Persea Naturals

Penn State University

Persea Naturals is commercializing its initial product, AvoColor. AvoColor is a yellow-red food color additive that addresses the growing natural food color need of food manufacturers. There is growing consumer demand for natural alternatives to synthetic food color additives (i.e., FDA “certified color additives”). However, the current selection of color additives “exempt from certification” available to food manufacturers have numerous limitations vis-à-vis synthetic colors. They are less vibrant and much less stable to heat, acid, light and oxygen, reducing the shelf life of products that incorporate them. They are more expensive, (e.g. $1,400/kg for saffron), and those obtained from spices, like paprika, turmeric and annatto, can alter the taste and aroma of foods and have been associated with allergic response.


Bob Hicks, CEO, provides leadership to Persea Naturals in the areas of strategic development, corporate development, operations, sales/marketing and finance. Bob has over 20 years of experience in the area of new venture startup and corporate finance. Bob worked for AT&T Capital/Newcourt Capital/CIT Group for twenty years in various leadership positions, including Managing Director – European Head of Media and Communications. Bob co-led the formation of DB MidMarket Capital, a startup M&A finance business for Deutsche Bank. He served as Asset Manager for Allied Capital, with over $3 billion in loan assets under management.

Stephen Parkhill, COO, directs all operational aspects of the business, including the manufacture and production of the various food and food color products, strategic and joint venture development, and sales and marketing. Steve is an innovative, transformational leader with 25+ years of executive experience in strategic leadership, operations, and business development in the Canadian Food industry in roles such as VP Operations at Maple Leaf Foods, Schneider Foods, and Sofina Foods; and President and COO of J.S. McMillan Fisheries and Rogers Chocolates.

Gregory Ziegler, Chief Science Officer and Cofounder, is currently Professor of Food Science at Penn State University. Greg provides leadership to Persea Naturals in the areas of engineering and process design. Dr. Ziegler is recognized as an advocate for the profession of food science and for his outstanding research contributions in food process engineering. Greg’s research focuses on foods as material composites, with properties governed by the physical and chemical interactions of their constituents. His work has resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed publications. Greg was selected as a 2015 Fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists.

Joshua Lambert, Food Safety Scientist and Cofounder, is currently Associate Professor of Food Science at Penn State University. Dr. Lambert provides leadership to Persea Naturals in the areas of natural products chemistry and toxicology. Dr. Lambert has a primary focus on the potential of dietary phytochemicals to prevent cancer, obesity and fatty liver disease, as well as, their bioavailability and potential hepatotoxicity.

Emmanuel Hatzakis, Analytical Chemist and Cofounder, is currently Assistant Professor at the The Ohio State University. Dr. Hatzakis provides leadership to Persea Naturals in the areas of analytical chemistry and spectroscopy. Dr. Hatzakis research interests include applications of liquid and solid state NMR Spectroscopy in Food Science, Structure Determination and Metabolomics. He is developing analytical tools to determine the authenticity of foods and will apply novel methodologies to develop agronomic and processing strategies to improve the nutritional value of foods. In addition, He utilizes a multi-disciplinary research approach that combines spectroscopy, metabolomics, gene expression profiles and microbial analysis to investigate the interaction between nutrition and gut microbiota and how this is related to obesity.