About Our Speakers


Felipe Aguilar, Director of Supply Chain, Sensient Natural Ingredients

Felipe Aguilar has served as Director of Supply Chain for Sensient Natural Ingredients, headquartered in Turlock California, for the past 2 years. While working for Sensient, Mr. Aguilar has spent his career in the areas of Field Operations, Purchasing, Grower Relations and most recently was a Sales Account Manager covering the West Coast and mid-West territories. In his current role, Mr. Aguilar’s core responsibilities are management of the Purchasing and Logistics departments and the Capsicum and Organic product platforms.

Mr. Aguilar holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Business from California Polytechnic State University with a focus on International Business Management.

Nancy Rogers Bontempo Ph.D., Food Safety Section Manager, Mondelēz International

Nancy Rogers Bontempo is the Food Safety Section Manager for Mondelēz International in North America. In this capacity, she leads a team responsible for ensuring the food safety of Mondelez products manufactured in the North America region. Nancy is a member of the company’s Global HACCP Committee and she drives the development and implementation of microbiological and food safety policies and programs for new products and processes at manufacturing locations. This includes all aspects of food safety from raw material and finished product specifications, to training of R&D and Operations on microbiological principles, HACCP, Food Safety Modernization Act requirements and GMPs.

Nancy received her Master of Science degree in Food Science from University of California at Davis, and Ph.D. in Food Science from Rutgers University. She holds 2 U.S. Patents and has numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Karen Cvitkovich, Speaker, Author, Facilitator, Consultant

Karen’s passion is collaborating with clients and partners to ensure successful business results between international counterparts, leaders and multinational teams. Her holistic approach brings her beyond culture, and into the intricacies of how international business is carried-out, allowing her to help solve complex people, process, and systemic global challenges.

Karen’s primary focus areas include Innovation through Diversity, Global Leadership Development, Multinational Teams, Global Negotiations and Influence, Matrix Management, Business and Executive Coaching and Change Management.

With over the 20 years of experience, Karen has had the opportunity to work with clients and partners on global projects in 40+ countries across all continents. She has developed and led multinational teams in Europe, the USA and Asia/Pacific. Karen previously served as Managing Director for Global Talent Development at Aperian Global, and has worked as a Senior Consultant in intercultural consulting, coaching and multinational teambuilding for two decades. Prior to this, Karen served as Director of Training for United Way of Mass Bay, and Regional Director for EF Education.

Karen has authored two books and several articles. Karen holds a Master’s degree in Training & Organization Development from Lesley University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business & Human Resources from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Karen has experience with a number of psychometric instruments, and is certified on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Hay Group Leadership/Climate Instrument. In addition, Karen has participated in a certificate program with the NeuroLeadership Institute and is a Certified CTI Co-Active Coach.

Karen deFranchi, Product Line Manager, Olam Spices & Vegetables Ingredients

Karen deFranchi is Product Line Manager for Olam Spices and Vegetable Ingredients headquartered in Fresno, Ca. She is involved with managing and planning Olam’s onion, garlic and dehydrated vegetable businesses domestically and abroad. In her position she is responsible for managing activities between operations, innovation-technology and sales and marketing. Karen has been involved in the dehydrated onion, garlic and vegetable industry for nearly 25 years. Prior to her role with Olam, she began her career in market research, eventually holding positions in production planning, marketing and category management.
She has considerable experience working with domestic and international business structures and environments.

Mrs. deFranchi holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Agricultural Business from California State University, Fresno. Karen and her husband Jim live in Fresno with their two children.

Ucar Sayil Gundem, Sales Manager, Kutas

Ucar Sayil Gundem is a member of Kutas family. Sayil has been active in the international food business for over 13 years, working in sales and purchasing positions for Turkish and International companies. Sayil has joined Kutas family in late May 2015, and currently works as a sales manager in the team.

Sayil holds a Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations with a subspeciality in Military History from Bilkent University Turkey, and a Master of Science degree in Business Administration from Gediz University, Turkey. He has lectured courses on International Security, International Relations Theory and Game Theory at Bilgi University of Istanbul between 2003-2004. He currently attends selected courses as guest lecturer in Ege University of Izmir, Turkey. Active in the international business community, Sayil held previous posts and memberships in American Frozen Foods Institute committes, Turkish Food Safety Association and European Food Safety Association.

Sayil is married, and father to a daughter. In his free time, Sayil enjoys skin diving, reading on military history and astronomy.

