and wine case. I ask her what it’s like working at the store and she says she loves it, “It is so much fun to see how our shoppers enjoy the experience.” We banter a bit—she’s very friendly and helpful. So this store-of-the-future is not lacking the human element.
  • I spot a couple of Whole Foods 365 items on the shelves, but there is surprisingly zero pull-through of the Amazon Whole Foods branding in Amazon Go. Amazon Go was in beta for over year before the store opened, well before they acquired Whole Foods.
  • The prepared food assortment is impressive—definitely pulling through all the right trends to appeal to a customer base that is a mix of Millennial, urban, upper-income, multi-cultural shoppers.
  • And they have meal kits. Fresh, healthy, worldly flavors ready to bring home and prepare a meal for your family. I’d rather buy a meal kit from Amazon Go than order one and have it shipped overnight to me—fresher, (potentially) safer, less packing,
  • And checking out? Well, this might be the best part. I just leave. And moments later a receipt with images of all the products I purchased is waiting for me in my Amazon Go app. No waiting in line for someone else to check me out. No self-check out mistakes that have to be corrected by an employee. I’ve added a good 10 minutes back to my schedule by not having to go through the traditional check-out process.
  • My only real complaint is the music—it felt like the music they play at the gym, which is just not my style. Probably intended to make me pick up the pace and shop quickly.

In short, I’m a fan. If there was an AmazonGo near me, I’d definitely shop there. Amazon has demonstrated that it can take the brick-and-mortar grocery store into the future without losing the best elements of the real-world shopping experience.

Credibility: Are You Worthy?

By Allison Beadle, Founder & CEO of Wild Hive

I always like to level-set with some definitions, so let’s do just that. What is credibility?

-The quality of being trusted or believed in

-The quality of being convincing or believable

-The quality or power of inspiring belief

So according to these definitions, “credibility” is a quality. That’s great. I think we can all agree that “credibility” is a quality we want to embody—we want to be believable because belief is the catalyst for trust and trust is the catalyst for loyalty. Belief, trust, and loyalty are the critical and irreplaceable elements of strong relationships. And relationships will make or break marketing.

But it all starts with “credibility.” So, let’s take this exercise a bit deeper.

We can trace the origin of the word “credibility” to the Latin credibilis, which means “worthy of belief.” Note the word “worthy”—this is why it’s important to go deeper when we’re talking about the meaning of things. Credibility is a quality bestowed upon a person, a business, a brand, an organization, etc. if an only if the subject at hand is worthy of credibility.

So, how do we know if we’re worthy of credibility? Here’s a check list. Your potential answers: yes, no, sometimes, or I don’t know.

-Are the claims made by your brand, company, organization, or you personally backed by reputable data? Reputable data = data gathered and analyzed using industry-accepted techniques.

-Have you published your data for peer review (either in a peer-reviewed journal or professional conference setting)?

-Has your data been validated by a third party?

-Do you share your data with your audiences (consumers, professionals, retailers, industry members, media, etc.)?

-Is your brand telling the truth, 100%, in everything it does and says at all times?

-Can you back up everything you are doing and saying with reputable data?

If you answered “yes” to each of these questions, your credibility worthiness is likely in excellent shape, and you can be positioned as the expert, the resource, the go-to in your area of specialty.

If you answered “no,” “sometimes,” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, your credibility worthiness is in question. And when it comes to credibility, you don’t want to say, “we’re not worthy!” However, you are now in a position of knowledge to do something about this. Let’s get a plan in place.

The Age of Flavor: When Health is a Given and Flavor is a Must

If the aisles of the Specialty Food Association’s 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show are an indicator of what we’ll be eating and drinking in the coming years, our taste buds are in for a fantastic experience.

Taste has pretty much always been the primary purchase driver; this just doesn’t ever seem to change. Health and Price tend to toggle for second place, depending on the economy. But if it doesn’t taste good, why eat it?

For the past ten-plus years, a laser-beam focus (obsession?) with health and nutrition has transformed the consumer food mindset, creating a transformative cascade of change in the food and beverage industry. Ingredients labels? They’ve cleaned up. “Free from” claims? They’re plastered on everything.

