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How a start-up with an unusual idea revolutionised sausage

Grillido – sausage 2.0

Grillido founders Michael Ziegler and Manuel Stöffler are total sports and barbecue fans, and have developed a product from their shared passions. In our interview, Michael Ziegler tells us about the origins of their idea, their plans for the future and the logistical challenges.

Mr Ziegler, a fat-free sausage! It sounds initially a bit daring... How did you get the idea?

When we were at a barbecue party together, we asked ourselves why keen sportsmen who are nutritionally aware and love barbecues had to settle for turkey steaks. As we both love Bratwurst, we had the idea of creating a new type of sausage - one which, despite a low fat content, tastes good and which as sportsmen we could add into our diets without feeling guilty.

And then you translated this idea into reality.

As we both come from families of butchers, we were quickly able to develop prototypes. In Grandma’s garage we combined high-quality meat with special ingredients like spinach, feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes to create quite new kinds of sausage. We sold our “Grillidos” for the first time at Christmas markets - and got great feedback. We pushed ahead with developing these with star chefs. Because we didn’t just want to achieve the nutritional values of sports nutrition, but also a really good taste. And we’ve succeeded - after almost two years in development.

When did you start to think that you could go it alone with Grillido?

After the initial successes on the Christmas market, we noticed that we could actually make inroads into the billion- Euro sausage market. We developed the product further, together with various star chefs, and tested out distribution channels such as online shopping and sales to fitness studios, whilst continuing to work full-time at our “normal jobs” in the IT industry. Then when we won a prize for the “most innovative product of the year” at a retail trade fair, and sparked the interest of many market leaders, we decided to put all our energies into the sausage revolution full-time.

What hurdles did you have to overcome in the initial phase?

At the beginning, nobody knows who you are. It’s difficult to find suppliers - from production through to logistics. We still hadn’t proved that you could achieve really large volumes with “Sausage 2.0”. As neither of us comes from the food sector, at the outset we underestimated the complexity of the market - from negotiations with purchasing departments through cold logistics to distribution. But we have overcome all the challenges, and now feel we are well-equipped to be present on supermarket shelves throughout Germany in 2018.

Michael Stöffler and Michael Ziegler. Photos: Grillido

Your company has been in existence for more than two years now. How would your assess you development so far?

Really we’ve only been in business for a year. We founded Grillido GmbH in August 2016. Since then we have been running the business fulltime, and have gradually built up a team. Before that, our activities were more like a kind of youth project. But what’s been happening since August 2016 is already remarkable: today we supply many hundreds of supermarkets and more than 300 fitness studios, employ twelve full-time staff, have survived in the lion’s den and even recently won the German prize for start-ups. That makes me very proud. Of course there are still lots of challenges ahead, but I think that with our young team we are really on course to build up a strong brand in the sausage and meat market.

And in the meantime, your fresh sausages and smoked sausages are on sale in more than 500 outlets. By the end of the year we expect to reach 1,000 outlets. What form does this growth take?

To make inroads in food retail, you really need distribution power. We are gradually building this up. In production and logistics we have also professionalized to the extent that we are ready to take the next step.

What products do you plan to offer in future?

We want to further expand our range of snacks, and to be in a position to play an important role in food retail throughout the year. “Bratwurst” is our top seller in summer, and there is brisk demand for the “Sportwurst” from October to March. We are planning other meat snacks which do not need to be kept chilled, and are therefore very suitable for online shopping. We are also hoping to despatch these beyond the borders of Germany quite soon. It’s more difficult with chilled products.

How important is the traceability and transparency of the ingredients you use?

Very important. For us it goes without saying that we can guarantee complete traceability through our IFS-certified producers. Where possible we use regional raw materials. Our most important raw material, meat, comes exclusively from Germany. For beef and pork we can localise origin even better: depending on the product, these are either GQB-certified (certified Bavarian Quality) or sourced direct from the farm of the producer’s farm cooperative. If you read our list of ingredients, you will see that only the best quality goes into our sausages. No additives. No chemicals. No added fat. Transparency and quality are the basic principles of our philosophy.

The transport of your products is also an important issue for you. Which logistic challenges did your start-up have to overcome in the initial phase?

Right at the start we transported the Grillidos with the “sausage taxi”. It quickly became clear to us that it wasn’t possible to scale that up! After that we worked with a facility for disabled people in Stuttgart. When it came to supplying food retailers, a friend helped us out - his company was actually handling the logistics for various car manufacturers. Once we were sending out more and more packages and pallets, we switched to the professionals - the Nagel-Group.

What services does the Nagel-Group provide for you?

We have been collaborating with the Nagel-Group now since the beginning of March 2017. At the start, Nagel only took care of our retail food business, as that was where we had the greatest need, before our first “proper” barbecue season. So as a first step, the Nagel-Group took over complete procurement logistics, warehousing, packing, order-picking and delivery for us. Since the beginning of June, Kraftverkehr Nagel in Reichenbach has also taken over complete handling of our online shop orders, as well as despatching packages to business customers, for instance fitness studios or catering businesses.

What do you particularly appreciate about the Nagel-Group as a partner?

Six months after the decision to go with the Nagel-Group, we are sure that we have found a reliable, strong and standardised partner to assist us further in professionalising the whole operational area. On the one hand it’s helpful for us, as a start-up, to be able to orientate ourselves to specified standards, to bring certainty into everyday business operations. On the other, we are nevertheless enthusiastic about the very high degree of flexibility which the Nagel-Group has demonstrated in handling the occasional non-standard order on time.

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