“The early experiences I had at Nestle and PepsiCo were unmatched,” says Marcus Sandifer, a veteran of the food and beverage industry. “It’s not that someone that has never had [that] experience couldn’t be successful—anyone can learn anything if they work hard at it—but I was lucky to have a wealth of knowledge and experience because of where I had previously worked.”
Sandifer was introduced to the industry as a child by his parents. “When my parents came to America they worked for these companies in fruit harvesting, as migrant workers going around the country,” he says. “I’ve known food and beverage my whole life.”
His initial industry experience came during his undergrad years, when he participated in a summer supply chain management internship program at PepsiCo. He returned to the company after graduation to explore manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and supply chain for a rounded-out perspective of the business. Sandifer then followed an HR and labor and employment path for Nestle brands like Gatorade, Quaker Oats, and Tropicana, before deciding to pursue a legal career with a particular interest in labor and employment.
“I’ve known food and beverage my whole life.”Marcus Sandifer
“I was familiar with labor and employment law, and I loved employee investigations and policies,” recalls Sandifer, adding that when he was earning his JD at Emory University School of Law, he assumed he’d focus solely on that area. “But when I got there my eyes were opened to other practices of the law that I didn’t even know existed.”
Sandifer’s first legal experiences after graduation were in New York at firms, such as Alston & Bird and DLA Piper. In August of 2021, he became general counsel for nutritional drinks manufacturer Celsius Holdings, a longtime client of his that was then undergoing a rebrand process. “I came to Celsius down in sunny, beautiful Florida, where the weather’s always great and the people are super nice,” he says gleefully. “It’s an environment where I’m with a big, growing brand, and I can make some really impactful contributions.”
“Impactful” is a good word to describe Sandifer’s relationship with the legal world. With the unique advantage of understanding the business at so many different levels of operation and his extensive law experience, Sandifer is a standout in the industry. He’s been recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine in its Top 100 Modern Men, as well as the National Black Lawyers’ “40 under 40” list. He also was featured in Evangeline M. Mitchell’s award-winning “Becoming Black Lawyers” documentary.
And at Celsius, Sandifer was the one that kickstarted his team. “It’s been a privilege to work alongside Marcus as a close partner and watch him build out Celsius Holdings’ first in-house legal department,” says Robert Pommer, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
Tracie Bryant, a litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis, agrees. “Marcus is an exceptional lawyer. His commitment, drive, humility, and creativity lend themselves to the innovative work he’s doing at a rapidly growing company.” And today, Sandifer’s role has grown to include the titles of corporate secretary and the vice president of business and legal affairs.
“[Celsius] is an environment where I’m with a big,
growing brand and I can make some really impactful contributions.”Marcus Sandifer
Sandifer was drawn to Celsius for two major reasons: he was impressed by its aforementioned growth (it’s on track to double its full-time employee count within his first year) and attracted to its values. “When I met the leadership team, I saw how they were all huge team players. Everyone works very hard, and people genuinely like each other—it’s not forced,” Sandifer explains. “The CEO is a working CEO, who will go to lunch and get to know employees on every level and will be there loading product into the back of vans, if he needs to.”
The general counsel has identified numerous ways to employ that same people-first mentality. Inspired by the experience he had as an intern with PepsiCo, Sandifer instituted a similar program for college students at Celsius. And on a community level, the company partners with first responders in the local Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties. Celsius donates product and financial support to events that support the police and fire department, such as runs, walks, and marathons. It also will be holding its own paddleboarding event to support charities for Cystic Fibrosis.
Community outreach strikes a chord with Sandifer, who at the tender age of ten wrestled Hulk Hogan for charity. As an adult, he’s dedicated to reducing the stigma around mental health, particularly in communities of color, and with his family has organized various events to boost men’s health awareness. These events feature inspirational speakers and provide men’s health screenings and fun activities for all ages.
“My father and brother are survivors of prostate cancer, and his brothers are currently fighting again,” Sandifer shares. “I’ve seen how prostate cancer has impacted my family and just a lot of men like myself, who are young and may not take our health seriously until it’s too late.”
Between his expert leadership and commitment to giving back, it’s no wonder Marcus Sandifer is described as half-lawyer, half-superhero, and full-time law nerd.