SONOMA, CALIF. — Miyoko’s Creamery, a maker of dairy-free takes on gourmet cheese and butter, is seeking a new leader and has filed a lawsuit alleging its founder attempted to steal trade secrets.
Miyoko Schinner said she was ousted last June as chief executive officer of the Sonoma-based company, which on Feb. 16 said it would commence a search for a replacement while chief financial officer Jon Blair steps into the role of interim president. Schinner, a longtime vegan and animal rights activist who founded the brand nine years ago, penned a post on LinkedIn, addressing the news she had parted ways with her business.
“As we worked to grow the business, conflict grew around the best path forward for future growth while continuing to live our values, founded on the principles of veganism and animal rights, as well as our B Corp status,” she wrote. “That we find ourselves here is representative of the extent to which my views and approach have not always prevailed (especially in the past two years).
“As has already been made clear, we did not arrive at this point by my choosing. It is true that I was unwilling to agree to restrictions that would have made any ongoing role I played at this company ‘for appearances’ only. It is telling that I was patronizingly described as taking the company from ‘zero to one’ in contrast to what is needed to take the company from ‘one to 100.’ The results that this company achieved under my leadership speak for themselves. We achieved these results — while I still had the ability to meaningfully ensure it — in a legitimately values-aligned way.
“I am honestly uncertain about how things will turn out — especially after some (though not all) of my fellow directors decided that I would not be actively involved with the company.”
She concluded: “Whatever is next, I wish the best for the company I founded, led and grew. I hope you continue to fight with me to create an equitable and just food system that saves animals, creates opportunities for independent producers and helps ensure nutritious, delicious, and compassionate food is meaningfully accessible to all.”
On Feb. 17, the Miyoko’s Creamery board of directors filed a complaint case in the US District Court for the Northern District of California accusing Schinner of stealing intellectual property and confidential information. In a separate LinkedIn post, Schinner expressed “shock” over the lawsuit, stating the allegations represent “wild untruths about me that are designed to destroy me and get me out of the way.”
Following her departure, Miyoko’s Creamery said it remains committed to “selling new products that contain only plants, no animal ingredients, in order to eliminate animal suffering, reduce environmental stress and improve human health.”
Blair said, “Looking toward the future and exponential growth of the company, we are excited to continue and expand upon our brand mission and uphold our certified B Corporation of innovating products that only contain plant ingredients that are better for human health. We also plan to make our current portfolio of products more available and to innovate products with simple, vegan ingredients, time-honored techniques and delicious flavors.
“We continue to be driven by our core company values of craft, compassion, conviviality and courage, with these principles as our guiding light for future growth to come in the coming months and years.”
As Schinner shared in an interview with Food Entrepreneur three years ago, she noted “cheese was the last hurdle” for many aspiring vegans, inspiring her to replicate her beloved Brie, Gouda and cheddar using ingredients such as nuts and legumes and age-old cheesemaking techniques. The company bearing her name offers a collection of organic cheese wheels made with cashews, as well as vegan cream cheese, butter, mozzarella and more. Products are sold in more than 20,000 retailers nationwide, including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Kroger, Target and Walmart.