- Plant-based seafood Good Catch's parent company Gathered Foods named Christine Mei as its new CEO. Chris Kerr, co-founder of the company, will continue in the role of executive chair. This leadership transition moves the startup's leadership to Austin, Texas.
- Previously Mei spent more than 30 years in the CPG industry and has been an investor and mentor at Austin-based CPG accelerator SKU. She has also held leadership positions at companies including Beiersdorf, Royal Philips, Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble.
- "I'm so energized about the tremendous potential for the Good Catch brand. In fact, the future of the entire plant-based food industry is on a trajectory of positive disruption," Mei said in a statement.
Gathered Foods has had a busy year. The company closed a $32 million Series B financing round, hooked additional funding from a menu of celebrity investors, expanded its distribution internationally to the U.K., Netherlands, Scandinavia and Spain, struck an agreement with Bumble Bee Foods for a joint distribution venture and launched a new line of frozen appetizers and entrees.
This plant-based seafood brand has been on the fast track for more growth and having a new CEO step in to direct its trajectory may just prove to be the key to success. Mei comes from a background of advising startup companies. At SKU, where she offered her guidance, several plant-based brands are graduates, including Good Seed burgers and Mushroom Revival. Mei also has ample experience in leading large firms, something that could prove advantageous as Good Catch leverages the distribution agreement with Bumble Bee Foods to expand past the 4,500 stores that its product was sold in earlier this year.
The plant-based company has shown that it is willing to rely on the expertise of more established entities to guide its growth. Only a month after the startup announced its distribution partnership with 121-year-old tuna company Bumble Bee Foods, Gathered Foods introduced the president and CEO of Bumble Bee as the newest member of its board of directors.
This leadership swap comes in the midst of a pandemic where many niche companies are companies are struggling. However, for brands like Good Catch that sell staples, the market upset has proven to be advantageous for sales. Nielsen data sent to Food Dive in June showed sales of pouch tuna jumped 75.6% in the previous nine weeks. With consumers continuing to search for staples and plant-based food sales growing 35% faster than the food category in general, according to SPINS statistics for the four months ending April 19, Good Catch is positioned to face a tidal wave of demand.
Although the plant-based seafood category is not as crowded as plant-based meat, there is still competition for Good Catch. In the shelf-stable category, there is Vegetarian Plus’ tuna, Sophie’s Kitchen vegan toona and Altlantic Natural Foods’ Tuno. In the plant-based frozen fish category, Conagra Brands' has its Gardein line that makes plant-based fish fillets and miniature crab cakes.
Moving the location of this startup's leadership is an interesting choice. Good Catch was originally New York City-based. Austin, however, is known for small, successful CPG companies and has a culture that is conducive to startups. Brands like Epic, PeaTos, Tito’s vodka and Siete all came out of Texas’ capital city. Moving Gathered Foods' top leadership to an environment that is vibrant and renowned for producing successful CPG brands may prove to be the key ingredient in Good Catch’s recipe for growth.