December 2018 Commencement Speaker

Jason Cohen '96
Founder and Co-CEO, Halen Brands Inc.

Jason Cohen '96

Jason Cohen, founder and co-CEO of Halen Brands, grew up in northern New Jersey. His parents were prodigies of immigrants that came to America seeking refuge. Cohen attended the University of Maryland at College Park, earning a BS with a focus in marketing, and a minor in finance. After college, Cohen went on to work for Northwestern Mutual Life where he quickly became one of the top-producing insurance salesmen in the country. In an effort to find his true life’s passion, Cohen networked with his clients and eventually created a better way to eat without sacrificing taste and style.

In 1999, Cohen founded Mamma Says, a food manufacturing company that produced biscotti and cookies in a plant he built in upstate New York with money he saved from his insurance sales. Eventually, the company was able to establish a national brand, and Cohen partnered with Kellogg’s to grow the brand even further. In 2005 the company was sold for four times its revenue.

Then, in 2005, Cohen co-founded World Gourmet Marketing, creating better-for-you snacks under the flagship brand Sensible Portions, which included snacks such as nationally recognized Veggie Straws. Under his management, the company achieved double-digit growth and became one of the fastest rising snack food purveyors. The company grew to just under $100 million in four years. Cohen then went on to establish other successful companies, including Rickland Orchards, the first shelf stable Greek yogurt brand. He also partnered with the founders of SkinnyPop Popcorn, and after enormous success SkinnyPop went public for $1.4 billion in shareholder value through Goldman Sachs, and was recently acquired by Hershey’s.

In 2015, Cohen co-founded Halen Brands, Inc., which quickly funded Chef’s Cut Real Jerky, a premium jerky brand in March 2015. One month later, Halen partnered with Core and most recently acquired OWYN. This stands for ONLY WHAT YOU NEED, a simple, clean approach to plant-based protein without compromising taste. That same year, Cohen and his wife Jamie created an Entrepreneurship Endowment at the University of Maryland to assist the Smith School’s Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship. They currently reside in New Jersey with their two beautiful daughters, Jordan and Hailey.