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Our Leaders
Our Leaders
Board of Directors
Our Leaders
Board of Directors

Our Leaders

Adnan Durrani
Adnan Durrani
Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Durrani is the founder and CEO of Saffron Road Foods. As a serial food entrepreneur, Mr. Durrani has been a leading venture capitalist for nearly 30 years.

In 1991, Mr. Durrani founded Vermont Pure Springs (Crystal Rock Water) which grew to become the 2nd largest bottled water brand in the Northeast. He also was a partner and principal shareholder in Stonyfield Farms, Inc., which sold to Groupe Danone in 2001.

Additionally, Mr. Durrani was a principal of Delicious Brands, Inc., which he scaled, with the financial backing of Carl Icahn, to become the 5th largest cookie brand in the U.S.  Adnan has been recognized as one of the entrepreneurs who engineered “20 Ideas That Changed The Way The World Does Business”. The select list of these inductees include: Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s), Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farms), Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize, Grameen Bank), and Steve Case (AOL).  

Mr. Durrani is presently the Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and is also Co-Chair of Columbia’s SEAS Entrepreneurship Advisory Board. He also actively serves on the Fast Company Impact Council, an invitation-only collective of innovative leaders, and on the Board of the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI).

Remarkably, Mr. Durrani was recognized and honored by the Vatican and Ambassador to the Holy Sees for his “Interfaith In Business” model, where the Pope hosted him as a speaker at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.

Mr. Durrani can also be found on the Islamica 500 select list of The 500 Who Make the Islamic Economy.

Jack Acree
Jack Acree
Executive Vice President

Jack Acree was one of the earliest members of the team to join the Journey to Better. Jack strongly feels that Saffron Road offers a unique opportunity for a brand that not only appeals to those consumers whose spiritual principles guide their dietary needs, but also a brand that stands for good stewardship of our planet. Today he is the architect of the company’s brand who is tireless in finding just the right name for every offering.

Mr. Acree is an accomplished food executive, having successfully built two of the fastest growing startups in the natural foods business which now deliver well over $50 million in sales – Terra Chips® (Hain Foods) and Alexia Foods® (ConAgra Foods). He brings an aggressive and adaptive approach to our marketing and sales efforts due to his extensive experience with both direct customer and broker management for multiple channels of trade, including natural foods supermarkets (both direct and through natural channels), super centers, route service, foodservice and club.

Jack was at Alexia Foods from inception as Director of Sales. His team built Alexia’s sales to over $75 million today with over 26 SKU’s. Alexia Food was sold to ConAgra Foods in 2007. While at Alexia in 2002, Jack was able to immediately secure shelf space and for this start-up brand into 5,000 stores – in such top-tier chains as Whole Foods, Publix, Stop & Shop, Shoprite, Shaw’s, Wegmans, and Wal-Mart. Jack also grew Alexia’s business at Wal-Mart from 88 initial stores in 2002 to over 1,800 stores in 3 years time. At Terra Chips, Jack was part of the original founding member executive team. He grew sales from inception at Terra Chips to over $5 Million. For Terra, Jack built and scaled five broad channels of distribution for this niche start up: independent routes, gourmet shops natural stores, supermarket chains and food service (hotels, restaurants). Today, Terra Chips is owned by Hain foods and generates over $60 Million in sales.

Jack sat on the Board of Directors of the Specialty Food Association, the leading trade organization for the natural/specialty food industry, from 2006-2012, 201 2016. During the biannual Fancy Food Shows Jack is a featured speaker at ‘The Basics” an intensive all day seminar for those wishing to enter the specialty food market. Jack is a founding member of the Slow Money Alliance and is active in local and national politics. He is
especially proud of the work he did in Florida during the 2004 Presidential race and the 2006 Virginia Senate race. Jack lives with his wife and young son in the Hudson Valley of New York where he supports local agriculture and CSA’s. He is a local organizer for the local CROPP Walk against Hunger and has served as a Deacon of his local Reformed Church.

John Umlauf
John Umlauf
Senior Vice President of Culinary Operations

John Umlauf is another fellow devotee of ethical consumerism. With an extensive background in the culinary arts as well as sustainable livestock sourcing, he offers real world experience in staying true to the principles of halal.

John Umlauf began his career at the feet of an old-time butcher in the corner meat shop and became a meat-cutter apprentice at age 16. Moving on to a culinary career and working his way up to Executive Chef, John came full circle back to the meat business in 2002 and helped found several Northeast “new paradigm” meat brands, including the very successful Northeast Family Farms brand of meats owned by Dole & Bailey. John also served as Corporate & Conference Chef for The Weston A. Price Foundation from 2002 to 2005 and still serves on the Honorary Board of Directors for that international non-profit organization. His passion for the sacredness of food led him to become one of the founders of Halal Premium Meats and the Twin Rivers grass-fed meats brand in 2005, which was served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and featured in the official magazine of the American Culinary Federation. Now very comfortable in the large kitchens that create the foods for Saffron Road, John often wears his chef coat to events and sales calls as a reminder to all that “this is, after all, about the food!”

