Johan was born in Cape Town, and after having lived in a number of places in South Africa ended up at the University of Stellenbosch where he qualified as a biological scientist (plant pathologist) in 1979.
He completed his Masters degree in 1982 and, after a brief overseas excursion, spent many years doing fundamental research into the biological control of tomatoes, onions and gladioli. The studies on gladioli formed the basis for a PhD dissertation submitted to the University of Natal in 1989. Following this, he took management responsibility for a multi-disciplinary agricultural research group investigating a large diverse collection of challenges in the field of plant protection (fungi, bacteria and viruses) inflicting damage on the production of vegetables and ornamentals in South Africa. He also had a semester sabbatical doing complimentary research at the University of Wisconsin, in the USA and having several opportunities to travel and collaborate with researchers in Europe, the UK, USA and Israel.
In 1995 Johan changed careers and after a brief spell distributing of vegetable seeds for Greengrow, joined the retailer Woolworths in South Africa in 1996 first as a Salad Technologist and then as the Technical Manager for Produce, Flowers and Prepared Meals before being given the opportunity to head up Food Technology for the entire foods group. He spent the following six years building a technical service orientated team and introducing a matrix structure for the Technical Team in Foods. As a member of the foods executive team they built a significant foods business over the next nine years. He headed up a core team responsible for foods strategy on sustainability and black empowerment transformation for the Foods Group for another two years before taking early retirement after more than 14 years in retail.
Failing to retire altogether, he spent 2.5 years contracting to Woolworths transferring the sustainability strategy into a procurement operational plan and pursuing personal interests in the field of strategy development for the triple bottom line.
His interest in sustainability led to research in Meshfield dedicated to innovation for sustainability but not limited to business only, it also includes the social sector, government and the non-governmental organisations.
He was a founding partner in a retail consultancy in 2010, Cafeine Retail, this company supports the development of retail strategy, programme management and implementation for retailers by retailers. His specific expertise is in Food value chain creation from sourcing to customer and has a particular interest fresh produce and the opportunities to innovate value chains. In this capacity Cafeine Retail has now been spending the bulk of its time with Massmart/Walmart and the introduction of fresh food into the four trading divisions within the group. The customer base expanded in the early years to Pick and Pay, Spar, PEP, Ackermans, Barloworld, among others. The Cafeine Retail business gave rise to an opportunity to found Food by Staple, a product development company with its primary focus on convenience in the mass market with some upper tier demands from the premium market. The Food by Staple brand is slowly gaining a foothold in the market place as a demonstration of innovation and company capacity.