Maile Gradison Hermida,Partner, Hogan Lovells

Maile Gradison Hermida is a Partner with Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC.  As a “food lawyer,” she has a keen understanding of the issues affecting the food industry, from product development through production, distribution, and retail sale.  Maile has considerable experience with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), including advising companies on what FSMA means for their business, helping to develop compliance strategies, and providing strategic advice on public policy issues.  Her practice also focuses on enforcement and compliance matters, particularly involving recalls or following receipt of FDA Warning Letters. Maile graduated with high honors from The George Washington University Law School and summa cum laude from Tulane University.

Jennifer Jobrack, Senior National Director of Advocacy, Food Allergy Research & Education

As Senior National Director of Advocacy for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), Jen manages the state, municipal, and industry-specific policy portfolio focused on the inclusion and safety of people with food allergies. Recent campaigns include access to epinephrine in schools, public places and airlines; college and university preparedness for students with food allergies; restaurant accommodations; food labelling, and improving the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis, among others. Jen works with national coalitions of advocates, public officials and industry leaders on best practices in legislation, strategy and implementation.

Previously, Jen was executive director of a family foundation, created a communications and marketing department for Chicago’s largest charitable foundation, and developed new initiatives for the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Jen is a native New Yorker who resides in the Chicago area with her husband and two sons, the elder of whom is allergic to peanuts. She received her MA from The University of Chicago, her BA from Bryn Mawr College, and has studied and worked in France, Scotland, and Israel.

Roger Lawrence, Vice President, Global Quality Assurance & Regulatory

Roger Lawrence, Vice President Global Quality Assurance & Regulatory, is responsible for Quality Assurance, Food Safety and Regulatory Systems and Programs throughout McCormick’s worldwide operations and supply chain.

Prior to his current assignment, Mr. Lawrence held positions as Director of Product Development and Quality Assurance – Europe, Director of Product Development and Quality Assurance for the International Group, Vice President of Technical Services for the US Consumer Products Division, and Vice President, Operations and Technology for the Asia-Pacific Zone.

Prior to joining McCormick, Mr. Lawrence was employed with Quaker Oats Company in quality managerial positions at both plant and corporate headquarters.

Mr. Lawrence is a member of the Institute of Food Technology (IFT) Board of Directors. Mr. Lawrence serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Mr. Lawrence serves on the Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Council (SRAC) of the Grocery Manufacturers of America and is a member of the Executive Committee for SRAC. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Science and Education Foundation of GMA. He also serves on the JIFSAN Advisory Board. He serves as chair of the Maryland – Sister State Executive Committee, and he serves on the John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Patient Advisory Board. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board of Stella Maris, Inc. Mr. Lawrence is a graduate of DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.

Larry Lichter, Senior Director of Global Supplier Quality, McCormick & Company, Inc.

Larry Lichter has 29 years of food industry experience with 27 of those years at McCormick & Company, Inc. Larry has held significant roles in Quality Assurance, Supply Chain, Operations and Commercial. In his current role as Senior Director of Global Supplier Quality for McCormick, Mr. Lichter leads the global efforts to assure the food safety, quality and reliability of the inbound supply chain for raw materials, packaging and contract manufacturing materials. He is currently  Chair for ASTA’s Education Committee and is very active with charities supporting the homeless population of Baltimore. Larry graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelors in Biology and served 6 years on the Board of Directors of the Supply Chain Council.

Guillermo Molina, Vice President, Sabater Spices North America, Inc.

Guillermo Molina is the Vice President for Sabater Spices North America, Inc. a subsidiary of Ramon Sabater. Guillermo joined the Ramon Sabater SAU in 2003. During his tenure with the company he has worked in purchasing, sales and operations. Guillermo also represents the interests of the company by attending international forums and meetings, and traveling to visit growing areas, auditing and training them. These experiences have helped to build his knowledge of the spice trade. Guillermo worked as a Purchasing Manager for Ramon Sabater SAU before moving in 2013 to manage the company’s direction and sales operations in the U.S.

Guillermo was born and raised in Murcia and studied International trade, business administration and received an MBA at ENAE Business School.

Delia Murphy, BA, Science Program Associate at ILSI North America

Delia Murphy has been with ILSI North America since 2012. In her role as Science Program Associate, Delia works closely with the Food Microbiology Committee. She also helps to manage the Scientific Integrity Working Group, which encompasses ILSI North America’s scientific integrity work as well as management of A Partnership for Public Health: USDA Branded Food Products Database, a public-private partnership with USDA, ILSI North America, GS1 US, Label Insight, and 1WorldSync.

