10 Food Companies You Didn't Know Were Founded by Women Slideshow

The glass ceiling was no barrier for these culinary entrepreneurs

10 Food Companies You Didn't Know Were Founded by Women

Wikipedia/ Nick Stepowyj, Shutterstock/ Lunasee Studios

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. 

Pepperidge Farm

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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.  

Kikkoman

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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.”

Newman’s Own Organics

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Newman’s Own was famously founded in 1982 by late actor Paul Newman and his friend and neighbor, writer A.E. Hotchner. While that company is still known for its salad dressings, juices, and popcorn, Newman’s Own Organics, which was started in 1993 by his daughter Nell, became a completely separate company in 2001. All of the foods she sells are organic, including chocolate, cookies, pretzels, and even pet food. 

Laura Scudder’s

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Laura Scudder was one of the great female entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. She started her food company in 1926, a time when potato chips were usually sold by the barrel or tin, leaving them stale and crushed. She had the idea to sell the chips in individual wax paper (later cellophane) bagsLaura Scudder was one of the great female entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. She started her food company in 1926, a time when potato chips were usually sold by the barrel or tin, leaving them stale and crushed. She had the idea to sell the chips in individual wax paper (later cellophane) bags, and was the first to put freshness dates on food products. Scudder faced difficulty securing insurance on her delivery trucks from men who didn’t trust a woman to pay the premiums, turned down a $9 million buyout offer because the buyer couldn’t guarantee her employees’ job security, and eventually expanded into peanut butter and mayonnaise. She controlled an incredible 50 percent share of the California potato chip market at the time of her death in 1959.

Mrs. Fields

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Ubiquitous at malls throughout America, Mrs. Fields is in reality Debbi Fields, who started her company in 1977 at the age of 21. Hired to be one of the “ball girls” for the Oakland Athletics at the age of 13, she used the money she was paid (five dollars an hour) to buy ingredients and perfect the chocolate chip cookie recipe that would make her famous. She began franchising in 1990, sold the business a few years later, and remains the spokesperson for the company, which is one of the country’s largest retailers of fresh-baked cookies and brownies. 

Fatburger

Beloved burger chain Fatburger got its start in 1947 with the name Mr. Fatburger. In 1952, Lovie Yancey, who named the chain after a nickname for her boyfriend, shed her business partners and the “Mr.” and set out to make Fatburger the successful chain it is today. She was a popular fixture at the original Fatburger, and in 1990 sold the company to an investment group. 

Auntie Anne’s

The Anne behind Auntie Anne’s is Anne Beiler, who was born into an Old Order Amish family in Pennsylvania in 1949. She baked bread as a child and learned to make pretzels in the Amish style (doughy and soft), and when she started selling them from a Maryland market stand in 1987 they were a big hit. Within a year, there were eight stand-alone stores and one mall location; within two years, franchises started opening throughout Pennsylvania. Today, it’s ubiquitous

Graeter’s Ice Cream

This beloved regional chain of ice cream and candy shops was founded in 1870 by Bavarian immigrants Regina and Charlie Graeter. At the time of Charlie’s death there was only one shop, but with Regina at the helm, it expanded to multiple locations and became incredibly popular in the Cincinnati area. Today there are more than 30 Graeter’s locations, the ice cream can be purchased at stores throughout the country, they’ll ship nationwide, and the company is still family-owned. 

POM Wonderful

Lynda Resnick was already an established businesswoman and chairman of one company, Teleflora (which she owns with her husband), when she decided to start another one. Apparently, a plot of pomegranate trees on Resnick's property inspired her to fund the medical research of pomegranates that led to the founding of POM Wonderful in 2002. 

Stacy’s Pita Chips

Stacy Madison launched her famous pita chip brand out of a sandwich cart in Boston with the help of her business partner. The cart began selling pita sandwiches and eventually Stacy started baking the pitas into chips for customers to snack on. The chips were such a success that she started packaging them and the brand took off. PepsiCo bought the company in 2005.