Post Creator: Rosie Bartley

Gut Feeling: Building Demand for Probiotic Foods with Julie Smolyansky, Lifeway Foods

By ICR | Podcast

A business’s true test of survival is based on their ability to learn from challenges. By adapting to changing times, today’s guest found a sweet spot in the market for their product to thrive.

Today we’re sitting down with Julie Smolansky, who became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over Lifeway Foods at the age of 27 in 2002. Over the ensuing years, Julie has continued the company’s growth trajectory with creative product development and marketing, bringing an Eastern European product into the US mainstream.

Under her leadership, the company has grown annual revenues from 12 million in 2002 to over 119 million in 2021. During her tenure, the company has expanded distribution throughout the United States, and has expanded their reach internationally.

She serves as a member of the United Nations Foundation, global Entrepreneur’s Council, and was part of the 2015 Class of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum. She’s produced several documentaries, co-founded a non-for-profit test 400k, and she released her first book, a cookbook in 2018.

Julie and Tom had a great conversation about taking over her family’s company, the health benefits of kefir, and overcoming business hurdles.


  • Lifeway Foods’ History and introduction to kefir (2:35)
  • Julie’s transition to CEO (4:37)
  • Gut health and kefir health benefits (7:23)
  • the growing probiotics market (10:41)
  • How the pandemic effected business at Lifeway Foods (12:05)
  • Lifeway Foods marketing strategies (16:20)
  • Scaling the business, and future expansion (18:22)
  • Maneuvering the current economy, and supply chain concerns (20:48)
  • Current products, and new projects (22:47)
  • Charity work, and supporting Ukraine (24:44)


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If you have questions about the show, or have a topic in mind you’d like discussed in future episodes, email our producer,