Health—however you choose to define it—is now a given. Consumers simply expect manufacturers to do the right thing and create products that won’t harm them. At Wild Hive, we’ve been watching this closely, noting a shift afoot—health (and for that matter, sustainability, quality, and purpose) is increasingly inherent to the marketplace, and flavor is the new frontier.

This tracks perfectly with what we’re learning about the next hot thing, Gen Z. In fact, the latest NPD report, “Make it Happen for Gen Zs,” dubbed them as “unintentional foodies.” Given that this generation was born to nutrition police parents who also exposed their offspring to a wide variety of foods and flavors from an early age, “unintentional foodie” seems appropriate.

Here’s a sample of some of the brands we saw at the Fancy Food Show who are on the forefront of flavor and have kept the nutritional integrity of their products in tact as well.

Le Bon Magot: Inspired by her family’s journey through the Spice Route, Naomi Moad has created a line of artisan crafted products which will no doubt blow you mind and get you looking for your passport. White Pumpkin and Almond Murabba Preseves with Cardamom and Vanilla anyone?

Joy Loop: Vibrant, fresh flavors-veggies on the go. We’ll take it.

Corine’s Cuisine: Simply fantastic sauces that raise the bar on flavor and heat.

Little Red Dot Kitchen: Singapore and Malaysian Street-Style roasted meat snack. Take us now!

Krave: Known for its culinary roots, Krave it not new to the flavor scene. We love that they are bringing their culinary edge to the meat bar set.

Frontera Foods: Rick Bayless, you’ve done it again. You’ve made traditional Mexican cuisine accessible and convenient…this time, with MEAT! Coming to a freezer near you.

Fireside Chat with McKenzie Hall Jones

McKenzie Hall Jones recently joined Wild Hive (read the full release here), so we thought it would be a good idea to sit down for a little chat so you can learn a little more about what she’s all about.

Where do you get your inspiration from when developing a recipe for a client?

I love to “read” cookbooks and magazines; Instagram and Pinterest are brimming with beautiful inspiration; and often my recipes are inspired from foods and flavors that I’m simply craving. A lot of my favorite recipes are often variations on dishes I already love!

What would be your dream foodie adventure?  

I’d absolutely love to go on a road trip so I could taste my way through Italy. The thought of a weekly menu consisting of pasta, pizza, gelato, and wine sounds pretty blissful. Greece is also on my bucket list since I love all the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.

What is your nutrition mission statement?

To me, eating well certainly does not equate to perfection. Some days, you might eat too much and some days you might eat too little and some days you might have a piece of chocolate cake with a heaping scoop of ice cream just because the occasion calls for it!

As a fairly recent newly-wed (to a fire fighter no less!), how have your eating habits changed as a couple?

It’s definitely made me better at meal prep and planning at the beginning of the week! Now that I’m cooking for two, meal planning and shopping in advance has been so helpful in preventing either of us from getting overly hungry at night. I’m also challenging myself a bit more to get outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen and try recipes I might not otherwise think to make. And while I’ve always been a big advocate of leftovers, my leftover appreciation has gone to a whole new level. I usually make big portions for dinner, which helps a lot! Cook once, eat twice!

What food/nutrition/wellness trends are you seeing that you’re excited about?

For starters, I truly love the growing interest of food and nutrition in general.  When I meet someone for the first time and share with them what I do, it often seems to open the gateway of a game to 20 questions. I hear questions about what foods to eat, how I eat, what the latest nutrition science is, etc. I love that people feel comfortable enough to ask these kinds of questions; conversations like this only seem to emphasize that food is our common ground, it helps bring people together, and it’s something that I love. From a more specific standpoint,  I love seeing the emphasize on plant-based diets and the increased interest in connecting to where our food comes from (I love farmers!). I also get a little bit overly excited about research surrounding the gut-brain connection.

As a Canadian-native living in Los Angeles, what do you miss most about Alberta?

Of course I miss the people, but I also miss that big blue Alberta sky, the really, really late summer nights, and having a white Christmas. I also love to ice skate and truly miss all the enthusiasm of hockey lovers around me, too!

