Greg realized early in high school that he had a real interest in commodities and food. Since this wasn’t a well-known career option at the time, he began researching universities around the country offering a program that would complement his passion.

“I received 8-9 acceptance offers but chose Virginia Tech even though I am originally from New Jersey. I was very familiar with the school because most of my family is from Eastern Tennessee,” said Estep.

In 1979, off to Virginia Tech Estep went. Estep says his classes really confirmed that he had made the right decision for his career and that the professors were inspiring mentors. In addition to the classes and professors, he knew he made the right decision because Virginia Tech is where he met his wife, Susan, who graduated in 1982 with a degree in industrial engineering.

The couple met during their time at Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. Estep was also part of Alpha Zeta, a professional fraternity for students and industry professionals in the agriculture and natural resources fields.

Estep has taken his degree and applied that knowledge to every role he has had throughout his career journey. Today, Estep is the managing director and CEO of Spices for Olam Food Ingredients, an operating group born out of Olam that offers sustainable, natural, value-added food products and ingredients. It is the largest global industrial spice company and the largest U.S. private label spice producer.

Estep oversees the global spice business unit and the U.S. business and customer activity of cocoa, coffee, dairy, nuts, and spices.

In 2022, Estep attended an Olam Food Ingredients global spice meeting in California to discuss incorporating spice products into new applications, such as Pop Tarts. Photo courtesy of LauraBeth Grubb.
In 2022, Estep attended an Olam Food Ingredients global spice meeting in California to discuss incorporating spice products into new applications, such as Pop Tarts. Photo courtesy of LauraBeth Grubb.

His previous employers were Continental Grain Company and ConAgra Foods where he held a variety of positions over the 25 years he spent between the two.

At Continental Grain, Estep lived and worked in Hong Kong where he was the Commercial Manager of Asia/Pacific. At ConAgra is where Estep developed a reputation for being known as the Asian expert of spices. It was during this time that he moved into the spice division for ConAgra, where he often traveled to Asia.

“The value of my degree gave me a well-rounded exposure to agriculture and futures and options,” said Estep.

Estep is on numerous national and international boards, yet he still finds time to give back. Most recently he spoke to Commodity Investing by Students (COINS), the only student-managed commodity fund in the United States, managing a portfolio of more than $1 million. 

Estep talks with Commodity Investing by Students (COINS) in Hutcheson Hall on September 9, 2022. Photo by Melissa Vidmar for Virginia Tech.
Estep talks with Commodity Investing by Students (COINS) in Hutcheson Hall on September 9, 2022. Photo by Melissa Vidmar for Virginia Tech.

During his presentation, he inspired students by taking them on a journey through his career and how it was sparked by his love for commodities and food.

“Have a plan as to what you want to do, then pursue it,” said Estep. “But, it is also ok to take the time to figure that out and once you do, go for it.”

He encourages students and professionals to speak up for yourselves. “You can’t wait for a corporation to extend an invitation for you to make a difference. You have to have the initiative to do it.”

“Greg is a proven and visible leader in global food and agricultural markets. The high-level leadership he has provided prominent food and agribusiness firms, directly impacts the type and quality of food that many of us consume and enjoy every day. Greg, through his career and his long record of public service and engagement, is emblematic of the Ut Prosim principles we seek to instill in all of our students,” said Matthew T. Holt, AAEC professor and department head.

By Melissa Vidmar