Summer Fancy Food Show

Startup CPG offers entrepreneurs essential tools for building a packaged food business

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fancy Food Show

Building a packaged food or beverage business from scratch can be expensive and overwhelming for entrepreneurs, but Startup CPG is making it a little easier with a suite of free tools, extensive networking opportunities and a safe space for founders to find the answers that they need to succeed.

“Startup CPG is the world’s biggest community for CPG brands. We are a free resource for them. And the goal is to make it easier for startups,” says company Founder and CEO Daniel Scharff.

As a CPG industry veteran of 15 years, Scharff explained at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City this week that he knows building a business is hard and “there are too many people you have to pay along the way,” which is why he says Startup CPG wants “to do as much as we can for them for free [to] give them a better chance at improving the food or personal care system.

As such, he created a 22,000-person Slack channel where CPG founders and others in the startup space can ask each other questions and share answers, advice and resources.

Startup CPG also hosts 100 events a year through 20 city chapters, including networking mixers to which media, retail buyers, investors, lawyers and other stakeholders are invited and where young brands can demo their products. Entrepreneurs are invited to stand up and introduce themselves and make one ask of the group – such as for help finding a co-packer, advice on a package design, help writing a press release or guidance with a pitch deck.

“At the trade shows … we throw parties every night, and they always sell out and they always feature brands demoing … and it is our way to try to help the earliest brands that are maybe too small to have bought a booth at the show – and it could be their very first exposure” to their peers, retailers, investors and other guests invited to the parties, Scharff said.

Startup CPG also recently launched a wire service through which members can share press releases for free.

“When I was a brand, I paid something like $3,500 just to put out a press release and it didn’t get me anything. We can do that for free, and we love providing a platform for early brands to announce their news,” said Scharff, who added that Startup CPG also built an audience of reporters that receive the press releases.

Earlier this year, Startup CPG launched a CPG Retail Sales Tracker​ powered by Cultivate CPG, which Scharff said is the ultimate sales tool for emerging brands as it lists all of the retail chains that Startup CPG deems relevant for its community. It includes basic information about the retailers and the websites where brands can submit their information directly, as well as basic CRM functionality inside the tool to help teams manage priorities.

The Startup CPG Pavilion is designed to be a starting point for buyers

At the Summer Fancy Food Show, Startup CPG negotiated a more accessible rate for 20 members of its community to host tabletops, where they could sample products and speak with prospective buyers, potential investors and other stakeholders.

“We try to take some of the most exciting brands out there and make a really interactive pavilion that will feel like our community,” said Scharff, who added Startup CPG helped facilitate more than 150 meetings with buyers at its table and led guided tours of buyers with the community.

Connecting brands and buyers: Baris attributes Thrive Market distribution to Startup CPG

Among the brands showcasing in the pavilion was Baris – a decadent dessert of chocolate-dipped frozen raspberries.

“It is a very simple product – just raspberries and chocolate,” but also “super premium” and a better-for-you alternative to ice cream, which are two trends that are gaining traction with consumers, said company Co-Founder Marcos Della Pia.

Della Pia attributed Baris’ acceptance into Thrive Market to Startup CPG, which hosted an event where he met a buyer from the retailer.

Loopini pizza: Startup CPG’s Slack channel is a ‘huge resource’

Another startup showcasing in the pavilion, was Loopini, which makes high-protein, high-fiber and low-calorie pizza with a lupini bean-based crust.

Company Co-Founder Damiano Messino admits that when he launched his business he “knew nothing about CPGs,” but he said Startup CPG’s Slack channel has been a “huge resource” where he found answers and guidance.

“The community is amazing," because when you write a question on the Slack channel there are 10 people who offer help, data and other answers or resources, he said.

Huxley: Startup CPG is the Oprah of the consumer packaged goods industry

Better-for-you energy drink Huxley also sampled at the Startup CPG pavilion its clean-label, lower-sugar and natural alternative to mainstream options, which Founder Simon Solis-Cohen said often have “dubious ingredients.”

He explained his beverage has 90 mg of caffeine and is made with cascara fruit and is sweetened with fruit juice and a touch of added sugar.

When his product first launched at Natural Products Expo West this year he described it as “plant-based,” but after brainstorming with Scharff and others in the Startup CPG community Solis-Cohen said he is tweaking the package to characterize the drink as powered by superfruit – which helps distinguish it from plant-based products and sidestep some of the emerging negative connotations associated with the term as alternative protein sales and velocities slow.

He also joked that Scharff is “like the CPG Oprah” because of all the free services and advice that he offers.

Startup CPG launches ShePG

Startup CPG continues to refine and expand how it helps entrepreneurs – most recently by launching a division focused on female founders dubbed ShePG.

“We decided to launch the ShePG, which is a female founder community inside the Startup CPG community,” because women face many challenges and cultural norms that threaten to hold them back, explained Startup CPG Director of Marketing and Communications Patricia Menegoto.

For example, she noted that many female founders struggle to access VC funding or lack the same level of confidence as their male counterparts, which can put them on their backfoot at pitch events or cause them to come off as less capable.

ShePG is designed to “encourage them and … they deserve to be in that space,” Menegoto said.

Entrepreneurs interested in learning more about Startup CPG or ShePG can do so by visiting and signing up for the community Slack channel, after which they will receive a link with more information, including about upcoming ShePG events.

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