A few other fun facts about McKenzie:

  • I love to travel. My favorite place I’ve been to is Austria; when I graduated from college, I backpacked with three girlfriends for 5 weeks in Central America and ate gallo pinto almost every day (and never got sick of it); and on my honeymoon, my husband and I explored Peru and went to Machu Picchu
  • I can still (kind of) tap dance!
  • I could still probably recite the entire movie “Grease” from start to finish 🙂

The Convincing Power of Culture: Why Culture Matters and How We’re Bringing it to Life for the National Mango Board

There was a time when all you needed was a bullhorn and a message. We are no longer living in that time. Everyone has a bullhorn and a message—or 50 bullhorns and 500 messages. There is a lot of noise.

We began to notice this with our clients several years ago. Our basic messages seemed to be falling flat.

“Oh, you’re the first product that does X? Ho-hum.”

Stand alone nutrition claims weren’t that exciting any more. “You’re high in vitamin Y? Cool. So are 200 other foods.”

The reason? Our audiences were becoming more educated, entertained, and distracted than ever before. Their bar was higher than our clients’ messages. We knew we needed to change the way we were doing things. So, instead of being message machines, we became storytellers. And we found that when it comes to food, culture is one of the most compelling facets of a story. Culture is intriguing. Culture is romantic. Culture is adventurous. Culture brings people inside around the fire—away from the noise—so you can really talk about what makes you meaningful.

Three years ago, we embarked on an exciting culture-centric quest with one of our long-standing clients, the National Mango Board. We wanted to deepen the story we were telling by tapping into mango’s rich and interesting heritage—where and how it’s grown and it’s significance to the cultures and cuisines of its native lands. We wanted to dig into and share the culture of mango. We wanted to share mango love.

Fortunately, our clients were on board. They were willing to take a risk and try a new way of packaging their information if it meant we’d be more compelling and could break through the information clutter.

We assembled a top-notch team of artists who understand food, anthropology, and culture to produce eye catching content, including award winning food photographer, Jody Horton, artist and graphic designer, Blair Richardson, and video mastermind Chris Corona.

We turned on our research brains and interviewed farmers, agronomists, food historians, food writers, dietitians, chefs, and every day people.

And we went to some amazing places to document mangos in their native places.

This work first took us to Martex Farms, a stunning and innovative family-owned mango farm on the Southern side of Puerto Rico. We spent time with members of the Marti family, learning about the significance of mangos to their way of life and how they’ve dedicated themselves to being a world-renown producer of mangos.

And earlier this year, we travelled to Mexico City, touring markets, traversing streets, and interviewing chefs, market and street food vendors, experts in Mexican cuisine and food history, locals, and cooking school instructors to learn why Mexican’s are just so deeply passionate about mangos.

It’s been thrilling to watch this material come to life through our “Share. Mango. Love.” campaign and to hear how much it is resonating with influencers and consumers. It is definitely striking a chord. People want to hear stories, they want to be romanced, they want to connect, they want meaning—culture does all of this. They are captivated by culture. And at the end of the day, we are in the business of captivating and inspiring people to action.

You can take a peek at the Share. Mango. Love. work here and by following the National Mango Board on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out how others are sharing their own mango love (and you can share yours, too!) by using the hash tag #sharemangolove on social media.


Wild hive adds McKenzie Hall Jones to growing food, agriculture, and lifestyle marketing practice

Wild Hive, an Austin-based marketing and consulting firm specializing in food, agriculture, and lifestyle brands, announced today the addition of McKenzie Hall Jones to its growing team of experts.

McKenzie serves as an integral member of Wild Hive, utilizing her social media expertise, food and nutrition knowledge, culinary and content development skills, and passion for communications to benefit the agency’s growing roster of clients, including the National Processed Raspberry Council, the Tri-Lamb Group, the National Mango Board, Maple Hill Creamery, the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the a2 Milk Company, Cadena Bio, and Woom Bikes.

