PHOENIX — If there’s one cliché that members and staff of SNAC International staff can relate to these days, it’s “all good things come to an end.”

That’s how many felt about the bittersweet retirement of Elizabeth Avery, the organization’s president and CEO for the past five years. As she prepares to end her time with an industry she’s been involved with at various stages for decades, there’s a lot to look back on — and a lot to look forward to as Christine Cochran steps into the role.


Avery has deep roots in the food and beverage industry in many areas including environmental affairs, nutrition policy, international government relations and, of course, the snack food sector. She first crossed paths with SNAC International — then known as the Snack Food Association — working for the organization in 1999 before exploring other opportunities. But just when she thought she was ready to retire, life had other plans.

“I just realized that I wasn’t quite done yet,” Avery said. “It was an amazing opportunity to stay engaged in a core part of the industry, look to the future for a category that was changing so much and figure out how to take the organization to another level.”

At the heart of her vision for SNAC moving forward was serving its core membership while expanding it to welcome a broader array of snack companies. She wanted everyone to feel like they benefited from a program that promoted connection and services to all kinds of companies, not just the traditional ones. Avery came to SNAC after it had gained strong financial footing, and the foundation of the organization had been set: Focus on education, networking and advocacy.

“It was a real gift to be able to walk in with that level of clarity, and it didn’t take me but five minutes to figure out that those pillars were exactly right,” she said. “We had also established this member value proposition that education would be built into dues, so we wouldn’t ask people to pay for those with additional fees. We wanted no financial barrier for the members investing in their people and professional development.”


SNX was born out of the need to bring these pillars together through an event that prioritized true connection. The ideation for the concept began in 2018, and after four years in the making, Avery saw it all unfold in her final curtain call.

“We wanted to facilitate real business meetings in an enjoyable environment while also building personal relationships,” Avery said. “We as professionals haven’t put on anything like this before, and many of our members have never been to a meeting like this. It was a brand-new concept for everybody, but it hit the mark.”

With the SNX in the rearview, Christine Cochran, former executive director of the Grain Foods Foundation for nearly a decade, now steps in, inheriting a leadership role that comes with a clear vision of what the future of the association should look like.

“You see the energy and the enthusiasm for change,” Cochran said. “I’m excited to continue talking with people and hearing how they want to grow and evolve. We’re on a great path forward.”


Advocacy is a key area of focus for Cochran. She sees SNAC as a champion for the food industry, as a forum for communication and as a vehicle to advance the industry.

“As SNAC moves into the future, it’s important to have a sense of what our advocacy priorities are,” Cochran said. “But more importantly, we need to focus on communicating back to our members and the food community about what we do in this space, to make sure it’s providing value.”

Working alongside each other for two months to ensure a smooth transition, the two discovered similar leadership styles and grace under fire.

“What manifested in the office was a tremendous amount of grace and dedication, and the level of kindness and respect was exceptional. You don’t usually see that across a team — unless they had a boss who was like that,” Cochran observed. “That’s where you really see her power. I have attended board and executive committee meetings and saw that culture there as well. Its inspiring, and I hope I can carry that same mantle … it’s a special thing to see someone in their element like that.”

Avery, who worked closely with the board-level selection committee, has that same reverence for Cochran as well. The top priority in the search for Avery’s replacement was finding someone who would be a seamless fit with the SNAC staff and who would keep pushing the association’s development forward.

“It was always my sense that Christine would be a great leader of people,” Avery said. “I’ve clearly been able to see that in these 60 days. You can of course tell from the resume, but all you have to do is listen to Christine talk to tell you’re getting someone who is incredibly smart, very strategic and extremely thoughtful in this position. I really do care about this organization, and I feel exceptionally good about her continuing its growth trajectory.”