36-year-old Chief Executive Officer Samuel Dennigan took his third-generation family business, Strong Roots, from a small farm to an international vegan enterprise – despite initial skepticism from his family.
Dennigan's personal mission is to change the food industry, one cauliflower hash brown or sweet potato fry at a time. He tells Fortune Magazine that after working in the food industry alongside his family for more than ten years, he found that the practices of most global food brands are fundamentally wrong. Their focus is primarily on profit or production costs and not on providing consumers with a nutritious product. Rather than create a company that fits that mold to achieve immediate success, Strong Roots is more interested in building slowly and changing the food industry as they evolve.
Initially, Dennigan's parents were skeptical about his aspirations. They were hesitant about such a monumental pivot in the family business, which had been operating for more than a hundred years.
"It was a difficult conversation to have because you're expected to continue their legacy," he told Fortune Magazine. "It was tough at the beginning, but I have understanding parents, and they eventually supported me."
In 2015, he launched the Strong Roots brand using his family's homegrown produce. Now, the company is one of the most prominent players in the plant-based food industry, and Dennigan is considered a food thought leader for his ideas about reframing food production and distribution. Strong Roots just secured a deal with McCain Foods, a global food distributor based in New Brunswick, Canada, for $55 million – the largest plant-based food deal made by an Irish brand.
Strong Roots products are now found at stores worldwide, such as Tesco, Whole Foods, Walmart, Wegmans, and the British department store Harrods. With the McCain deal, they're expected to expand to Canada, South America, Australia, and beyond. But to Dennigan, company growth is only worthwhile when it brings societal change, so he aspires to continue expanding Strong Roots until nutrition is valued more than profit.