“We are laser-focused on hiring extraordinary people — the quality of our work is directly related to the quality of the individuals on our team. McKenzie is a prime example of this. She is a well-respected health professional and communicator and a forward thinker in the world of culinary nutrition and social media,” said Allison Beadle, CEO and Founder of Wild Hive. “McKenzie brings a unique mix of expertise, and because of her success as a blogger and writer, she has top-notch influencer relationships. Plus, she’s an absolute joy to work with.”

Prior to joining Wild Hive, McKenzie co-founded Nourish RDs, where she consulted with agricultural boards, food companies, and other health professionals to provide an array of nutrition marketing and public relations services, including social media strategy and management, spokesperson and media outreach, recipe development, consumer-friendly and evidence-based blogs and articles, public speaking and workshops.

“We are in the midst of a food paradigm shift, which means you have to think and be different in order to effectively reach consumers and influencers,” said McKenzie. “Wild Hive gets this better than anyone else and is doing such exciting and innovative work. I’m thrilled to join the team.”

McKenzie was previously a contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and her recipes and nutrition advice have been featured in publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Today’s DietitianSELF Magazine, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health,, and Huffington Post.

A magna cum laude graduate of California Polytechnic State University’s Nutrition program, McKenzie completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is a native of Alberta, Canada, and resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband, Evan.


Why Folks are Moving Beyond the Dietary Guidelines—Eating Well Shouldn’t be This Hard


They’re out. People are talking about them. But do consumers really care?

Roughly 30 hours have passed since the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released and Google is now pulling up over a million articles that have been written about them. Just thinking about the volume of media makes my brain hurt. And then when I try to actually navigate the Dietary Guidelines interactive document, my brain hurts even more.

But kudos to the USDA and DHHS for taking a broader view by focusing on dietary patterns and moving away from nutrients. We need more of this. We eat foods (not nutrients) in patterns that vary considerably between individuals, cultures, life stages, etc.

Here’s my rub with the Dietary Guidelines: they come across as being complicated.

I have been thinking a lot about “complication” with regards to marketing, and specifically food marketing. It’s a problem. We are dishing out way too much information. We know that attention spans are shorter than ever (don’t worry, I’m already working on trying to wrap up this blog post).

We—food marketers, health professionals, influencers, the media, policy makers, etc.—need to simplify. Edit. Pare down the details. Get to what matters. And inspire. Because let’s face it, nutrition often isn’t an inspiring topic, but food IS.

There are millions of articles being written about the Dietary Guidelines and they have a fancy interactive site. But at the end of the day, do consumers—eaters—ultimately care?

I don’t think they do.

Consumers have moved on. They are tired of the debate. They’re taking the matter into their own hands—making individual decisions about what “healthy” means to them. Consumers are defining “healthy” in a very simple way: back to the basics with an emphasis on quality—whole foods, short ingredients lists, foods with a story that can be understood and embraced.

So let’s meet them where they are—it’s not a bad place! It’s where common sense, enjoyment, and sensibility peacefully coexist.

We’ll be talking about simplicity and what it means for food marketers a good bit more over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Allison Beadle

Allison’s marketing career began as a registered dietitian working in oncology. You read that correctly. Working in the clinical world gave Allison a heart for people and the role of food in healing, but after a couple of years, it was time for a change. So, she made the leap to the food industry where she worked in marketing and managed nutrition communications for the Central Market division of the H.E.B. Grocery Company. She was blessed to work with some of the most remarkable, interesting, and intelligent people in her career.  It was here that she found her passion for food storytelling and marketing.  She found that her background in nutrition science, love of food, fascination with culture and travel, innate desire to continually connect with others, and expressive nature were a good mix for educating consumers, professionals, and industry members. And innovating.

As the president and CEO of Wild Hive, she does everything you might imagine she does.  Each day, she gets to work with awesome people, incredible clients, inspiring industries, innovative entrepreneurs intent on changing the world, and she travels a good bit.  And she’s grateful each and every day for the opportunity to build a business that thinks and acts differently and hopefully makes life better for everyone it comes in contact with.

