Jun 30, 2021
Wilbur-Ellis Marks 100th anniversary with innovation award for student teams

As the culmination of a year-long celebration, the company is launching the “Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award,” a program that engages young people in finding innovative ways to feed a growing world population and offers a $25,000 award for the best idea.

The Innovation Award invites student teams from U.S. colleges and universities to propose new and better approaches for providing food for more people – a critical imperative, since the world population is expected to increase by 2 billion people by 2050.

“It’s very clear. A world where people have enough to eat is a safer, more secure world,” said John Buckley, Wilbur-Ellis president and CEO. “Since Wilbur-Ellis was founded 100 years ago, we’ve worked with our customers and suppliers to put food on tables around the world. So, it’s appropriate that as a legacy of our 100th anniversary, we’re engaging the next generation in this important work.”

In discussing the purpose of the Innovation Award, Buckley said: “We hope the award encourages young people to think creatively and bring forward promising new ideas. With this focus on feeding a growing population, the teams could explore more efficient and sustainable ways to produce, distribute, prepare, or package food. Teams might look at alternative food ingredients, reducing food waste, or finding new ways to alleviate food insecurity. Whatever it is, we want to encourage out-of-the-box thinking.”

At the end of the competition in 2022, a $25,000 USD award will be presented to the team that submits the best proposal, and $5,000 USD honorable mention awards may also be given. In the first year, the award competition is open to U.S.-based student teams (undergraduate or graduate), with a goal of expanding to other countries in the future. To learn more, please visit the Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award web page and view CEO John Buckley’s video.

“As a family-owned company, I’m proud that our celebration will make a lasting contribution with the Innovation Award,” said John Thacher, executive chairman of the Wilbur-Ellis board of directors, a former CEO, and grandson of company founder Brayton Wilbur Sr. “When my grandfather founded Wilbur-Ellis 100 years ago, he wanted to build something that would last … that would improve people’s lives. In our business, this is what we strive to do every day. The Innovation Award is one more way to make a positive difference.”

100th Anniversary benefits the Red Cross and hunger relief

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilbur-Ellis had to pivot from its original plans to a virtual celebration. One part of the celebration was a 100th Anniversary Giving Program. Each month a new question was posed for employees and friends of Wilbur-Ellis, as well as for the children in employees’ families. For each response the company added to a donation for the Red Cross.

Today, Wilbur-Ellis is announcing that $52,000 USD has been raised for the Red Cross through the Giving Program, building on the company’s $100,000 donation in 2020.

Jennifer Adrio, CEO of the Northern California Coastal Region of the Red Cross, said, “On behalf of those we serve, we are deeply grateful that your Giving Program supports our mission. It is because of partners like Wilbur-Ellis that the Red Cross can deliver on our humanitarian mission 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thank you for standing with us, and happy anniversary!”

During the celebration, the company’s employees also contributed to the Wilbur-Ellis Fund Drive to Stop Hunger. A total of $30,000 was raised through employee contributions and company matching funds, benefitting Feeding America in the U.S., Second Harvest of Canada, and Action Against Hunger internationally.

“Wilbur-Ellis and its employees have a long tradition of giving back,” said Executive Chairman John Thacher. “When the pandemic happened and the needs of our communities were so great, we increased the focus on helping people in need. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our heritage and our future.”

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