Agriculture: GEORGE C. FREEMAN III
CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, UNIVERSAL CORP., RICHMOND
Universal Corp. may be the world’s biggest supplier of leaf tobacco, but foodstuffs have helped boost the company’s portfolio recently.
“Our plant-based ingredients platform is coming together nicely and is exceeding our expectations,” Freeman said in his May fiscal year annual report. Universal’s president since 2006 and its CEO and board chairman since 2008, he previously served as the company’s general counsel and secretary.
Universal’s acquisitions of FruitSmart, Silva International and Shank’s Extracts Inc. in recent years helped offset challenges faced by the company’s tobacco operations. Universal’s tobacco operations decreased by $11.1 million to $157.8 million for the fiscal year that ended in March 2022, largely due to supply chain issues and inventory write-downs.
Universal operates in more than 30 countries spanning five continents, providing a conduit between tobacco farmers and consumer product manufacturers. It posted $2.1 billion in revenue for 2021, and investment website Insider Monkey lists it as the 15th most valuable cigarette company in the world.
Universal made the Fortune 1000 in past years but failed to make the list in 2022. In February, Universal was named 2021 Supplier Engagement Leader by nonprofit CDP, in recognition of Universal’s efforts to engage suppliers on the issues of climate change.