Prior to launching Wild Hive, Allison was senior vice president for Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. where she counseled numerous brands and commodity organizations including Chobani Greek Yogurt, the California Raisin Marketing Board, Paramount Farms (Wonderful Pistachios), the Tri-Lamb Group, TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, the National Mango Board, Sunsweet, the California Table Grape Commission, the United States Potato Board, and the Texas Beef Council.

As a former retail dietitian, Allison has a special place in her heart for the trailblazing dietitians who are doing amazing things to educate consumers and transform the retail grocery industry.  To that end, she helped spearhead the launch of two game-changing initiatives focused on helping retail dietitians succeed: the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance (RDBA) and Fleishman-Hillard’s ‘What’s in Store.’

Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in nutrition science from Boston University. A member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), she is past-chair of the Food and Culinary Professionals (FCP) Dietetic Practice Group (DPG) and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Allison is wife to Brian and mommy to Audrey (6 years) and Walker (3 years).  More than anything in the world, she loves traveling and exploring with her family…taking her kids along for exciting adventures to big cities, small towns, countrysides, islands, and everywhere in between.  She’s an eighth generation Texan.  And it’s never a dull moment in her world!

Brian Beadle

As Creative Director for Wild Hive, Brian combines nearly a decade of professional design experience with his passion for food, fitness, and healthy lifestyle. Along with overseeing brand development, graphic design, photograpy, and marketing, Brian provides strategic insight on trends analysis and forecasting for Wild Hive and our clients. In addition, he is responsible for implementing ongoing nutrition issues and media monitoring for several Wild Hive clients.

As the strategy lead for BeetElite, Brian worked with numerous national cycling media outlets, such as Peloton Magazine and Bicycling Magazine as well as negotiating sponsorships with professional cyclists. For the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance (RDBA), Brian was responsible for developing the organization’s logo and branding, which was incorporated into web design, newsletter design, and additional marketing materials.

Currently, Brian provides design direction, creative strategy, and media research & outreach for the National Processed Raspberry Council (NPRC) and WOOM Bikes USA, an innovative local Austin, Texas bicycle company.

Brian earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University. Brian is an avid cyclist, musician, dad, foodie, and a registered landscape architect in the state of Texas.

Mary Kimbrough, RD

An award-winning food service professional and communicator, Mary has extensive knowledge and experience in operations, program development, implementation and training, in the realm of food, nutrition and culinary arts.

A producer of real solutions to her clients, Mary can tap into her trusted network of professionals in the culinary nutrition field to craft the ideal product or service for the project at hand. This active network is the culmination of a rich and varied career and her dedication to efficient problem solving. Mary is that exceptionally vital link between food and food manufacturers to recipe to plate on the table.

Mary’s expertise in the field helped her create a healthful dining concept, menu, and recipes for Royal Caribbean International Food and Beverage Departments’ new class of ships – Oasis of the Seas. The liner’s Solarium Bistro offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a transparently healthful menu that allows the guests a choice when dining. Additional clients have included: American Heart Association, Amtrak, Giordano’s Pizza Sara Lee/Hillshire Farm, Custom Culinary, Quaker/PepsiCo, Welch’s, Puente Inc., Amtrak., Texas Beef Council, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Weight Watchers/Gilsa Dairy division.

In 2006 she created Food Roots LLC, a premier Texas culinary and agricultural tourism company offering unique health-focused Texas food and wine experiences through custom tours, cooking classes, and dining adventures.

Prior to establishing these enterprises, she was director of Nutrition and Hospitality Services for the University of Texas Southwestern University Hospitals. In this position, she was recognized for her vision and leadership in marrying the culinary arts to the science of nutrition in foodservice. Her masterful blend of healthcare nutrition and culinary excitement has earned Mary numerous accolades. In 1998, the International Food Manufacturers Association presented her its Silver Plate Award, and Restaurants & Institutions magazine named her food service department an IVY Award winner.
Mary’s numerous seminars, lectures and workshops focus on the message that nutritious food is also delicious food. In 2007, Mary was selected to present The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Lenna Francis Cooper Memorial Lecture at AND’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition (the second highest honor given to its members). She also has collaborated with The Culinary Institute of America Certified Master Chef Victor Gielisse in co-authoring In Good Taste: A Contemporary Approach to Cooking (Prentice Hall), a textbook-cookbook that joins culinarians and dietitians in the pursuit of nutritious, contemporary cooking.

