A Special Thank You to Andrew Jacobs from the Global Pulse Industry
The Chairman of Poortman officially retired at the end of October.
In India, Esarco’s managing director Anurag Tulshan calls him the Grand Old Dad of the pulse industry. Over in Turkey, AGT Executive Chairman Huseyin Arslan remembers him as his first international client, full of patience, understanding and wisdom. On his home turf, Dan Holben, managing director at Poortman, considers himself fortunate to have had him as a mentor. And in the halls of GAFTA, he is renowned as a tireless champion of pulses. Across the ocean, Pulse Canada CEO Gordon Bacon holds him up as an effective model of leadership, and USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council CEO Tim McGreevy is grateful for the legacy he leaves the industry. And at the Global Pulse Confederation, President Cindy Brown dubs him the organization’s unsung hero.
At the age of 67, and after nearly 50 years in the industry, Andrew Jacobs, the pulse industry’s Grand Old Dad, stepped down as the chairman of Poortman at the end of October. When Andrew took over the company from his father, Poortman was primarily a birdseed company. Under his leadership and vision, he transformed it into a major pulse industry player, and then went on to leave his mark on the industry as a whole.
“It was Andrew that helped China become a major producer of dark red kidney beans,” recalls Cindy Brown, who, in addition to leading the GPC is also president of the Chippewa Valley Bean Company, a leading U.S. kidney bean exporter. “In the early years, that competition definitely caused me a lot of heartburn! But as time went on, consumption grew around the world, and especially in China when people learned about the health benefits of consuming dark red kidney beans thanks to the International Year of Pulses.”
The United Nation’s International Year of Pulses (IYP), celebrated in 2016, was a watershed event for the industry. It promoted the consumption and production of pulses and helped position them as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients. IYP’s success in raising awareness about the benefits of pulse consumption contributed greatly to the recent explosion in the use of pulse protein ingredients in plant-based foods.
“The UN’s designation of 2016 as the International Year of Pulses gave us the opportunity to put pulses in the limelight,” says Cindy. “It was our once in a lifetime opportunity to educate the world about the benefits of pulses, and Andrew pushed us to make the most of it, to ‘squeeze the marrow out of the bone’ in his words.”
At the time, Andrew was the co-chair of the GPC’s National Association Committee and he guided Pulses UK’s highly successful promotional activities, including the UK Falafel Festival, which has since morphed into an annual Dal Festival. He also led GAFTA’s UK IYP promotional group and made various trips to Rome to represent both the GPC and GAFTA before the UN FAO.
“He did it with great passion and dedication,” says June Arnold, head of policy at GAFTA. “Together with his GPC colleagues, he achieved great success in raising public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production, and their importance in terms of ensuring food security and nutrition.”
IYP ended on December 31, 2016, but at the GPC, then President Huseyin Arslan approached Andrew with the idea of building on its success with an annual World Pulses Day.
“At that stage, it was only a dream,” says Huseyin. But for Andrew, it was a chance to “squeeze more marrow out of the bone” and he threw his full support behind the idea. Two years later, thanks in large part to Andrew’s tireless efforts, the UN FAO officially declared February 10 World Pulses Day.
“I think Andrew would consider his greatest contribution to the industry as the work he did to help the GPC win global recognition of the health and sustainability benefits of pulses, which culminated in the UN International Year of Pulses,” says Dan Holben, who worked with Andrew at Poortman for 25 years.
Many agree with Dan, but as to be expected of someone with such a long and distinguished career, opinions on the most important aspect of his legacy differ.
For others, such as Anurag Tulshan at Esarco, it’s the GPC Pulses Contract.
“Andrew put a lot of his blood, sweat, toil and tears into it,” says Anurag. “He dedicated months of hard work to making it perfect.”
“When I first started talking about the need for a GPC pulse contract, Andrew was very excited about it,” recalls Huseyin. This was again during his tenure as GPC President. “He actually did all the work on the GPC side. He is the author of the contract.”
Andrew ran with the idea and took it to GAFTA, where he and General Counsel Jonathan Waters put the document together.
“He worked tirelessly on both its implementation and eventual delivery,” says Jonathan. “It was a pleasure working with him.”
The contract was officially unveiled at the Pulses Convention 2017 in Vancouver.
“His work on the contract will be an enduring legacy of his commitment to the pulse trade worldwide,” says Tim McGreevy of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.
Andrew’s collaboration with GAFTA was extensive. In addition to IYP and the GPC Pulse Contract, he was an active member on both GAFTA’s international pulses committee and its UK trade committee, and participated in GAFTA’s Trade Association Forum and the Federation of Commodity Associations chaired by GAFTA. At the Pulse Convention 2016 in Cesme , Andrew even interviewed GAFTA Director General Jaine Chisholm Caunt on stage as part of a presentation on the services GAFTA offers to members of the pulse trade.
“I really enjoyed working with Andrew,” says Jaine. “He recognized the importance of our work and was very active in our organization.”
June adds, “I worked with Andrew on many policy issues over the past 12 years. He always made himself available and was very willing to share his knowledge and expertise, which has benefitted us all in learning about the pulses value chain and in finding policy solutions with regulators the world over.”
“I am fortunate to have worked with Andrew and to count him as a friend,” says the GPC’s Cindy Brown. “As a true team player, Andrew was never egotistical. Humility led his actions, believing that the betterment of the industry was the best possible outcome.”
“I interacted a lot with Andrew at the GPC and always found him to be a treasure trove of information and one who was always willing to share information, thoughts and ideas,” says Anurag Tulshan. “I never saw him overexcited or agitated. He was always a peaceful, smiling presence that shun the limelight. A tad shy and unassuming.”
“My first international sale was to Andrew,” Huseyin reminisces. “He always patiently explained about quality and contractual expectations. I learned a lot from him and am still learning.”
“He has acted in a way that has mentored many of us and given us an example of effective leadership and vision,” adds Gordon Bacon of Pulse Canada.
At Poortman, Dan Holben can vouch for that. For his first 20 years at Poortman, Andrew was his boss.
“He always offered guidance, imparted wisdom and gave his employees the freedom to mature and develop,” says Dan. “In all our time together, I cannot remember us ever exchanging a cross word.”
In an email to Cindy, Andrew wrote about his future plans. He intends to focus on running his lifelong learning and peer support group for CEOs of charities and social enterprises, and to continue to advise on GAFTA dispute resolutions and arbitrations.
Even in retirement, Andrew’s tireless energy remains unchecked. To Dan, that seemingly bottomless reserve of vivacity brings to mind his first extensive overseas business trip. It was in 2001. Dan was in his early 20s and he was accompanying his boss on a trip to China, a market that Andrew and his father were determined to crack.
“I had a hard time keeping up with him,” Dan admits.
After a day and evening of meetings, Dan returned to his hotel room, wrote up the report on their activities, sent it off to the office in London and was practically falling asleep at the keyboard. Just then, at about 2 a.m., there was a knock at the door. It was Andrew with a couple of beers.
“He told me to put the game on. England were playing Germany in a World Cup qualifier,” Dan remembers.
The game ended with a surprising 5-1 win. It was 5 a.m., but the result made it worth it.
“I think that day summed Andrew up,” says Dan. “Abundant energy, enthusiasm and, once the work was done, great fun.”