- Inspired by her gluten-free sons, Gail Becker invented a pizza that became Amazon’s biggest seller in just six months.
- Her cauliflower creation came from a “void” of healthy alternatives to gluten-free products.
- She told BI then when launching a business, no one will care about it as much as you do.
Gail Becker’s sons were both diagnosed with coeliac disease when they were very young. Little did she know that their severe intolerance to gluten would inspire her to start up her first business.
Becker had a 16-year career at communications giant Edelman, but had no experience of running her own business before launching Caulipower. Now, just six months since its launch, Caulipower makes the best-selling frozen pizza on Amazon. This is the story of how she created a rapidly successful product.
Coeliac disease affects around 1% of the general population, but over the past few years a gluten-free diet has become more popular with people who don’t suffer from dangerous reactions.
Nowadays the internet is full of gluten-free recipes and the special aisles in supermarkets are ever-increasing. Just a few years ago, though, this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Becker remembers when she would go food shopping, the gluten-free options always left a lot to be desired.
“I began to notice over the years was how much worse the gluten-free food was for you,” Becker told Business Insider. “It had more fat, sugar, salt and calories, and less nutrients because the gluten-free flours are not fortified like enriched flours. So I’d always been on the look out for things that could be healthier gluten-free options.”
Catching the cauliflower craze
After a few years of constant searching, she stumbled upon the cauliflower craze which swept over Instagram. While a few years ago you’d probably never have heard of a cauliflower based pizza, now when you search on Google, you get over 560,000 recipes.
Becker tried one recipe for herself, and her sons were fans. It was pizza, but it was good for you. However, when they requested the same the following week, Becker refused.
“It was far too difficult. It took 90 minutes to make, and just coming home from work, I didn’t have time to spend 90 minutes making a pizza,” she said. “But I said: ‘You know what boys, I’ll find it for you.'”
Becker checked online everywhere she could think of, but there wasn’t a frozen cauliflower pizza anywhere to be found. At the same time, Becker had also just lost her father, who had left her some money. It was enough to take a risk — so she started up Caulipower.
“Everything was this convergence like a perfect storm and I thought, you know what, I’m going to quit my job and start Caulipower,” she said. “And that was a little over a year ago.”
Caulipower has four pizzas — three with toppings and one just the crust. The products are available in 1,500 stores across America, and by the end of August they will be in about 3,000. Caulipower also launched on Amazon, where it is currently the number one best selling frozen pizza.
Her kids had to like the taste
Becker says she was involved from the recipe stage of the Caulipower pizzas, because it always had to be something children would want to eat. To her, there was no point in joining the gluten-free market to add another bland product to the aisle.
“If it doesn’t taste good, nothing else really matters,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why this product has been so successful, because there are few things more rewarding than watching people taste it for the first time and say: ‘Oh, this is really good.'”
It’s also important to her that children know and understand nutrition. Some companies sneak vegetables into their products to try and trick children into eating them, but Becker says this isn’t what Caulipower is about. In fact, a percentage of her profits go towards building “teaching gardens” where children learn to plant and grow vegetables.
The gluten-free phenomenon
Going gluten-free has become something of a fad in recent years, with cookery books about “clean eating,” and myths being spread that wheat is bad for digestion.
Becker’s impetus for creating a cauliflower-based product was the fact her children were coeliac, but she knows that this isn’t the only reason it has become popular.
“People are not buying just because it’s gluten-free, people are buying it because it’s a better for you option,” she said. “It’s a healthier pizza.”
Caulipower has certainly benefitted from the gluten-free industry, which is worth several billion dollars. “I didn’t invent it, I just listened,” Becker said. “It’s almost like Caulipower was born out of consumer demand for filling a void they couldn’t find. It isn’t because of me, it’s because there was a hole in the market, and people wanted it filled.”
Lessons from starting a business
One of the main lessons Becker has learned about being a first-time entrepreneur is that nobody cares about your business as much as you do — so it’s you who needs to put all the extra effort in.
“This is my third child in every sense of the word,” she said. “All the time, and the effort, and the heart, and the soul and the money, and the stress — there’s nobody who’s going to care as much as you do.”
Becker’s father was also in the food business, and she recently worked out that she used to go on sales calls with him when she was a child. One of the things she recalls he used to sell was tomato sauce — and you can’t have a pizza without tomato sauce.
Family has been involved from the very beginning of Caulipower. From her father’s inheritance to wanting to find nourishing food for her sons. Becker wanted to show her sons that she could start up a business, and be successful, to prove what you can do if you put your mind to it.
“I always tell my kids, if you don’t bet on yourself, no-one’s ever going to,” she said. “And so I felt like I needed to prove that to them by doing this.”
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