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Rody 2015_0

Rody Hawkins

President & CEO, Improved Nature

During his 32 years in the food industry, Dr. Hawkins has developed and implemented new food products for the two largest food companies in the USA: Oscar Mayer Foods, currently a division of Kraft, and ConAgra Snack Foods (GoodMark Foods). For Oscar Mayer he created the concept and product known as “Lunchables,” a product described by Kraft Research as the most innovative new product developed by Kraft over the past 30 years. 

Dr. Hawkins led 15 years of work with ConAgra Research & Development, creating innovation that allowed meat snacks to become an international market and making him one of the world’s leading authorities on shelf-stable meats and foods.

Dr. Hawkins founded RDI Foods in 2002, working with small to multi-billion dollar food companies to develop new products, solve technical problems, and create world-class safety systems. Working with researchers at the U.S. Army Performance Enhancement & Food Safety Team, he has developed many ration components including sandwiches that are shelf stable for up to three years. 

While running RDI Foods for the past 14 years, Dr. Hawkins has provided technical support for 10 of the top 30 food companies, over 100 other food manufacturers, and the U.S. Military.  His work with the military led to an Excellence-In-Research Award. His work in the food industry has led to 15 patents. In 2015, Rody and his team founded Improved Nature, which turns plant protein into meat-like products. It normally takes 5 lbs. of soy meal to make 1 lb. of pork. Improved Nature takes 1 lb. of plant protein to make 5 lbs. of plant-based meat. This conversion will allow a more sustainable supply of quality protein in a form suitable for a growing population.