Margaret Wittenberg Joins ABC’s Board of TrusteesWittenberg
Margaret M. Wittenberg, an expert on international food and environmental quality standards with over 30 years of experience in the natural and organic foods industry, has joined the American Botanical Council’s (ABC) Board of Trustees. Wittenberg is the global vice president of quality standards and public affairs for Whole Foods Market, Inc., a leading natural and organic food supermarket based in Austin, Texas.
“I have long admired the work the American Botanical Council and its Board have done to ensure that accurate and reliable information about herbs and medicinal plants remains available to all in so many different ways,” said Wittenberg (oral communication, December 9, 2009). “It is an honor to be invited to join ABC’s Board of Trustees and a privilege to work with such an esteemed team passionate about its mission.”
Wittenberg joined Whole Foods in 1981, after co-owning a small natural foods store in Wisconsin. She and her husband Terry founded Sunseed Natural Foods in 1977, but they sold the business in 1981 before relocating to Austin. Wittenberg initially became familiar with Austin through her store’s connection to its wholesale herb supplier Sweethardt Herbs, co-founded and formerly managed by ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal.
“I have known Margaret for almost 30 years,” said Blumenthal, “and I have always appreciated and respected her deep commitment to natural nutrition and organic food production, consumer education, truth in labeling, and ethical business practices. She is one of the busiest people I know, and we here at ABC are all thrilled that she accepted our invitation to join the ABC Board.”
Since 1988, Wittenberg has coordinated Whole Foods Market’s quality standards analysis and development, along with food and nutrition education and multi-stakeholder group leadership and collaboration.
“Margaret Wittenberg has been the gatekeeper for the standards of Whole Foods for many years,” said Neil Blomquist, president of Sustainable Solutions Consulting Services and fellow ABC Board member (oral communication, December 9, 2009). “She is a stalwart guardian of the values that started the natural products industry.”
Wittenberg has served on many boards that focus on sustainable agriculture, organic food, and animal welfare. Previously she served on the board of the Marine Stewardship Council, the Animal Compassion Foundation, the Whole Planet Foundation, and the Organic Trade Association. One of her most influential appointments was the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards Board, where she helped establish the USDA’s National Organic Standards during her 5-year term.
“When you look back at the history of the natural and organic products industry, you see a series of corrective reforms,” said Morris Shriftman, CEO of Mozart Inc. and member of the ABC Board of Trustees (e-mail, December 8, 2009). “These reforms began in the natural products industry and, because of their inherent truth, are being taken up into the broader culture with transformative effect. At the center of the development, formulation, adoption, and practice of these standards, stands Margaret Wittenberg. She has been there from the beginning, diligently pursuing these values through the creation of standards that defined quality. Margaret’s work is inspirational and deserving of gratitude. It is a pleasure and an honor to have her on our Board of Trustees.”
Margaret is currently on the board of directors for the Organic Center, as well as the Global Animal Partnership. In 2005, the National Audubon Society also awarded her the Rachel Carson Award for more than 30 years of work championing organic agriculture, sustainability, and the environment. Wittenberg has authored several books, including New Good Food: Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well (Ten Speed Press, 2007) and the New Good Food Shopper’s Pocket Guide to Organic, Sustainable, and Seasonal Foods (Ten Speed Press, 2008).
Wittenberg’s background with retail, marketing, and corporate communications brings to the Board a great deal of experience with consumer outreach. “I think she’ll bring a real retail knowledge that no one else on the ABC Board has,” said Blomquist. “I think her knowledge of the consumer will help ABC communicate and relate better to the consumer, which is the end audience that ABC wants to reach.”
“ABC is known for its credible voice for herbs, and I would like to help see it become even more well known by the average consumer,” said Wittenberg. “I feel my retail experience may help the Board consider different segments of the population and what ABC can do to reach them.”
—Kelly E. Lindner