Merril Gilbert is a provocative thought leader in the future of food and cannabis consumable innovations. A visionary connector enthusiastic about change, Merril believes in using available resources to lead healthier and more resilient lives. As co-founder and CEO of TraceTrust, Merril provides strategic guidance to innovators, disruptors, and refiners.
Background and experience
Merril’s deep appreciation for the role food plays in life comes from her upbringing in restaurants and exposure to different cultures. She studied anthropology and geology at Northern Arizona University, furthering her understanding of how culture influences eating habits and trends. Drawn to the Wolfgang Puck and Alice Walters of the world, Merril’s focus in the food and beverage industry centered around sourcing fresh ingredients and creating complete culinary experiences for different service environments.
Merril was the first female general manager and member of the R&D team for a boutique restaurant group, including the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles, where she demonstrated the gold standard. Merril worked alongside Mark Miller in growing the Red Sage restaurant in Washington DC into a multi-million dollar experience and managed North American distribution for Niman Ranch Meats. There, she orchestrated a connection between consumer and farm by changing the narrative around where food comes from. At Kite Hill, Merril introduced plant-based dairy into the marketplace for retail and food service. Merril’s solo ventures included starting an online meal service in the dot-com era and consulting food startups from local to nationwide success.
After years of experience in operations, quality standards, and go-to-market strategy, Merril knows how every detail fits into a bigger picture. She offers a unique perspective on the connectivity and transformation between culture, experience, and food.
In 2015, Merril embraced the opportunity to build a sustainable industry around cannabis and plant medicines. An advocate for safe and reliable experiences, Merril leverages her extensive knowledge of good agricultural and manufacturing practices, regulatory requirements, certifications, product development, risk management, and branding to elevate cannabis industry standards. She also initiated the formation of the Cannabis Compliance Alliance to establish the same risk management and product liability criteria recognized by all other industries.
Merril belongs to the MISTA ecosystem and is on the board for Slow Money NorCal, where she mentors entrepreneurs in the future of food with a focus on climate, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Continuing her work in cannabis, she is on the NCIA Risk Management and Insurance Committee, an Arcview member, and a founding member of Women Employed in Cannabis.
Services and expertise
Today, MMR Specialty Foods provides strategic roadmaps, operational consulting, and visionary guidance for early-stage founders with unique and novel approaches.
Merril offers coaching services to entrepreneurs seeking clarity and confidence as they prepare to develop, scale, or seek funding. She also conducts operational and quality due diligence for investment firms to determine a company’s readiness. Her ability to bring together strategic management and vision for daily operations establishes standards for credibility and profitability.
Merril is an experienced public speaker and skilled moderator. Her engaging and thought-provoking talks equip audience members to see how they fit into the bigger picture and the steps they can take to make a positive impact.