Unlocking Sustainable Growth: Insights From CPG Expert Cullen Gilchrist

Cullen Gilchrist, Founder and CEO of Union Kitchen and CPG expert, recently shared his insights on the "Startup to Scale" podcast by Foodbevy, an online community that connects emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to valuable resources and partners for business growth. While on the podcast, Cullen emphasized the imperative of growing sustainably in the food industry, owning one’s own manufacturing, and how Union Kitchen builds brands to last. 

During the podcast, Cullen mentioned how he sees many young, budding entrepreneurs focus more on developing their brands and venture capital. This is a mistake. By focusing too much on these, burgeoning food and beverage companies are subject to the capricious whims of investors. To quote Cullen, “broadly venture capital is going to pick certain things they like, and if you're not that thing, you're not going to work as a brand”.

It is exactly for this reason that Union Kitchen’s Four Phases of Growth encourages its members to focus on a phased approach to growth and building in an organic and sustainable manner. Businesses should first focus on establishing a solid foundation by learning and excelling within the local market. By doing this, entrepreneurs are able to deeply understand their community's preferences and needs and ensure they are making things people want. As entrepreneurs build this expertise, they’re then able to expand regionally, leveraging gained insights to capture broader audiences.

Cullen went on to emphasize how important it is to own one’s own manufacturing. The advantages of this ownership model are manifold, ranging from enhanced quality control and streamlined production processes to the ability to respond swiftly to market demands and opportunities. As an example, Cullen pointed to Caribe Juice, founded by Luis Solis, and Snacklins, founded by Samy Kobrosly, and how because they own their own manufacturing, they’ve been able to maintain their standards, foster innovation, and scale with agility, all while staying light on capital. These companies are examples of how when companies own their manufacturing and follow a phased approach to growth they stronger margins and in turn achieve profitability faster and more consistently than their peers. These companies are shaping their own destinies by being the masters of their products and processes. 

In a world where culinary dreams meet business realities, it can be all too difficult to know where to begin and all too easy to make mistakes. Luckily, Cullen and Union Kitchen are here to help guide food entrepreneurs to building sustainably. Those looking to get started should give the “Startup to Scale” podcast a listen. The insight’s given by Cullen Gilchrist's will be invaluable to sustainable growth and enduring success.