Kate Tayloe Pearson
Chief Marketing Officer

As the Chief Marketing Officer at Saffron Road Foods, Kate brings over a decade of dedicated service to a brand that she has nurtured from its early stages to a high-growth trajectory. Joining as one of the original employees in 2010, Kate was drawn to the company's founders' commitment to ethical consumerism and the remarkable success achieved in the natural and organic product industry. Her career track at Saffron Road has been an upwardly rewarding journey—marked by progression from roles like Marketing and Logistics Manager to Director of Marketing and finally Chief Marketing Officer. Each step has allowed Kate to contribute to a brand that not only delights taste buds with delicious products but also strives to make a positive impact on communities worldwide.

Prior to Saffron Road, Kate’s marketing roots were incubated in a small boutique French fashion brand in NYC, as well as at Marriott International in Bethesda, MD, and Northern Virginia. Outside the dynamic world of marketing, Kate finds joy in family travel, exploring French culture & language, and cheering on her daughters' junior tennis pursuits. As a proud Virginia Tech Hokie, orange and maroon are still her favorite color combination, not unlike some of the color palettes of Saffron Road’s entrees.

What excites Kate the most about marketing Saffron Road's products is the fusion of delicious recipes and global cuisines on a Journey to Better.

Laura Stockdale
Vice President of Planning & Operations

Laura has over 20 years of CPG experience in purchasing and inventory control, excelling in both the Fashion and Culinary industries. Laura entered corporate America in 2004 as a Footwear and Accessories buyer for Nine West Group. After her ten-year tenure with the Fortune 500 Company learning firsthand best practices around assortment planning, vendor relations, and store allocations, Laura transitioned her skillset to join the team at Saffron Road Foods. In 2014, Laura started her journey with the Saffron team as a Manufacturing Resource Planner, was promoted to Director of Planning & Operations, and is now our Vice President of Planning & Operations. Today, Laura strategically manages all sales forecasting, production planning, copacker relations, and inventory control. She also helps oversee logistics, fulfillment, and supply chain functions driving the day-to-day operations. For the past four years, Laura has led her team to achieving and maintaining a 99.9% fulfillment rate, through the pandemic and beyond. Laura’s leadership style is one that emulates positive energy, genuine compassion, and a can-do perspective. She is not afraid to challenge the status quo, and as a result, is surrounded by a team who is solution-focused and dedicated to continuous improvement.

Laura is a first-generation college graduate. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Fashion Marketing and Management from Berkeley College in NYC, being the first student to complete the Berkeley College Honors program. She completed her degree in just three years while thriving as a buyer during the day and attending school at night.

One of Laura’s proudest moments with Saffron Road is successfully launching a quarterly Employee Appreciation Award, wherein management votes for an employee who exemplifies what it means to be a superstar team member. Laura is extremely enthusiastic about both the talent behind the product as well as the strong, wholesome values that position the Saffron Road brand above the rest.

Menglu Gardiner, aka “Lulu”
Director of Commercialization

With a personal journey that spans continents and a path rooted in food science, Lulu brings a unique global perspective to the role of Director of Commercialization at Saffron Road. From an early age in China, Lulu harbored a profound interest in the world of food, leading her to pursue food science at Sichuan University and a master’s degree from Cornell University.

Lulu set out on her Journey to Better with Saffron Road in 2015, fresh after her academic pursuit, and has since flourished from a Technical Services Specialist to a dynamic force within the culinary team. In her current role, she steers the commercialization process, converting creative ideas into market-ready marvels, all while maintaining a strong commitment to industry standards. She is also a driving force in exploring and expanding the club channel, leading Saffron Road’s strategic foray into this vital market segment. This role encapsulates her unique blend of scientific acumen and market insight, honed through her worldly experience.

At Saffron Road, Lulu is thrilled by the prospects of creating tasty and convenient food options that resonate with the health-conscious preferences of modern consumers.

Board of Directors
Bob Burke
Board of Directors

As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic and specialty products to market across most channels and classes of trade. This includes work in strategic planning, growth strategies, writing sales, marketing and business plans, budgeting, pricing, building distribution, broker selection and management, organizational development, strategic options, branding and trade spending management. He is also the co-author and co-publisher of the Natural Products Field Manual, Fifth Edition  and The Sales Manager’s Handbook. Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development and Vice President, Marketing & Sales. He has held marketing positions with Colombo, Inc. and Sperry Top-Sider. He received an MBA from Babson College.

Clients: Have had the privilege of working with and learning from exciting companies such as: Annie’s Homegrown, Oregon Chai, Snyder’s of Hanover, United Natural Foods, No Pudge!, Kraft Foods, Bayer Consumer Care Division, ConAgra, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Kettle Cuisine, Small Planet Foods, New Hope Natural Media, Bushes Beans, Equal Exchange, Nantucket Offshore/Stirrings, Immaculate Baking, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Dancing Deer Bakery, The Natural Dentist, Rice Select, EcoFish, PMO Wildwood, S.C. Johnson, Blake’s All Natural Foods, Megafood/BioSan, Mighty Leaf Tea, Lesser Evil Snack Co., Theo Chocolate, The Jane Goodall Institute, Kashi, Project 7, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Yoghund, Bord Bia, American Halal, Orgain, Turtle Island, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bausch + Lomb, Boehringer Ingleheim, Harbar, LLC, Rhino Foods, Stonehouse 27, Pfizer and others.