David Sax, Author

David Sax is a freelance writer specializing in business and food. He is the author of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue in which he explores food trends: where they come from, how they grow, and where they end up. His previous book, Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, won the James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. David’s other writing appears regularly in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker’s business blog, and LA Times, and he is a regular feature on CBC Radio and NPR.

Jasvinder Singh Sethi, CEO, NAMAGRO

Jasvinder Singh Sethi is the founder and CEO of a movement called NAMAGRO. Based in Vietnam his company focuses on capability building and sustainability of small and medium scale participants in the black pepper supply chain. Prior to being an entrepreneur, he worked as a senior manager in the realm of agricultural commodities for over 15 years with companies such as Olam and ITC. He has worked extensively in all major black pepper origins as a trader, purchaser and a plant head.

Shawn Stevens, Attorney, Food Industry Counsel LLC

Shawn Stevens is a global food safety lawyer and the founding member of Food Industry Counsel LLC, the only law firm in the world that represents the food industry exclusively.

Mr. Stevens works throughout the country and abroad with food industry clients (including the world’s largest growers, food processors, national restaurant chains, and food distributors and grocery chains) helping them protect their brand by reducing food safety regulatory and criminal risk, complying with FDA and USDA food safety regulations, managing recall events, and defending high-profile foodborne illness claims.

Mr. Stevens also speaks regularly to national and international audiences on a wide variety of emerging scientific, regulatory and legal food safety trends, authors columns for Meatingplace, The National Provisoner and Food Quality and Safety Magazine, and is quoted regularly by national media publications such as TIME Magazine, the New York Post, and Corporate Counsel Magazine. Additional information about Mr. Stevens’ legal and consulting practice can be found at www.foodindustrycounsel.com.

Parneet Swani, Director- Commercial, Swani Spice Mills Pvt Ltd.

Parneet has an MBA in International Business & Marketing from Sydney with a strong commercial background, he looks after client relations (international & domestic) and all commercial related activities. Parneet spearheaded the innovative backward integration activities 9 years ago with active participation from farmers. This is gaining immense relevance and momentum with today’s ever changing statutory requirements.

He addressed the World Spice Congress in 2008 sharing some ground realities faced by the farmers which was an eye-opener for the trade at large.

Believing that tomorrow’s technology cannot be limited to the confines of prevalent manufacturing practices, he is pushing to narrow the gap between Lab and Land where the former is on an advanced mega-highway and the latter is yet to implement Good Agricultural Practices.

Bridging this gap and creating a new farming technology based on sustainable agriculture is an un-matched passion with Parneet, who with his team has successfully and sustainably farmed more than 4500 tons of spice in the 2015 harvest, which has been certified by Rain Forest Alliance.

With an astute sense of taste and passion for sourcing, Parneet leads the R&D / NPD section of the business.

Dr. Steve L. Taylor, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FAARP)

Dr. Steve L. Taylor is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, and is a Professor with the Department of Food Science and Technology. His research interests involve food allergies and allergy-like illnesses including the development, evaluation, and improvement of immunochemical methods for the detection of allergens and allergenic foods; the determination of threshold doses for allergenic foods and implementation of risk assessment approaches for allergenic foods; and the effect of food processing on food allergens.

Dr. Taylor holds a B.S. Food Science and Technology from Oregon State University, M.S. Food Science and Technology from Oregon State University, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, from University of California-Davis and Post Doctorite in Environmental Toxicology Nutrition from University of California-Davis.

Geraldine, Zhu, General Manager, China Spice Services

Geraldine, Zhu, General Manager, China Spice Services

Geraldine Zhu is the General Manager at China Spice Services Ltd (CSS). CSS is a leading supplier of food safe dehydrated garlic, onion, bell pepper, capsicums and spices. The company is experienced in screening and selecting manufacturers who meet its quality standards in China. CSS has integrated an inspection system with its own inspectors to guarantee the food safety of its products. The inspectors check every production and test the goods organoleptic. CSS offer all items with a technical product specification and certificate of analyses.

Geraldine Zhu was born in Jiangxi province, China. After high school in 2005 she continued her education in Beijing and then in Paris. Five years later with a Master and double degree she graduated in supply chain and international management at the business school ESCE in Paris. Geraldine joined European Spice Services in Belgium the same year in 2010 and then China Spice Services LTD. in Shanghai in 2011 as an Account Manager. She was promoted to Business Unit Manager in 2013 and in October 2015 was named General Manager.