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“I was declared crazy”: How Christoph Schramm cracked the frozen pizza market

“Gustavo Gusto” founder
“I was declared crazy”: How Christoph Schramm cracked the frozen pizza market

Gustavo Gusto founder Christoph Schramm

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Achieving strong growth with frozen pizzas: what may sound like a crazy idea was achieved by Christoph Schramm within eight years with his company Gustavo Gusto. In the interview he talks about his recipe for success and future plans.

He didn’t know it was impossible, and that’s why he did it – one might paraphrase Mark Twain to introduce Christoph Schramm. Because he has achieved what many thought was impossible: to penetrate a market with frozen pizzas that was previously shared by two food giants. In 2014 he founded Gustavo Gusto with the conviction that frozen pizzas don’t necessarily have to taste cheap. “I’ve always wondered why there is no pizza in the freezer that tastes and looks like a pizzeria pizza,” said Schramm in the podcast “The Zero Hour”.

At that time he ran four pizzerias in Passau. He experimented and found that when he half-baked pizzas from his restaurant, frozen them, and then finished baking them, they tasted better than the frozen pizzasfrom the supermarkets. So he decided to start his own frozen pizza business. “I was called crazy by pretty much everyone and I was advised against it,” he recalls.

Nevertheless, he was able to collect around 250,000 euros in seed capital from friends and family, plus a 300,000 euro loan from the LfA Förderbank Bayern. He acquired a production area in Geretsried and started there with a small team to produce frozen pizzas for the catering industry. The beginnings were tough: “I remember the time when I slept upstairs in the office – that was also my apartment at the same time,” says Schramm.

Gustavo Gusto – successful in the supermarket

In 2015 Gustavo Gusto changed his strategy and got in touch with wholesalers. This gave Schramm a connection to Rewe and was able to convince the supermarket chain to sell the pizzas in their southern Bavarian markets from 2016. It wasn’t difficult to convince the grocer, because “retailers are now keen on young brands, start-ups, new products and also regionality,” says Schramm.

Six years later, Gustavo Gusto’s pizzas are available in most German supermarkets, the brand is growing “beyond the industry average” and one of the two competitors has shown interest in a takeover. However, selling is out of the question for the founder, because he still has a lot planned: last year, the company brought ice cream onto the market and, in addition to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, pizzas have recently also been available in the Netherlands.

Despite the success, Gustavo Gusto faces major challenges: the war in Ukraine and inflation have caused the cost of ingredients such as flour and mozzarella and energy costs to rise sharply. The price of the pizzas was increased, but this adjustment is not enough to compensate for the increase in costs, according to Schramm. And as a fast-growing start-up, the company has to rethink and restructure its organization. But Schramm showed it: Impossible is not part of his vocabulary.

Listen to the new episode of “The Zero Hour”:

  • Where the idea for a pizzeria in Passau came from
  • Why Schramm could never have worked at Siemens
  • How the production of the first delivery went at Rewe

All episodes can be found directly at AudioNow, Apple or Spotify or via Google.

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