Having your cake and eating it too! 🍰
How Petit Côté is helping you not choose between tasty and healthy…
Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Let us start quite simply. Who are you?
Capucine: Both Claire and I are from Business Schools. I studied at HEC and she did at ESSEC. I had several “classic” work experiences at first: finance, marketing… But I quickly realized that it was a complete different kind of work that would make me want to wake up every morning.
In 2018, I met Apollonia Poilâne, which was a real trigger for me. She gave me her passion for creating new products, and brought me to the world of pastry. I met Claire several months later. Ex-Sushi Shop, she was determined to create the innovative food products of tomorrow. She is a passionate foodie, and I am a nature lover and a sports addict (I play rugby!).
We knew we were the perfect match to run Petit Côté.
My second question will be even simpler, do you like cake? And if so, what was your problem with it?
Claire: Oh yes, we do love cake! And we are not the only ones. In France, 25% of consumers end their lunch with a sweet treat. And yet, 85% are concerned about their food balance. Think about it. It’s noon, you are going into the closest shop to have your lunch. You are in front of the snacking aisle. Either you have this fat chocolate cake, which is a nutritional disaster, or you have a yogurt or an apple, super healthy, but terribly sad…
So either you feel guilty, or frustrated. We believe that something else is possible and that this aisle needs a bit of help to be turned upside down.
“85% of consumers are concerned about their food balance”
I feel you, I usually eat cheese for dessert, and I could never feel guilty about it… So what is your secret to cheat?
Capucine: We build Petit Côté to be the solution to that dilemma. We make cakes, which have the look of cakes, the taste and the sweetness of cakes, but instead of butter, we put vegetables in the recipe. Thanks to that, our products are 30% less fat and 30% less sweet than their equivalents. And they are the only “green” cakes of the aisle on Yuka app. We started from the “famous” zucchini-chocolate cakes recipe. We pushed it to its maximum and declined it with other flavors and vegetables. All of that, with french vegetables and seasonal recipes.
And we keep one motto: “Tasteful”. We absolutely do not want to make special “diet” products. I really doubt that if you taste one of our products, you even notice the absence of butter. And this is why we strongly believe in it. If we can make a chocolate cake that tastes exactly the same as other chocolate cakes, but with no butter, more fibers, and 30% less sugar and fat, why would you ever not choose that one?
I get that your initial inspiration was an internet cooking trend, but do you think your current success is tapping into a deeper phenomenon?
Claire: It’s very funny how much food trends have changed since we launched Petit Côté back in 2019. You are right, back then it was a cooking trend, that some people eventually shared in their social media, but it was much of an “influencer trend”. Nobody actually cooked vegetables cakes for dessert on a common basis.
Today, after almost a year during which people had to cook for their own, and find inspiration on the internet not to eat the same thing every single day, and not to put on 20 kilos during lockdown, cooking vegetable cakes has become a common thing.
Capucine: Today, when we have people test our products, it’s very common that they at least know that you can actually cook deserts out of vegetables, whereas a year ago they didn’t even know. And beyond vegetables cakes, the interest for eating healthier and with a reduced carbon impact is growing very fast. It’s crazy how people get to know locally sourced forgotten vegetables, which we had replaced by “globalized” vegetables (such as avocado…) only a few decades ago only. We are surfing on a global trend for a healthier and more responsible food, which is accelerating fast.
“We keep one motto: ‘Tasteful”
We all know that execution is key to any project, so it's time to be frank, how messy was it at first?
Capucine: Very messy, but I expected it to be so. At the “Entrepreneurship Masters” at HEC, we were always told “Jump in the water, and you’ll learn how to swim”. I started cooking vegetables cakes in 2018. I can remember the first recipes I made my family test: “Really, you are going to sell this?”.
The first challenge was to create good products, and so I challenged myself to well-known pastry stars in Paris such as Apollonia Poilâne or François Daubinet (Fauchon), who helped me improve my recipes.
The second challenge was cooking them… which I obviously did in my mother’s kitchen for more than a year! Until I broke the oven the day before my first delivery at La Grande Epicerie de Paris: it was time to scale up the production. Today, we still think it’s important to get in the water before knowing how to swim, and we constantly ask feedback from our clients and followers on Instagram to launch new recipes.
The way you talk about it, working with knowledgeable chefs was paramount at the beginning of your journey. Are there other encounters that shaped who you are today?
Claire: Of course! With Capucine, we love to ask for advice. Neither of us knew much about creating a food product when we launched Petit Côté. How do you decide what to write on your pack? Is there legislation for that? How do you decide on the use-by date of your product?
We made wonderful encounters both with the food industry (we have mentors at Fleury Michon, Jacquet Brossard, Michel&Augustin) and the startup environment, thanks to Incubateur HEC Paris, ESSEC, and the Moovjee Mentorship.
Capucine: As entrepreneurs, we need to be challenged on our business plan and ideas, by experts from the industry, but also challenged in the way we rule our company, we interact with our employees, we decide to finance the company. It’s key that these crucial decisions are aligned with who we are, both Claire and I, and that we agree together. And mentorship is great to help you take this step back and ask yourself “Ok, where are we going now and why?”.
“Neither of us knew much about creating a food product”
Speaking of your mentoring environment, I hear that some of them contributed to happy news you want to share?
Claire: Absolutely, we just closed our 500k€ fundraising. This will allow us to accelerate our growth and the development of our new products. We recently signed great partnerships with distributors such as Bergams or Pokawa.
We will now continue to develop our distribution network and strengthen our visibility all around France. We plan to increase the number of points of sale times 5 by the end of the year.
We will pursue our goal of democratizing the food of tomorrow, always as tasteful, but healthy and responsible.
Thanks a lot, see you soon!