Kaitlin Mogentale is the founder of Pulp Pantry, a brand that sells grain-free chips made of real vegetables packed with nutrients, fiber, and flavor. Kaitlin shared with us her inspiration for a nutritious and sustainable product, some advice for those in the CPG brand space, and her vision for future flavors.
What inspired you to become a founder and start your brand?
“I’ve been interested and invested in sustainability for as long as I can remember, so when I went to college to pursue a degree in environmental studies, I was shocked to learn about the environmental impact of our food industry. In college, exploring the relationship between food, health and environment became one of my greatest passions, and eventually led me to two key realizations that pushed me down the path to start Pulp Pantry.
The first was that in California, and across the country, so many people struggle to eat healthy — despite how close they might live to farms. In Los Angeles, food insecurity is a huge issue. I worked at an urban garden in South Los Angeles where kids were being served pizza sauce and french fries as their daily vegetable, and yet, less than 200 miles away, there were farmers supplying most of the country with the very healthy produce items they lacked in their diets. Next was the realization of rampant waste in our society. Today we waste around 40% of food, most of which is fruits and vegetables. Nearly two thirds of our landfill waste is organic! This is a huge issue when it comes to fighting climate change – organic waste produces methane gas in the landfill, a potent greenhouse gas.
At a friend’s house, I saw her juice a carrot and witnessed the waste produced. I called up juiceries across Los Angeles, and realized most didn’t have a sustainable solution in place to turn that goodness into real value. So I got to work on bridging these two issues with Pulp Pantry as a nascent business idea!”
Which Pulp Pantry chip flavor is your favorite?
“I’m a purist, so I love sea salt, but if I’m in the mood for something a bit more flavorful I’ll grab a bag of our spicy barbecue chips.”
What is the most rewarding part of running a business?
“The most rewarding part of starting a business is, without a doubt, the people you meet along the way. I am so lucky to have met incredible peers and fellow founders in the food industry, and to have access to networking opportunities that have helped me to widen my horizons and meet some incredibly interesting people.”
Which flavor was the most fun to create? Will there be more flavors coming in the future?
“Spicy barbecue has a special place in my heart as one of our undergraduate food science & culinary interns created it from scratch. From his creation, we were able to work with a supplier to scale the recipe. It’s a super unique barbecue flavor that’s savory and has a deep flavor profile with many layers.
I do envision launching new flavors next year – I’m taking votes! I’ve heard requests for a vegan sour cream, an everything bagel seasoning, and even a vegan white cheddar. Tell us what you’d like to see – we’re always excited to hear from people.”
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a business in the CPG space? Or challenges nobody talks about?
“Don’t underestimate yourself. If you’ve found an idea worth fighting for, trust that you’ll be able to knock down any barriers that come your way. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you even begin. You’re more capable and resilient than you could ever imagine. Be scrappy, be creative, be persistent, and I trust that you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
What are some lessons you’ve learned from starting a business from the ground up?
“I’ve learned so many lessons! But one of the things I’ve become most keenly aware of is how much relationships are still a driver of business. Whether that means building relationships with potential clients, retail partners, suppliers, manufacturers, other brands, your customers, it all revolves around that personal touch. Your relationships are the most valuable part of your business.”
What are the biggest challenges you faced during COVID?
“The biggest challenge was playing a waiting game – it seemed like most of our plans to launch in retail were on hold, and we weren’t sure they’d go through. But this earned me time to re-strategize and prioritize, which was a great benefit.”
What is your vision for Pulp Pantry in the future?
“9 in 10 Americans don’t eat their servings of fruits, vegetables or fiber. By transforming vegetables into delicious every day staples and snacks, we’re making it easy to feed your family nutritious, sustainable foods that everyone will love – and I hope to carry that mission forward with expanded eating occasions that can reach across more categories in grocery.”
Want to hear more from Kaitlin? Find her on www.pulppantry.com and on Instagram @pulppantry.