Downtime with Holly Mensch

The vice president of innovation and consumer insight for Kettle Brand, Diamond Foods, talks work, life and play.

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What I’m reading
The Twelve, the sequel to Justin Cronin’s mega hit The Passage. It is a true epic spanning hundreds of years and is, at its essence, a survival story with lots of amazing characters. Oh, and yes, there are a few crazy monstrous creatures in it.

What I’m watching
Exciting dramas like Homeland, Better Call Saul, and Halt and Catch Fire. They are all appointment viewing — no binge watching here! The second set of shows are those that show off people’s creativity — shows like Project Runway and Top Chef. It is great to see Portland’s increased presence on Top Chef over the years. We were rooting for Gregory and Doug!

Latest download
The Skimm: a daily newsletter that culls the day’s top news into fast, “bite-size” paragraphs that is written as if you are talking to your best friend over a glass of wine. It has attitude.

Favorite gadget
Hands down, the KitchenAid Mixer.

Family traditions
Something we call “Family Togetherness.” We throw my mom and dad in the center, and then all their kids and grandkids circle around them and give them a great, big, massive family hug and yell “Family Togetherness!” This tradition has gone on for years, before the grandkids were even born, and now that we are scattered all over [Oregon, California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut], it makes it even more special.

Memorable vacation
A once-in-a lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands. My husband and I took a small boat cruise and spent a week bouncing from island to island. Between the geological wonders and the incredible variety of wildlife, it was the best vacation ever. I also got to swim with a gang of adolescent sea lions that greeted us while we were snorkeling.

No place like …
Sydney, Australia. It is an absolutely beautiful city that takes your breath away due to its proximity to the ocean. It is also one of the funniest cities to visit; the people are friendly, funny and incredibly welcoming. The city is relatively small—like Portland but with more sun and less rain.

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When I’m not working
My favorite hobbies are wine tasting, hiking and exploring the culinary food scene at new restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks and farmers markets.

Favorite Kettle Brand flavor
My answer is always changing. Usually whatever we just came out with. Today it is Avocado Oil Chili Lime.

Reflecting on one-year anniversary of the Diamond Innovation Center
The kitchen and all the tools in it have allowed our food developers to get even more creative. The sensory room has allowed us to host hundreds of local consumers to participate in taste tests. And we have hosted many of our customers in the main meeting room, affectionately called the Nosh Pit.

Business role model
One was Pat Callaghan at Pepperidge Farm and another was Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft Foods [now Mondelez]. Those two are great leaders who know how to get the most out of people. They are incredibly smart and respectful to people at all levels, regardless of what level they were at.