He currently serves as an outside director for Stonyfield Farm, EcoFish, Nutrabella, and American Halal. He is a former director of Equal Exchange, Stirrings, LLC, Pulmuone-Wildwood and the NASFT – National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Nutrition Business Journal. He is also on the board of directors of the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Bob was named one of the “Top 25 Business Builders of the Natural Products Industry for the last 25 years” by Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine.
Bob has been qualified as an expert witness in federal court on the subject of the sales and marketing of natural, organic and specialty products.

Bob has delivered presentations, seminars and moderated panels at leading trade shows and conferences such as Natural Products Expo East & West, The NASFT’s Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, OTA’s “All Things Organic Trade Show and Conference”, Natural Products Europe in London, Bord Bia in Dublin, Canadian Consulates in Boston and Chicago, Kosherfest in New York, The Soyfoods Conference, Agrifood Trade Services in Nova Scotia, Saskatoon and Quebec, the CHFA Expo East in Toronto, the Global Access Advisors conference in Melbourne, Australia and has been a featured trainer and speaker at Management Venture Institute forums. He is also a presenter and panelist at the Stonyfield Entrepreneurial Institute Boot Camp. He authored the NASFT’s White Paper on Trade Promotion.
Bob also runs full day seminars on “Becoming a more Effective Sales Manager in the Natural and Specialty Channel” and “Financing your Natural and Specialty Products Company.”

Renee Ng Parker
Board of Directors

Renee Ng Parker is a Director at Armonia where she helps to manage a portfolio of private equity investments, projects, and initiatives geared towards positive environmental change and local and sustainable food. She serves on the Board of Five Acre Farms, is the Board Secretary for Maple Hill Creamery, and serves on the Board of Trustees at Whitby School in Greenwich, CT. Prior to Armonia, she worked on strategy, operations, and finance initiatives at the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and Forbes.com and in investment banking at Citigroup. Renee received a BS in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.Armonia and their general partner Larry Lunt have been active in the consumer sector, having been shareholders in Blue Buffalo Pet Products (bought out by General Mills for $8 Billion in 2018) , Vital Farms, which recently went public on the NASDAQ(VITL ), and Teton Ranch.

John Turner
Board of Directors

John is a seasoned consumer food industry senior executive and Private Equity Operating Partner of CREO Capital Partners (www.creocapitalpartners.com), a $600 million PE Fund with primary focus in the consumer and food sectors. John brings to American Halal over thirty years of packaged goods marketing, sales and general management experience across public, private, family and private equity engagements. Before joining CREO, John was CEO of Empire Kosher, America’s largest Kosher poultry company. John currently leads three food portfolio companies as Operating Partner for Creo Capital Partners and has worked in both turnaround and growth assignments for private equity firms J.W. Childs and Riverside Partners. John has demonstrated strong strategic leadership and team skills and the ability to successfully apply marketing and management disciplines to untraditional, emerging and turnaround companies.

M. Dolores Paoli
Board of Directors

Ms. Paoli was a co-founder and former Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vermont Pure, a leading bottled water brand. She co-founded Vermont Pure in 1991. Prior to founding Vermont Pure, Ms. Paoli was the Assistant Corporate Director for Construction and Development for Property Resources, one of New York City’s top building developers, where she was the developer on billion dollar plus real estate projects. Prior to that Ms. Paoli had her own law practice whereby she had represented clients in more than 300 real estate transactions. Ms. Paoli received a B.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a Juris Doctorate degree from New York Law School and a Master’s of Science in Real Estate Development from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. She is also a decade long member of Social Venture Network and a dedicated socially conscious entrepreneur. Ms. Paoli is a charter member of the American Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies and often speaks at interfaith forums on both female perspectives on Islam as well as bridges between interfaith communities.

Tariq Farid
Board of Directors

Tariq Farid is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Edible Arrangements International, the pioneer and purveyor of high quality, artistically designed fresh fruit arrangements, which does over $600 million in sales and has over 1,100 stores worldwide in over 11 countries.  Tariq Farid was inducted into the Connecticut Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame in 201 and in 2017, was also inducted into the prestigious list of Hall of Fame by International Franchise Association. Tariq Farid is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Franchise Association (IFA) and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the IFA in 2009. He established the Tariq Farid Franchise Institute at Babson College—, which resides under The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

Tariq also created The Tariq & Asma Farid Foundation to support causes both at home and around the world. The Foundation’s contributions have benefited dozens of programs and services, including hospitals, schools, community centers, soup kitchens and revitalization efforts, as well as organizations addressing poverty, childhood cancer and leadership opportunities for youth. Tariq also started Edible Cares® as a way for Edible Arrangements® stores and corporate offices to give back on both the local and national level. This included the establishment of the Edible Cares® Fund, which provides needed assistance to Edible Arrangements® store employees, friends and families in times of extreme need - whether due to natural disasters, family misfortunes, illness or other causes.