In 2021, Wilbur-Ellis marked its 100th anniversary. As part of a year-long celebration, the company launched 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 billon 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 Chief Executive Officer. “Since WilburEllis 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.”