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Hormel Foods Senior Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Tanya Rodriguez: ‘My Job is to Question Everything’


Austin, Minn.

In addressing attendees at recent Food Tank summit, Rodriguez discusses her unique role with the company, engaging with consumers and aligning insights with innovation

In her unique role as a cultural anthropologist for Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE: HRL), Dr. Tanya Rodriguez spends a majority of her professional energy in the field, meeting with consumers in person to learn about their relationships with food and collecting new insights into how food-related decisions are actually made.

Earlier this month, Rodriguez shared some of her acute observations as part of a distinguished panel of industry experts at the “Empowering Eaters: Access, Affordability and Healthy Choices” summit in Chicago, speaking as part of a distinguished panel of industry experts. The summit, hosted by Food Tank — a nonprofit organization committed to food-system education and food security — welcomed guests from the White House and the United Nations Global Compact for a discussion on ideas and solutions for improving food access, affordability and health for consumers.

“It was a powerful exchange of ideas,” said Rodriguez, senior human experience research manager at Hormel Foods. “The problem of food security is complex and requires private and public entities to work with grassroot organizers and entrepreneurs to create healthy, stable, accessible and culturally congruent foods across the nation. This was a wonderful opportunity to share some of the exciting things we’re doing at Hormel Foods and also learn about what other organizations are doing to meet people’s needs.”

It is true, that a large part of Rodriguez’s job is to question everything. Rodriguez’s job involves an element of spontaneity, with many of her consumer interactions sparked by chance, such as impromptu conversations with random people in grocery-store aisles. She also visits consumers’ homes, where she’s able to gather even more insight by cooking with them, sharing a meal and noticing their stock items.

She detailed her efforts during the panel discussion, giving those in attendance an inside look into her methods and findings. She specifically referenced a common disparity between what consumers tell her and what she discovers for herself in their homes.

“As an anthropologist, I use cultural intelligence to solve modern human problems; in this case, food,” Rodriguez said. “People can tell you anything if they fill out a survey or participate in a focus group, but there is often a big gap between what people say and what people actually do. However, being in a consumer’s home is a revelation. You can actually witness what they do and the food products they really buy.”

“They’ll tell me, we want less salt, we want less sugar,” she continued. “And then I go into their house, and guess what they’re doing? Putting salt and sugar into stuff. And it’s like, why is that? But it really is hard to break that tradition. It’s complex.”

Rodriguez also spoke about the importance of food companies promoting a healthy internal culture in how they operate. Hormel Foods takes this duty seriously, Rodriguez said, evidenced in particular by the company’s desire to provide substantial education resources for its team members, as well as its team members’ children. With that in mind, Hormel Foods was one of the first major companies in the United States to offer the opportunity of free college education to the dependent children of its team members by way of its Inspired Pathways program. In addition, it provides free one-on-one college advising, financial-aid support and career-development opportunities.

Rodriguez is a member of the Hormel Foods Brand Fuel center of excellence. Brand Fuel was created to accelerate the time between the inception of an insight and the delivery of a new product on the shelf, and to optimize the company’s insights-led innovation processes.

Hormel Foods, a Fortune 500 global branded food company, has long supported hunger and food-security efforts in the communities where its team members live and work, as well as nationally through organizations that support hunger and food-security solutions. Additional information about the company’s hunger-relief efforts can be found in the Hormel Foods Global Impact Report.

About Hormel Foods – Inspired People. Inspired Food.

Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minn., is a global branded food company with over $12 billion in annual revenue across more than 80 countries worldwide. Its brands include Planters®, SKIPPY®, SPAM®, Hormel® Natural Choice®, Applegate®, Justin’s®, Wholly®, Hormel® Black Label®, Columbus®, Jennie-O® and more than 30 other beloved brands. The company is a member of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, was named on the “Global 2000 World’s Best Employers” list by Forbes magazine for three years, is one of Fortune magazine’s most admired companies, has appeared on the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list by 3BL Media 13 times, and has received numerous other awards and accolades for its corporate responsibility and community service efforts. The company lives by its purpose statement — Inspired People. Inspired Food.™ — to bring some of the world’s most trusted and iconic brands to tables across the globe. For more information, visit and