Startup interview with Danish food brand True Gum
True Gum is a truly natural chewing gum, produced completely without plastic and artificial ingredients (such as most of the other chewing gum brands in the market). Founded only in 2018, the young food startup has already built it´s own factory in Copenhagen, Denmark and is by now available in several European markets, among them Germany as the EU´s largest economy. We spoke to Peter Juul Regnersgaard, one of the four founders, about their interesting market entry road into German retail shelves.
Peter, how did True Gum experience your internationalization into the German market and what are you most surprised about?
“We were off to a flying start in the German market – which was more than we could have hoped for, and it actually surprised us a little bit, as the German market historically is known to be a little slower in decision making than for example the Nordics or UK. We were very fortunate to land a deal with dm very quickly (Germany´s largest drugstore chain), which gave us instant presence across their 2,000 German outlets. I think we’ve actually been a little bit surprised about the local willingness to try out a plastic-free and biodegradable chewing gum. We expected the German consumer behavior to be a little bit reluctant to try out something new in a very traditional and settled confectionary category, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised about how well our eco-friendly chewing gum has been received. In that way I actually think that German consumers are a bit more open to trialing new plantbased products than some other countries, and that was definitely a surprise for us.”
What are your biggest learnings and recommendations for other startups entering the German market from abroad?
“It is definitely possible to land a deal with the big retailers if you have a strong product, a good story and an overall attractive proposition to the buyer. So first of all, every brand should focus on that. Having a German-speaking sales rep or a distribution partner on board of course also helps a lot.
For us, meeting people face-to-face at for example food fairs (before COVID-19) has been a very cost-effective way to spread the word and stimulate product trials. I think many people are so focused on digital and SoMe these days that they tend to forget how powerful the human relation can be, especially for actual listings and sales, but also towards the consumer.”
Do you perceive German retail and consumers to be different compared to other countries and if so, what are those differences?
“As I mentioned before, I think that vegan and plantbased trends run very strongly with German consumers, and that was nothing we expected right from the start, when you think of the strong market position of discounter stores in Germany, as well as the high meat consumption. As a smaller and relatively new food brand you really have to prove yourself locally and ultimately ensure that you do everything you can to become a success and show good rotation numbers with the retail partners you work with. But I think this is true for most of all markets.”
Last but not least, do you have an action plan or some hacks on how to steer a food startup during the Corona crisis?
“I really feel deeply for all the entrepreneurs and business owners out there who have poured their hearts and souls into building their companies up from scratch – I know how hard that process is – and hopefully things will start moving in the right direction soon. I can only say, keep your head up and hang in there. Many people are turning business models upside down and re-inventing themselves completely, which might work wonders for that exact business, especially if Corona makes your existing business model unfunctional. Here we’ve spent our time doing more of what we are already doing, because we believe in our product, and especially, we believe in a plant-based future. We are just preparing for the slow re-bound and spending our time on product development and a few innovation projects from the drawer, ensuring that we are all set to push forward again when things start getting a bit more back to normal.”
Thank you, Peter, for this very insightful interview and we keep our fingers crossed for a very long, successful development of True Gum over the coming decades!
Interview held by Katharina Wagner from SPOONFUL Food + Beverage Marketing