Arjan Stephens

Executive vice-president of sales and marketing, Nature's Path Foods Age: 31

How do you show your friends you love them? If you're Arjan Stephens, you make a big batch of granola.

That was the genesis of the newest product for Nature's Path, Love Crunch. It's based on a recipe Stephens and his wife concocted to hand out to guests at their wedding.

"It combines the most decadent ingredients and the most tasteful ingredient that we had as a company," he said. "We had dark chocolate, coconut, flax seeds and strawberries … our guests just loved it."

Love Crunch is just one of 12 new products Stephens has launched since joining the company. He also led a $100 million rebranding that has resulted in overall growth of 30%.

Stephens has grown up eating, tasting, growing and thinking about food. His parents owned the first vegetarian restaurant in Western Canada and started Nature's Path in 1985. Stephens' sister Jyoti also works for the company. The company now has 350 employees working in four facilities.

With growing competition in the natural food market, most of the family businesses have been bought out by brands like Kellogg's, General Mills and Kraft. Nature's Path is one of the last such businesses, meaning the company needs to be able to compete against what Stephens calls the "big boys."

"We like to think of ourselves as an underdog … but we're much more nimble and able to act quicker and develop new products in a faster way," he said. "It's a great challenge to have and it's one that we relish."

In addition to leading fundraising efforts in support of local food banks each year, Stephens spearheaded the company's Bite4Bite program, which sees the company match each bag of Love Crunch sold with donations of cash and food to food banks.

"So far this year, it's been $1 million to these food banks," he said. •