- Miyoko Schinner, founder of plant-based cheese company Miyoko’s Creamery, is being sued in federal court. In the lawsuit, filed last week, she is accused of stealing the company’s proprietary recipes and plant-based culture configurations after she was forced out of the company last summer.
- According to the filing, the board unanimously voted to terminate Schinner from her position of CEO in June 2022, after she “continually demonstrated that she lacked the necessary business and operational management skills to effectively run a rapidly expanding company and recruit and maintain a high-caliber executive team.” The company officially announced it had parted ways with Schinner and had retained an executive search firm to replace her, in a press release last week, the same day the lawsuit was filed.
- Schinner, who is well known in the world of plant-based cheese, started her namesake business in 2014 and wrote “Artisan Vegan Cheese,” a definitive reference source for making non-dairy cheese.
According to the lawsuit filed by Miyoko’s Creamery, the vegan cheese and butter company wanted to keep its namesake on board in some capacity because she was its founder.
However, the lawsuit says, the company found that Schinner shirked responsibility, fired several executives and failed to meet performance and financial targets in both 2020 and 2021. And once Miyoko’s Creamery’s leadership started working to remove Schinner as CEO, the lawsuit says that she “hatched a plot to steal the Company’s property, trade secrets, and confidential information so that she could create a competing company.”
Schinner responded to the litigation on her personal LinkedIn account: “I am shocked that certain board members have decided to file a lawsuit against me,” she wrote. “There are wild untruths about me that are designed to destroy me and get me out of the way. I have been cooperative with the Company since my termination.
“I fail to see how this is adding value to the brand that I — and other values-driven, passionate vegan former employees — worked so hard to build,” she continued.
Schinner also wrote in her LinkedIn post that she remains a director at the company, though the press release announcing her departure said the company and Schinner “have parted ways.” In another LinkedIn post, Schinner said that negotiations for her continued involvement with the company stalled before Christmas. The company did not respond to requests for clarification by press time.
The internal rifts are surprising for a company that for years has been seen as one of the stalwart leaders of the plant-based sector. According to Crunchbase, Miyoko’s Creamery has raised $58.8 million during its lifetime. The largest piece of that came as a $52 million Series C round in 2021.
Miyoko’s Creamery has been active on other fronts. The company fought — and mostly won — a labeling lawsuit about its plant-based butter filed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2021.
The company also come out with new products. Last year, it launched a liquid vegan pizza mozzarella. Miyoko Creamery recently introduced a plant-based Cinammon Raisin Cream Cheese, partnered with Ocho Candy to develop vegan caramel candy and teased a planned vegan cottage cheese launch.
Since the split, Schinner has appeared at conferences on behalf of Miyoko’s Creamery, including at the 2022 FoodNavigator-USA Digital Summit last November.
For the time being, CFO John Blair, who has served in top financial roles at Rebbl and Plum Organics, is running Miyoko’s Creamery as interim president.
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