In this episode we talk to James McMaster, who has spent the last 13 years playing a key role in the growth story of three very well-known insurgent food brands: GÜ Chocolate Puds, Ella’s Kitchen and Huel.
James was my very first hire at GÜ Chocolate Puds in 2006. He was only 23 at the time, and even then it was very obvious that he was the kind of person who was going to go far.
With only 2 years as a Junior Consultant at L.E.K. Consulting under his belt, he joined GÜ in business development and quickly rose through the ranks to become GÜ’s first ever Operations Director. His commercial acumen, gorgeous personality and enormous dedication were absolutely key to our international expansion, particularly as we moved from a regional to a national model in France within the first year.
James left GÜ after a few years as Global Operations & Supply Chain Director, and spent some 5 years at Ella’s Kitchen as Co-Managing director, before becoming CEO of super-insurgent brand Huel, a nutritionally complete, vegan and sustainable range of powders and bars that replace your most inconvenient meal, which will reach £70M GBP revenue after only 4 years in business.
Listen to James describe his experience of the transformational growth at GÜ, Ella’s & Huel, on how mindset beats skill-set, the importance of choosing the right people, and how transformational brands can radically change both consumer and shopper behaviour.
Episode 3 Timestamps:
[00:31] – Introducing today’s guest, CEO of the food brand HUEL, James McMaster.
[01:46] – James talks about driving transformational growth of well known insurgent food brands such as of Gü, Ella’s Kitchen and HUEL.
[03:59] – All three of the brands James worked for have driven massive transformational growth for their own businesses. How did they also transform the categories in which they were playing?
[05:55] – Who is Huel intended for and what kind of ingredients does it contain?
[08:32] – What are the key reasons people choose to consume Huel? Issues of health, lifestyle, food waste and environment are some key drivers for consumers and mass market; how does
Huel address these?
[10:31] – While it is extremely convenient and nutritionally complete,
Huel is not intended to replace all meals. How do most people consume
[12:10] – By bringing a product, that wasn’t easily accessible previously, to the mass market, companies drive both growth and significant change in consumer behaviour.
[14:04] – Are there any similarities between these three insurgent brands that James has worked for? What makes them so successful?
[15:51] – Are there similarities in the types of people these companies want to hire?
[16:52] – Promoting from within the company vs bringing experts from the outside to support growth. How to balance the risk of bringing people from the outside? Why the on-boarding process, maintaining company culture and communication are so key?
[22:45] – It seems the insurgent food brands approach to people and culture have a lot of similarities to large U.S tech firms such as Google and Facebook.
[24:35] – How do these companies get around challenges differently? James talks learning to think differently and building the best cohesive teams around the world.
[29:16] – Most insurgent brands have a strong first line of command underneath the funder. James played that role in three companies; what makes him that person vs being the funder? Is it a question of big ideas vs execution?
[33:23] – Wrap up and summary of key points covered.