Mary provides years of hands-on experience to professional organizations such as AND, mentioned above. She is a charter member and former chair of AND’s Food & Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group, a past board member of Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) and has served as Chair for the Dallas Chapters of Les Dames d`Escoffier and the American Institute for Wine and Food. She is a founding member of Foodways Texas, a current board member in addition to serving as their education committee co-chair.

Jeff Gross

Jeff is an accomplished researcher and analyst with more than 30 years experience fielding numerous B2B and B2C market research studies. He is the founding partner of Integra Marketing Research, which applies sound and proven marketing research principles, whether to tried and true study designs or to innovative methodologies to properly answer business questions.

Jeff founded and operated the full-service marketing research firm, Gross Marketing Research, for 27 years. Prior to Gross Marketing Research, he held positions in marketing research on the client side at The Pillsbury Company and Del Monte U.S.A., as well as on the supplier side at Edwin J. Gross, Inc. and Leo J. Shapiro & Associates.

He has conducted numerous market research studies for food industry clients including C&W Frozen Foods, Del Monte U.S.A, Discovery Foods, Farmhouse Foods, Golden Heritage Foods, Mariani Packaging Company, Nakano Foods, Nancy’s Specialty Foods, Henry’s Supper Shop, Otis Spunkmeyer, San Francisco French Bread Company, Culinary Brands, Taylor Farms, the American Lamb Board, the Tri-Lamb Group, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Honey Board, and the National Mango Board.

Jeff received his B.A. in Economics and Psychology from Lake Forest College and his M.B.A. from Loyola University of Chicago. Jeff is a passionate outdoor enthusiast and resides in the Lake Tahoe area where he enjoys skiing and mountain biking.

Megan Lacy

Megan Lacy is a communications professional whose message development and media relations expertise has exceeded objectives for clients across industries. She has experience managing and synthesizing complicated issues in order to develop impactful, clear messaging to support overall communications goals.

Megan has strong experience in public awareness, education and advocacy efforts for clients across government, business and non-profit sectors, along with a proven track record of delivering strong media relations results and counsel on a variety of communications issues.

Most recently, Megan served as the managing director of communications for the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, an equestrian sport non-profit organization focused on serving the Hunter and Jumper disciplines. She also served as director of the USHJA Foundation, which provides funding to USHJA programs and provides grants and scholarships to USHJA members. In these roles, she wore virtually every hat—strategic counselor and tactical implementation lead, guiding and executing email marketing, social media, content, media, and issues management strategies.

Prior to the USHJA, Megan worked for international communications firm FleishmanHillard, supporting clients across numerous industries, including food and agriculture. In her tenure with FleishmanHillard, she led numerous accounts, exceeding client objectives. Clients ranged from Tri-Lamb to the Department of Homeland Security. Her experience working with food and agriculture, state government, federal government, Fortune 500 companies, and nonprofits allows her to easily integrate into an organization’s workflow and lead teams to success against shared goals.


Megan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin.

Allie Jones

By combining her love of all things Agriculture, communicating creatively, and working with amazing people, Allie Jones found her career sweet spot. Pair that with unquenchable curiosity, a love of food puns, and a glass-half-full kind of attitude you have a career that feels like an adventure.


Allie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Communications and a minor in Journalism from the University of Wyoming in 2015 (Go Pokes!) then moved down to warm up in Austin while interning at Rodeo Austin. She decided to stay in Austin and got the position of promoting and growing the GO TEXAN marketing program at the Texas Department of Agriculture. While working at TDA and with the GO TEXAN companies her passion for helping the food and agriculture industry grew.


Allie continues to stay hungry and curious in her career by looking forward to every adventure.


When she isn’t working with clients or brainstorming with her Wild Hive team members she is spending time with her family either in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, on her family’s ranch in central Texas or going on adventures, near a far, with her boyfriend, Patrick, and their new side-kick-pup, Maggie.