Sample Social Entrepreneurship
In Sustainable Food Business
NYU Stern School of Business Syllabus, Fall 2014
Professor Hans Taparia
New York University Stern School of Business
Date/Time: Thursdays 6:45 8:25 pm
To be determined
Required Course Materials
Kim, W. Chan & Mauborgne, Renee (2005). The Blue Ocean Strategy. Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Nestle, Marion (2010). What to Eat. North Point Press.
Pollan, Michael (2008). In Defense of Food. Penguin Books.
Coyne, Kevin. Enduring Ideas: The GE-McKinsey Nine-box Matrix.
Hamermesh, Richard G., Marshall, Paul W., Pirmohamed, Taz. Note on Business Model Analysis for the Entrepreneur. Harvard Business School Publishing
Strategy: A Primer from Harvard Business Essentials: Managers Toolkit (February 18, 2004). Harvard Business School Press.
Elkington, John, Hartigan, Pamela. Creating Successful Business Models, Lessons from Social Entrepreneurship (2008). Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Guclu, Ayse; Dees, J. Gregory and Anderson, Beth Battle. The Process of Social Entrepreneurship: Creating Opportunities Worthy of Serious Pursuit (2002). Duke
University, Fuqua School of Business.
Colby, Susan; Stone, Nan and Cartarr, Paul. Zeroing in on Impact (Fall 2004). Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Dees, J. Gregory. The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship (2001).
Recommended Reading & Films
Campbell, T. Colin, Campbell II, Thomas M. (2006). The China Study. Benbella Books.
Robinson, Jo (2013). Eating on the Wild Side. Little, Brown and Company.
Nestle, Marion (2007). Food Politics. University of California Press.
Pollan, Michael (2006). The Omnivores Dilemma. Penguin Books.
Select industry specific books and journals, depending on team domain of focus.
Food Inc. by Robert Kenner
Fed Up by Stephanie Soechtig
Looking back over the past several decades, it appears as though the food and health care
industries have been working at cross-purposes. Combined, they account for about $4.5
trillion in spend or roughly 30% of U.S. GDP. While advances in medicine continue to
drive up longevity , the quality of that incremental lifespan has continued to deteriorate
with the rise in incidence of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart
disease. Diabetes prevalence amongst adults in the US is up from 8% of the population in
1994 to 11% of the population in 2008 . Cancer incidence amongst adults rose 20%
between 1999 and 2009 . Finally, despite a significant drop in smoking, the prevalence
of heart disease has remained stubbornly flat between 1994 and 2008 . While there are
many causes, much attention has turned to the impact of rising obesity and inadequate
nutrition, and over the past decade or so, researchers have sufficiently demonstrated their
link to the rising incidence of these diseases .
Between 1994 and 2008, the percentage of American adults who were obese rose from
22% to 34% . The prevalence of obesity amongst children age 6-11 almost doubled
from 11% to 20% . Nutrition indicators are no better. In 2007, only 24% of adults ate
more than five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, and more than 60% of
Americans consumed more than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation
for saturated fat .
Authors, filmmakers, scientists and policy makers have attributed a variety of causes to our
obesity epidemic. They can be segmented into a few categories: policy-driven, societal,
and commercial. An important example of a policy-driven cause, as Michael Pollan has
famously suggested, is that the US governments farm bill heavily subsidizes corn, which
in turn serves as a subsidy for animal feed and meat. In his words, the bad calories are
being subsidized by the government and are cheaper than the more nutritious calories .
An example of a societal cause would be the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of Americans.
According to the CDC, only 48% of adults in the US meet the 2008 Physical Activity
Guidelines. The commercially-driven causes of the problem are several. The first is the
rapid proliferation of unhealthy fast food chains. There are approximately 160,000 fast
food restaurants in America today, serving 50 million consumers daily and generating
annual revenues of about $110 billion. The public health impact of this is enormous,
particularly in neighborhoods with a preponderance of fast food restaurants, but no grocery
stores. In Chicago alone, it is estimated that 400,000 people live in such neighborhoods.
Unsurprisingly, a number of studies show correlations between proximity to fast food
restaurants and deteriorating public health outcomes , . This leads us to the next
commercial cause, which is poor access to healthy food options. In America today, healthy
food options are still limited or non-existent in locations as varied as airports, highways,
hospitals, movie theaters and schools. In communities with vulnerable populations, the
situation is desperate. According to a recent US Department of Agriculture report, about
2.3 million people live more than a mile away from a grocery store and do not own a car.
Another major commercial cause has to do with the rapid growth and widespread
availability of manufactured food items that are high in sugar, fat or sodium and low in
fiber, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients. Food manufacturers have every
incentive to optimize products for increased addiction , market aggressively to children,
and reduce cost by scaling the use of a small number of ingredients (two-thirds of todays
calories come from just four grains).
To control many of the commercially-driven causes of obesity, policy makers have begun
to step in more aggressively. A new farm bill has been passed, calorie labels have become
mandatory on menus in parts of the country, trans-fats have been banned in many cities, a
new food nutrition label has been proposed and subsidies for retailers in food deserts have
been instituted, amongst others. While many of these have the potential to influence public
health, their pace of implementation is slow, and often inhibited by interested parties such
as large, entrenched food companies and the legislators that represent them. These
interested parties argue that ultimately, the consumer has choice and has full control of her
consumption decisions. They argue that regulation is both unnecessary and goes against
the grain of Americas free market ideal.
This course sees the free market as an opportunity to drive change in the food supply chain,
leading to better public health outcomes, and even to serve as a catalyst for policy. As
Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield, states, we exercise our vote with how we
shop. This course will make the case that the market for food is still highly inefficient,
often monopolistic at times, and that choice is still limited and hard to fulfillall this
against a backdrop where consumer demand for healthier food options is growing
dramatically. This is not to suggest that by simply offering healthier food options,
consumers will choose them. Several recent studies have shown that this does not
automatically happen . After all, food choices are based on a variety of factors including
taste preferences, cost effectiveness, ease of availability and brand image and messaging.
This is where social entrepreneurs can play a pivotal role. Through a mix of passion,
persistence, vision, innovation and marketing savvy, social entrepreneurs can develop and
market desirable products and services that capitalize on this need-gap. They can create
new choices, serve as economic engines and drive positive public health outcomes all at
the same time.
There are a number of organizations that have arguably already embarked on this path.
Today, nearly 1 in 5 products sold in the US are either all natural or organic an
industry cultivated by companies such as Stonyfield, Amys Kitchen, Clif Bar and others.
Retailers such as Trader Joes and Costco have shown how, through hyper-efficient supply
chains, high quality food can be priced competitively. Quick service restaurant chains such
as Panera, Chipotle and Pret a Manger have proven that a fresh food offering can be scaled
nationally. Meanwhile, a number of next generation food business models are emerging.
Oakland, California-based Revolution Foods (http://revolutionfoods.com) makes and
delivers one million fresh meals to one thousand (mostly public) schools every day across
the country. Its meals are free from high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, hormones,
antibiotics and are sometimes organic. Blue Apron (http://www.blueapron.com), based in
Brooklyn, New York, delivers to its 500,000 customers just the required fresh ingredients
along with a recipe for dinner three times a week for $10 a meal. Each meal is different,
but pre-determined. Therefore, consumers get variety, while B