Episode 5: US Launch team Gold&Green
In the fifth episode of this interview series, we interview the team that is responsible for introducing the products of Gold&Green in the US. Thanks to Annette, Paavo, Pekka and others, Pulled Oats® is now available in the US in foodservice, through Sysco, the world’s largest food distributor in food service. The product was even chosen as one of Sysco’s 2020 Cutting Edge Solutions products. Annette has been Chief Marketing Officer for the past 3 years. Paavo works in Business Development for Gold&Green. Pekka is the local US advisor and focuses on the opportunities for Gold&Green in the US market.
It is quite unique that a small brand like Gold&Green gets such a good launch in the US market. One reason for this success, is the team’s motivation and enthusiasm. “From the very beginning we were confident we could do this, since Pulled Oats® is such a unique product!”
“From national phenomenon to the US market”
All of Gold&Green’s products are plant-based. Is a plant-based lifestyle important for you?
Pekka tells us that he and his family are vegan. “When my kids started ‘forcing’ us to become vegan, I started looking for a reason to eat plant-based. My personal health wasn’t reason enough; if I only did it for myself, I would cheat often enough. But the environment and animal cruelty were important enough for me to sustain this lifestyle.”
Annette spends most of her free time on an island off the coast of Finland. “We have a very basic cabin there, with no electricity or running water. Only when it’s sunny we have electricity from the solar panels. That is my way to be connected to nature, and it helps me embrace the simplicity of things and step away from consumerism.”
Paavo has noticed that people are becoming more conscious about their actions and their impact on the world around them. But the change to an environmentally friendly lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. “It comes through educating yourself actively about becoming a better consumer.”
Because of your efforts, Pulled Oats® is available on the US market. How did this American adventure start?
Pekka explains: “Two years ago, Annette and I went to the headquarters of Sysco in Houston, Texas. We cooked a meal with Pulled Oats® for them and they really seemed to like it. They let us know from the start that they were very excited about the product, which gave us a lot of confidence!”
Paavo tells us more about their relationship with Sysco. “Sysco has supported us very well from the beginning. We have an excellent relationship with them, even though their company is of a completely different scale than we are. Sysco is about 50 times bigger than Paulig, and is maybe an even 1.000 times larger company than Gold&Green! But they take us seriously and work very respectfully with us.”
Getting a Finnish product on the US market is quite ambitious. Did you have any doubts before or during the launch?
Annette tells us: “We were pretty confident from the beginning. Sysco loved us from the moment they tasted our product for the first time. We knew it was going to be hard work, but this gave us the confidence we needed to take the chance.”
Were there any challenges you had to overcome during the launch period in the US?
During the launch period, the team took a road trip across the country to introduce and showcase Pulled Oats®. Annette shares her experiences: “It was very hard work. We were on the road for two months, and we would fly to different cities in the US. We would do a product training in the morning and fly to the next city in the midday. Sometimes we didn’t even know which city we were in! But we had lots of fun and our team became very close.”
Paavo adds: “The launch went very smoothly, thanks to the help from Sysco. But the corona pandemic has definitely been a challenge, it has had a lot of impact on the food service market. The restaurants took a hard hit. Luckily, Pulled Oats® is also served in canteens in the US, for example in elderly homes, universities and workplaces.”
What are the most prominent differences between the US market and the Finnish market?
Pekka explains that food preferences and needs differ a lot from state to state. The differences between the states are as big as those between European countries. “The plant-based developments in big cities at both coasts are much further ahead than in other places. The plant-based market in Pennsylvania for example is about two years behind San Francisco. That is why it’s very useful to have Sysco on our side. They have brokers situated in every state, and they know exactly what the specific situations are.”
Let’s look towards the future. Do you see more opportunities for Gold&Green in the US market?
Annette is really excited to get Pulled Oats® available in retail through industrial partners who can create fantastic meals out of Pulled Oats®, like f.e. vegan lasagna. “This is a great opportunity for us to reach consumers as well. We have resources to reach all kinds of clients in the Food Service sector and direct manufacturers. We have about 500 salesmen in our broker network, and another 6.000 from Sysco. We are communicating with these people and giving them the right training. This is both a challenge and a huge opportunity, and we’re excited to see how far it will take us!”
• Chief Marketing Officer
• Loves to spend time in her off-grid cabin
• Has a passion for regenerative farming
• International Business Development
• Gold&Green’s key account manager of Sysco
• Was made for the cold; he doesn’t like 25+ degrees weather
• Business Development Advisor
• Has been living in the US for 20+ years
• Was ‘forced’ by his kids to become vegan
5 DILEMMAS, 1 TEAM. WHAT DO THEY CHOOSE?
Pulled Oats® Nude or Pulled Oats® Tomato?
All three of them choose Nude, because of the versatility of the product. Pekka: “And because Nude fits the famous Finnish sauna very well!”
Vegan or flexitarian?
Pekka choses vegan, the other two go for flexitarian. Paavo: “Everyone should eat what fits their values.”
Sun or snow?
They all choose snow. Pekka: “I have enough sun in California, about 350 days a year! So I love to drive to snowy mountains and go skiing.”
Gold or green?
The two men go for green on this one, Annette chooses gold. “Because it repre- sents the Nordic oats in our products.”
Healthy or tasty?
They all agree that taste is the most important. But with Pulled Oats® you can have both!