Rhino Foods’ People-Profit Dilemma: Inclusive Workforce Challenges and Opportunities

by: Pramodita Sharma, Srinivas Venugopal, Nicole Mallett

Publication Date: September 14, 2023
Length: 14 pages
Product ID#: 4-174-830

Core Disciplines: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Social Impact, Strategy & Management

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Second Place Winner; 2023 DEI Global Case Writing Competition

Rhino Foods is a U.S.-based Benefit Corporation (B Corp) owned and operated by the Castle family. A food ingredients supplier to global brands, the company grew to $60 million in annual revenue by 2019. Rhino Foods was best known for inventing and manufacturing the cookie dough found in Ben & Jerry’s top-selling ice cream flavor. The case’s central topic is how Rhino creatively emphasized inclusive hiring and retention, though balancing people-centric, product quality, and financial goals were continuing challenges.

Many Rhino employees were new Americans who came through waves of refugee resettlement programs. Integrating these non-English-speakers into a production floor laden with heavy machinery necessitated investments such as translating the operations manual, adding subtitles to training videos, and pairing new employees with experienced workers with the same native language. Religious and cultural factors new to Rhino became important, as well. Rhino then began to recruit people who had dropped out of the labor force, including coming out of incarceration or rehabilitation for substance use. It created a No Background Checks program to remove barriers to entry like proof of past experience or having a criminal history.

Students are challenged to suggest how the leadership team can better understand employee turnover, provide innovative methods of support, alleviate employee concerns regarding new hires, and continue to grow the company in a healthy way.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Identify the multiple levels of diversity within a workplace, differentiate between surface and deep diversity, and perceive the varied needs of (and biases against) each employee segment.
  • Distinguish between support programs that benefit a large proportion of employees and programs focused on a niche segment.
  • Analyze the inherent tensions in balancing social and financial goals of a company and determine how best to reach these goals.