Historically, big companies have usually been founded by — and run by — men. It’s refreshing to see that, even though it’s unusual, plenty of successful companies have women at the helm. Here are 10 food-related companies that you might not realize were founded by women.
The origin stories of food brands and companies are all unique and fascinating. More products than you may realize weren’t simply cooked up in a kitchen — instead, they were synthesized in a lab or created by a food chemist in a factory. To actually create a product or found a company, then build it into a household name, is a monumental task. For the people on this list, that achievement is made even more monumental because of the fact that high-level management tends to be a men’s club.
Although many food products and companies are named after women, you’d be surprised by how few were actually invented or founded by them. Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Dash never actually existed, obviously. Little Debbie, Sara Lee, and Wendy’s were named after the (male) founders’ daughters. Marie Callender’s was founded by Marie’s son, Don.
In this day and age, it’s not uncommon for female entrepreneurs to launch their own food-related businesses. There’s still a glass ceiling, but if any investors honestly choose not to invest in a company simply because it’s founded by a woman, they have far greater issues than poor business sense.
So read on to learn about 10 women who blazed a trail for all the female entrepreneurs who followed in their footsteps.
In 1937, Margaret Rudkin started baking her own bread for her son, Mark, who was allergic to a lot of commercially processed foods. This healthier bread proved to be such a hit with Rudkin’s friends and family that she began selling it commercially under the name of her family’s property in Norwalk, Connecticut: Pepperidge Farm. Then, on a trip to Europe in the 1950s, Rudkin discovered delicate European-style cookies and purchased the rights to sell them in the United States. She named them Milanos, after the city in which she discovered them.
Legend has it that the world’s most famous soy sauce company was founded by a woman named Shige Maki back in the 1600s. After she and her son were forced from their home following her husband's death in battle, they settled in the village of Noda and spent the next 15 years cultivating rice and learning the craft of making shoyu, or soy sauce. She refined the production process and began to sell it to locals, starting the company known today as Kikkoman. As the website says, “behind every bottle of Kikkoman, there's a Kikko-woman.”