May 28, 2020

Want to step up your avocado toast? Take Sasha Dzeletovic’s lead.

“I figured out that I can make my own version of it with whole-grain bread: taking an avocado, adding a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, mashing it all together and then topping all of that with a little bit of Sriracha on top,” Dzeletovic said. 

It’s not just one of the SVP of technology’s favorite meals at SPINS — it’s emblematic of the broader health- and wellness-first culture for which the company strives. The food data company is in the business of providing data, information and insights for natural and organic food brands.


health and wellness spins


“If health and wellness are what our business and our mission are, then we need to also turn that into the culture here and provide every opportunity to our employees to live a healthy and well-balanced life,” said SPINS’ Director of Learning & Development Stacey Gruenwald. 

For teammates, that can mean enjoying nutritious snacks, like avocado toast, in their stocked kitchens; soaking up recipes or industry info at client demos; and unwinding with a massage, yoga session or high-intensity interval training class in the in-office gym. The opportunities even extend outside of the River North-based office, too, through participation in activities like team races.

“I’ve been in organizations where they offer these benefits, but it’s frowned upon when you actually take them,” said Suzy Richard, director of enterprise sales. “Whereas here, it’s really encouraged, because it’s part of the culture that we all know.”

From bonding over a mutual appreciation for healthy lifestyles to helping alleviate stress, the trio’s experiences illustrate how wellness initiatives can be a recipe for successful employee engagement and empowerment. 



Recipe for success

Engineering might not immediately come to mind as a physical draining position — but Dzeletovic provides an illuminating perspective.

“You’re in front of a screen all the time. You are often in the same position the entire day. It means that some muscle groups get overtaxed, and other muscle groups deteriorate,” he said.

That’s why Dzeletovic enjoys in-office features like standing desks. But he most appreciates a variety of healthy snacks, including apples, mandarins and coffee substitutes, like chicory. 

“When I’m at work, I try to dedicate my attention 100 percent to it, and I very much appreciate that I don’t have an opportunity for silly snacks,” he said. “And if I want to have a full meal, I have lots of options to do that.”

Outside of his food and lifestyle choices, Dzeletovic said SPINS’ emphasis on health and wellness can even be felt in the way the engineering team operates. For instance, developers at SPINS work under the extreme programming methodology, and Dzeletovic says paired programming, one of the methodology’s core tenets, ensures he’s not overworked.  

“You always work with somebody else and you’re always working just the working hours. Anything that ever needs to happen outside of working hours is absolutely minimized,” Dzeletovic said. “That allows me to recoup and come in the next day and give it my all.”

On the data side of the house, Dzeletovic said the company’s internal emphasis on health ensures the team is being as strict about what data they choose to work with as they are about foods they put into their bodies. 

“In every part of our data curation ingestion, we’re making decisions about the quality of our final output,” he said. “So, if we don’t walk the walk, we wouldn’t be as scrutinizing when choosing our data sources.



  • How seriously does SPINS take health and wellness? Here are some key figures from 2019: 
  • 3,900 avocados ordered to the office
  • 1,200 onsite professional massages
  • 1,700 bananas delivered for the team 
  • 117 exercise and yoga classes in onsite studio


On the move

For Richard, being in a sales-facing role means needing to be well-versed in the healthy and natural food industry so that she can speak the language of her clients. 

“It feels better to live a healthy lifestyle and eat more natural food — but it really helps the company and relationships with our clients,” Richard said. “We have to live the lifestyle in order to connect with them and understand what’re going through.”

Beyond being equipped with the intel to connect with customers, Richard appreciates the effect of a culture where others value health.  

“Throughout the office, there are people talking like, ‘Did you see this article or did you hear what this brand is doing? Have you tried this ingredient?’ It’s nice to be around like-minded people,” she said.

At work, Richard participates in yoga classes, which she says reflect the larger, health-focused culture the company has created. 

“The most important thing for me during these yoga classes is being able to bond with people in different departments who I don’t necessarily overlap with in my day to day,” Richard said. “It’s nice to be on the mat with people that I had never met and build a sense of community.”



  • In a 2017 survey from VirginPulse, 85 percent of employers surveyed said that wellness programs had an impact on employee engagement.
  • In a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association, 91 percent of employees indicated that they feel “motivated to do their best” when their workplace supports well-being. 
  • According to Statista, a 2019 survey found that 84 percent of employers felt that workplace well-being programs benefited productivity and performance.


A healthy mindset

The mental component of health and wellness cannot be discounted, Gruenwald said. Accordingly, she makes sure to give the subject its due during informational sessions.

“We do a lot around emotional intelligence: being able to nurture yourself and your relationships with other people, understanding how your own tendencies can affect others and how to manage the way you communicate and interact with individuals to help reduce stress and build more meaningful relationships,” Gruenwald said.

Making health- and wellness-friendly opportunities turnkey for employees, Gruenwald noted, can help alleviate the pressures of taking the time to carve that into their life, versus having it integrated into the workday.

“You feel like you have that freedom to focus on your mind and body when the company is providing that for you,” she said. “Giving you the space to make that happen in your life turns into less stress.”

By sponsoring workout events or cooking classes, Gruenwald said SPINS ensures employees are taking advantage of the benefits. 

“We’ve got the gym here and classes, and it’s all OK to attend because they’re sponsored by the company,” Gruenwald said. “You’re given the freedom to do that. So when you take a lot of that off employees’ plate, it really does reduce the level of stress that there is.”

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