( Photo courtesy Good Foods Group; graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Danyel O’Connor works at a for-profit company, but she’s on a mission to disrupt the grocery retail industry with her higher purpose.

As executive vice president of sales and marketing at the produce-centric, value-added Good Foods Group, Pleasant Prairie, Wis., O’Connor wants to do much more than place her company’s products on more store shelves.

O’Connor is determined to propel food-industry change by moving away from overprocessed foods with artificial ingredients, flavors and preservatives.

Consumers have to wade through so much information every day, they can’t know everything about every product they buy, she said.

“Nobody has the bandwidth to manage that,” O’Connor said. “So we, as an industry, have to offer them better options so that they have the ability to make better decisions, or have brands that they can trust to help them make those decisions when they’re shopping in the grocery store.”

O’Connor is also honest about the realities of a busy life. As an executive who travels two to three days a week, she knows she can’t be at 100% in all her roles as wife, mother and executive every single day.

“Depending on my day’s tasks or the focus of what’s going on in my life, I wake up and put 100% toward the task that is required that day, and I put in my best effort toward those other tasks in my day that may be not quite as important,” O’Connor said.

This strategy serves O’Connor well. An associate merchant at BJ’s Wholesale Club, Brittany Harvey called O’Connor “very attentive, action-oriented and ahead of the market trends. Her work ethic is exquisite.”

O’Connor interned with Pepsi in college, worked in the specialty cheese industry and then later in natural foods. 

She ran a boutique sales and marketing company that partnered with brands such as Good Foods. Her values matched those of Good Foods so well, she became an employee.

Success for O’Connor isn’t the title, however. 

It’s being a part of a movement for postive change. Not only does she want to help consumers eat healthier, she wants to make healthy food more accessible in food deserts where people can only walk to their corner store, gas station or fast-food joint for their food.

“I do think our dedication to high-pressure pasteurization is really a part of that because it extends the life on clean, simple products long enough that it can be delivered to people in those areas and not go bad,” O’Connor said.

Tiffany Taylor, director of deli and bakery at Stop and Shop, said O’Connor is her go-to person for thinking outside the box. 

“She is also one of the most decent people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Taylor said. 

“Despite being an absolute bull dog, she pulls it off with grace and an openness that makes it easy to get to know and trust her.”