Gail Discovered a Flaw in the Celiac-Friendly Food Market and Grew CAULIPOWER into a $100M Gluten-Free Empire in Three Years
Celiac disease is a massive pain in the gut, literally. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the disorder causes bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, anemia, fatigue, and countless other uncomfortable symptoms. And the disease hit close to home for Gail Becker.
Doctors diagnosed both of her young sons with Celiac. This autoimmune disorder leaves sufferers unable to digest gluten—also known as the magic, elastic-like ingredient that makes bread and pasta taste amazing. While the disease is highly manageable, it can also be miserable. And picky kids don't want to miss out on their favorite foods, like pizza.
In an effort to find nutritious and delicious gluten-free options for her boys, Gail stumbled across countless recipes for cauliflower pizza crust. She gathered the ingredients and got to work. By the end, she had a tasty crust. But the presentation was lacking, and her kitchen looked like a tornado hit it. Worst of all, it took 90 minutes to make! Who has that much free time to cook? Certainly not a working mother!
Gail swore she would never attempt that recipe again. She headed back online to find a premade cauliflower crust, but to her dismay, none existed. There wasn't a single option. In May 2016, Gail firmly decided to leave her job to make and sell cauliflower pizza crust. And many people thought she was crazy.
The Shift from Corporate America to the Kitchen
At the time, Gail had a lucrative corporate marketing job, but after many long years, she became disenchanted with what she saw. During this same period, her father passed. He was an immigrant who built his only business from scratch, and that always made an impression on Gail. After his death, she experienced a mental shift. Gail knew she wanted to do something meaningful for her boys and others dealing with Celiac.
The one-and-a-half-hour-long endeavor to make a pizza crust opened Gail's eyes even more. She began brainstorming possible ideas, and the food industry seemed like a good fit. Branding a ready-to-eat cauliflower pizza consumed her thoughts. And she founded CAULIPOWER out of sheer frustration for the lack of gluten-free options in the frozen food section.
Gail didn't start CAULIPOWER with much more than a simple idea. She didn't even know a thing about the food industry. Gail only even got the job because she created it herself. But with her experience in marketing, she knew there were lots of ways to build a business.
CAULIPOWER officially launched in February 2017, and only three years later, it had sold 36 million pizzas. Was her product new? No. Was it revolutionary? Yes. Gail offered her audience what they truly wanted—pre-made, tasty, and nutritious gluten-free pizza that didn't take hours to make. Her brand was a huge blessing to everyone in the Celiac community.
A Head of Cauliflower, a Huge Advantage, and a Lot of Hustling
Gail attributes much of the brand's initial success to finding a first-to-market advantage. Surprisingly, none of the big-name health food brands saw the need for ready-to-cook cauliflower pizza. And she worked fast to keep it that way.
To get CAULIPOWER off the ground, Gail self-funded everything. She used an inheritance from her dad, depleted her savings, maxed out every credit card, and even sold her clothes online to raise capital. Self-funding fueled the drive required to build the brand quickly.
In the early days, Gail received an offer from Costco to carry her pizzas. This type of deal would make most entrepreneurs jump with joy, but Gail shot it down. Her tiny brand wasn't ready for a big commitment just yet. There was no way it could keep up with the demand.
Gail explained her decision in an Inc. Magazine interview.
"One of the keys to being an entrepreneur is knowing what rules you're going to follow and then knowing which rules you're going to break—because you've got to do a little bit of both."
But turning down Costco didn't put a dent in Gail's determination. It wasn't long before Whole Foods showed an interest in CAULIPOWER. She managed to get the product into 30 local stores, and it was an instant hit.
After seeing tremendous growth potential, Gail began to seek out outside funding. In October 2017, CAULIPOWER raised $2 million in a single seed round from Boulder Food Groups. And soon after, Walmart made a deal with the brand. It was a dream come true for Gail. Getting to Walmart made her products accessible to people of all backgrounds. And it was imperative to the brand's continued growth and success.
Today, you can also purchase CAULIPOWER products on Amazon, Kroger, Tom Thumb, Target, H-E-B, Albertsons, and countless other grocery outlets and restaurants. Gail still considers herself a hustler and credits herself for making the connections needed to grow. In 2018, the company raised another $8.2 million in a venture round. And in 2019, CAULIPOWER won the Stevie Award for Fastest Growing Company of the Year.
The Ingredients to Bake a $100 Million Brand
While Gail is the brains behind CAULIPOWER, she didn't build it all by herself. Instead, she followed the owner’s model by bringing great people in early. From the start, she hired consultants to teach her about the food business and search for a manufacturer. Unlike many entrepreneurs, she wasn't afraid to ask for help. Gail refused to let ego get in the way.
Sure, Gail had an impressive marketing background, but she really didn't know anything about sales. She contracted consultants to teach her pretty much every aspect of the business until she grew enough to finally hire employees. And when she did hire, CAULIPOWER had a mere three employees—herself, a lady to fill out paperwork, and a salesperson. And that humble start helped scale the brand into the gluten-free empire it is today.
