Q&A with Cat Gazzoli
This International Women's Day we are catching up with the founder of Piccolo - Catherine Gazzoli - her mission is to create wholesome and sustainable food for little ones. Cat has kindly agreed to not only take part in an Instagram live with sister brand Frugi but also to answer a few of our questions. She certainly is an amazing woman who has been inspiring change for good and fueling little ones with organic, sustainably sourced, quality food since her daughter arrived on the scene seven years ago!
1. You launched Piccolo in 2016 just after your first daughter was born. Were the two events connected and how did you manage with a new baby in tow?
After Juliet was born, I was shocked to see the lack in baby food products made from high-quality ingredients that also provided nutritional education for parents. When launching Piccolo, I wanted to ensure that as a brand, we offer parents products they can trust are made from organic and ethically sourced ingredients, packed with high-quality fruits and vegetables. Our products span smooth purees, textured meals, teething snacks, cooking sauces, pastas, risottos and stock cubes that are full of everything little ones need and nothing they don’t – no GMOs, no palm oil, no nasties!
Before launching Piccolo, I worked in the charitable sector of the food world. I began my career with the United Nations food agencies and then moved on to become CEO of Slow Food UK, the global campaigning organisation for fair food. Ensuring that parents and families have access to not only delicious but nutritious food, is a goal of mine that grew even more after Juliet was born. Having her with me during so much of the day-to-day action of Piccolo’s launch made it all the more impactful!
2. Who are your business mentors and how important were they to your success?
I think mentorship is essential to both personal and professional development. It is extremely beneficial to learn from others who have more experience within different industries as it helps to inspire and evolve your own operations.
I have been fortunate enough to have Prue Leith as both a mentor and investor from the start of my journey with Piccolo. Not only do I find Prue extremely inspiring as both a working mum and entrepreneur, but her knowledge of the food industry and belief in my vision boosted my confidence to launch Piccolo.
My other key mentor has been sustainability expert, Jonathon Porritt. His guidance has been vital to Piccolo’s consistent goal of improving our sustainability efforts. With his support, Piccolo launched the UK’S first-ever 100% recyclable baby food pouch and pouches made of 80% plant-derived materials. We also became the first carbon-neutral baby food company in the UK.
3. What advice would you give other working mums looking to launch their own business?
Don’t delay with launching! It’s all too easy to push ideas back due to fears of business not taking off, but the vision behind the brand will speak for itself. Having a clear vision and idea is more important than years of experience in the industry you want to go into.
It is not necessary to have a platform of experience to become an entrepreneur. Utilise the tools and knowledge you have and build a team that will support you in the areas you don’t. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my creative genius and director, Kane O’Flaherty, and infant nutritionist, Alice Fotheringham, my wonderful co-founders.
Keep up to date with any relevant trade or consumer magazines to have a closer ear to the action currently going on in the industry. This is also a great way to keep inspired and push your concepts into the development zone.
4. Looking back, are there things you could have done differently when juggling baby and business?
As a founder, finding a balance between work and family life is always tricky. I often look back and wonder how I was able to juggle home life with Juliet when Piccolo launched. There are times when I’ve had to make sacrifices on time with Juliet and Scarlett, but I wouldn’t change it for the world as I think it’s so important for both my girls to see what being a working mum looks like!
5. Can you tell us about your two daughters? Are they similar or completely different in personalities?
Their personalities are totally different! Scarlett was born on the first day of lockdown in the UK. For the first year of her life, Juliet was the only other child that she interacted with so she’s usually quite shy with new children. She’s really started coming into her own since starting nursery and I’m so excited to see her little personality blossom.
Juliet on the other hand is an extrovert through and through. I’d often take Juliet to Casa Piccolo when she was little, so she’s always been surrounded by a fun and bubbly team which has totally rubbed off on her personality. We also spent a lot of time working Mediterranean-type cultures like Israel and Italy, in the early years of Juliet’s life, so she been immersed in a kind of social environment where life is outside, and kids are taken out with the family also in the evening. She likes to be out and with lots of people, a real social butterfly!
6. Did you use reusable nappies for your daughters and if so, can you tell us why reusables worked for you?
After having Juliet and the months leading up to Piccolo’s launch, I became increasingly aware of the huge issue of recyclability in the baby category! I’ve always opted for reusable nappies where possible as it’s our responsibility as parents to ensure a greener future for our little ones.
Reusable nappies can take a while to get used to but once you’ve got the hang of it, they become second nature. I love how gentle they are on baby’s skin and using them with Scarlett has also been another great way to help Juliet understand the importance of making sustainable swaps at home too!
7. What’s on the horizon at Piccolo that parents will want to know about? Any new products?
2022 is a very exciting year for Piccolo! We have lots of exciting new products coming out in the later half of the year, but our new gluten-free pasta has just launched in Sainsbury’s! I’ve always strived to make sure that Piccolo caters to all parents and offers a range of intolerance-friendly products. Our new rice-based pasta was created with parents searching for gluten-free options in mind. The pasta melts down to a soft texture when cooked, which is ideal for introducing new textures to little ones' meals. It’s a great choice for parents exploring new textures in the early stages of their babies’ weaning journeys.
Huge thanks to Cat, we are delighted she could spare some time and join us on the blog to help us mark International Women's Day this year! It's so important to celebrate women's achievements and raise awareness about women's equality.