Benson Hill Biosystems, a crop improvement company unlocking the natural diversity of plants, has named Chris Wilkins, a food industry executive with more than 25 years of industry experience, as Chief Operating Officer.
Wilkins will manage the company’s rapidly emerging relationships with food and ingredient companies as well as grocery retailers. These companies, which often have little if any internal crop genomic R&D capacity, can access Benson Hill’s cutting-edge crop improvement technology through three growing business units: Seeds and Traits, which develops improved seeds and crops; Ingredients, which serves consumer packaged goods and other food companies with improved ingredients; and Fresh, which serves grocery retail and food companies with proprietary white label fresh produce products.
“I am thrilled to join Benson Hill to create novel innovation opportunities across the food sector,” Wilkins said. “Beyond its outstanding technology, the company’s mission of empowering partners of all sizes up and down the value chain makes it stand out as a special opportunity.”
Wilkins spent three years at Treehouse Foods as President, Snacks Division, Baked Goods Division, and as President, Private Brands. For the decade before that, he served in various executive positions at ConAgra, rising eventually to become President, Private Brands. Other experience includes positions at the Pillsbury Co. and Land O’ Lakes, Inc.
“Chris brings a deep understanding of the food industry and an extensive record of business and operational leadership,” said Matthew Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill. “Through our business units, Chris will enable food companies and retailers to design and source the crops and ingredients they need to differentiate their product portfolio.”
As an example, Benson Hill recently announced the acquisition of eMerge Genetics, which will use predictive breeding and gene editing capabilities to accelerate the development of soy products with higher protein levels, healthier fat, and improved sustainability for human food and animal feed markets.
Wilkins serves on the board of directors of the St. Louis Area Food Bank and previously on the American Baker’s Association. He holds a B.A. degree in economics from Wabash College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.