Gail's story must be the luck of the draw, right? Many entrepreneurs assume they will never reach 9-figure status, but you absolutely can with the right mindset and plan! Here are five tips Gail wants fellow business owners to consider:
#1: Target the Right Audience
CAULIPOWER has a very specific audience—people with Celiac who follow a gluten-free diet. And it was a very personal issue for Gail. All she wanted to do was make better-tasting, healthy, and convenient foods for her kids.
Gail didn't even invent cauliflower crust. There were already 500 thousand or more recipes online! But she did what others didn't— she made her product accessible to the masses. The company's initial growth was because she jumped on the wave of gluten-free trends. And Gail likes to be first.
#2: Great Marketing Is Priceless
Once you identify your target audience, you need to market directly to them. This step is one many entrepreneurs overlook. But thanks to Gail's background, she knew the importance of clear, precise, and clever marketing.
From the beginning, CAULIPOWER marketed towards its audience's pain points. The brand told powerful stories without taking itself too seriously. All Gail wanted was to bring happiness to people who need products for a strict diet. It was her goal to make the tone of the brand come through with everything they did.
Branding and packaging must stand out. Gail found this was tricky in the limited frozen food section. It's a highly competitive and tight spot. That's why breaking rules is sometimes a wise choice. Against all advice, Gail put massive black letters right over the pizza on her boxes. Although controversial, it made consumers take a second glance.
#3: Find the Right People
Everyone working for your company plays a vital role. It doesn't matter if they're on the top of the ladder or the very bottom rung. Finding the right people for the job is crucial in Gail's mind.
Two types of people work for Gail—those who know the food industry and those who just want to take risks without any industry experience. This unique mixture creates a dynamic that's unlike other companies. It's her "secret sauce." Her team is passionate and the best in the business.
How does she find new talent? At first, she relied on referrals and LinkedIn. But as the brand grew, highly skilled candidates began cold-emailing their resumes for consideration.
#4: Innovation Makes the Best Pizza
Gail knows taste is a HUGE thing in the food space. She believes in CAULIPOWER pizza. It's delicious, and no one else has been able to recreate it. But even after astounding success, Gail still puts innovation at the forefront.
Great brands continually innovate. It takes about a year to get a product from your brain to your stomach. Gail spends a lot of time creating new products. She always has several new projects going at once. From CAULIPOWER crust to CAULIPOWER rice to CAULIPOWER pasta, she constantly looks for ways to reinvent the gluten-free market.
But Gail never sacrifices her standards to get new items on the shelves. Every product must have three attributes—taste, health, and convenience. If an idea falls short, she won't launch it. Not everything works. And Gail has scrapped countless new foods throughout the years.
#5: Stop Playing the Waiting Game
When is the right time to launch a business? Well, if you wait for the perfect start time, you'll never do it. It's a lot like having kids. And you can't rely on other people to tell you when to take the first step—they simply won't. There's no crystal ball, magic spell, or twinkling star that will lead the way.
Founders fail a ton, but failures are often for a reason and lead to huge successes later down the road. Gail had doubts when she launched CAULIPOWER. She never really thought it would grow into the giant it has; she only believed it would be big enough to put a roof over her head. But she was also fearless because she went into it without any expectations.
Funny thing—starting was actually the easy part for Gail. As Worth commented about her success, "The trick is learning to bet on yourself and run with it." Now that the company has grown monumentally, she feels more pressure than ever. Others rely on her to succeed.
And Just How Much Is CAULIPOWER Worth?
By 2020, just three years into the making, CAULIPOWER generated $100 million in sales. And while you wait for your gluten-free cauliflower pizza to cook, let's answer some other burning questions:
Who started CAULIPOWER?
Gail Becker started the brand after discovering a need for pre-made, gluten-free pizza crusts.
When was CAULIPOWER founded?
Gail left her corporate job to found CAULIPOWER in 2016 and launched the brand in February 2017.
Where is CAULIPOWER manufactured?
Every aspect of the manufacturing process occurs in Encino, CA. This city is also where you'll find the CAULIPOWER headquarters.
Can I buy CAULIPOWER stock?
The company is still privately held, but because of its massive success, an IPO isn't out of the question.
Is CAULIPOWER really that good?
What's Next for CAULIPOWER?
Gail has a bunch of new products in the wings. She hopes to test them all and get new foods to the market soon to feed her rabid (and ravenous) audience. And best of all, she's enjoying every step of the journey. "It's funny—no one ever said to me in my entire life, you should work at something you love," Gail told Foundr in an April 2021 podcast.
And you can follow in Gail's footsteps. Many people wonder if now is a good time to start a business, but Gail sees it as the perfect opportunity. Go ahead and take some extra time to follow your dreams and build something you love. Happiness is a must, and life is fragile. It's too short to waste a precious minute. There are tons of problems waiting for upcoming entrepreneurs to solve—what are you waiting for?