Ep. 025 – A Food Career Around the USA with Russ Nishikawa, VP Business Development at SPI Group


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Today’s guest is the Vice President of Business Development for a distributor/ supplier, SPI Group, Russ Nishikawa.

What SPI Group does is brokers deals with lesser known ingredients and markets them to customers. A specialized ingredient producer will make deals with distributors for them to market or sell their product. For example, I would have never known about a pea protein from Belgium if it wasn’t for the SPI Group.

You don’t hear much about these types of businesses in school, but they are all the rage in industry, especially if you deal with highly functional and trendy ingredients.

Anyways, I’ve known Russ Nishikawa for a couple of years in Northern California. He reminds me of my uncle to be honest.

About Russ Nishikawa

Russ has been involed in the growth of SPI Group for 25 years. He is involved in new ingredient business development with key customers and targeted market segments, working with new ingredient from new and existing suppliers and determining how applicable the product benefits are to each end product and customer, and maintaining a very technical approach to understanding the value of each ingredient to our customer’s needs.

About SPI Group

SPI Group is a distributor of specialty ingredients to food, nutritional, and nutraceutical manufacturers in the Western United States and Canada.

Quality Ingredients
Personal Service
Logistical Solutions
Technical Personnel

Key Takeaways

  • How Russ got his first job in Hawaii
  • Why learning about people is more important than process and equipment
  • How tricky it is to substitute cleaner ingredients

What We Talk About

Humble Pie
NCIFT New Professionals
SPI Group
Clean Label
Sodium Benzoate
Lactic Acid
Social Media
UC Davis Food Science
Hawaii- Maui
Punaynay Island
Learning more about People
Formosa Food Ingredients
New Zealand Milk Products
New York
Most Important Skill in the Industry: Empathy
How to improve empathy: it’s about character, you’re trying to do the best for yourself and others
Why Does Your Food Job Rock: It’s Part of Commerce
Food Trends and Technologies: Clean Label
Spices and Extracts
The Biggest Challenge the Food Industry needs to Face: Trust in the consumer and transparency
We’re on the same side
What’s one thing in the food industry you want to know more about?: How food interacts with each other
Understanding process
Inspiration: My Sister got me to look at food science
Pilot Plant
Most important ingredient: The people.
Quote: Be The Light –Buddha
Don’t be a downer
Favorite Food: Poco Loco (might actually be El pollo loco)
Advice for the Food Industry: Match your personality to the career you like
For the Future: I’d like to build process lines to Food Banks

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