Sweat, 51, was promoted to president in 2006 and chief executive officer in 2009. Before joining Earthbound, he was chief financial officer based in Atlanta for PetroSouth, an owner of convenience stores and gasoline distributorships.
Frank Padilla, vice president and general merchandising manager of produce and meat at Costco, said his company has a long history with Earthbound Farm owners Drew and Myra Goodman — and with Sweat.
“We helped them in their early years of getting established,” he said. “Now they’re really starting to venture out into longer product lines. We’re not in all of them, but we’re in many and helping to create some.”
Sweat proved essential to the company’s rebound from links to the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach, Padilla said.
“That clearly made up their mind to sell organic only,” he said. “Thanks to Charles’ firm direction, they went that way. They had the opportunity to sell both conventional and organic. What the founders needed was someone to take them to the major league, and that’s what he did.”
In 2011, Ernst & Young named Sweat Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California in the food products category in honor of that history.
“Charlie is one of the most forward-thinking executives in the produce industry,” said Jeff Lyons, senior vice president for perishables at Costco. “We appreciate his listening and help in achieving greater sales. If he doesn’t think he has enough acreage to support our future growth, he’ll secure more growers to be sure he can handle our business. He isn’t just selling what he has.”
“Recognitions are much appreciated, but I had a lot of people helping me do it,” Sweat said. “Thanks to the founders of this company, we’ve had a successful run at achieving our mission.”