Getting To Know You: Cat Gazzoli, founder, Piccolo


Cat Gazzoli tells us what the inspiration was to start Piccolo, one of the fastest growing premium baby and toddler food brands in the UK.

What do you currently do at Piccolo?

I founded Piccolo, one of the UK’s fastest growing premium baby and toddler food brands, in 2016, which was built on an ethos of and responsibility to give back.

I started Piccolo as I wanted to build a business that was both commercially successful and impactful on the social side.  It’s been really well-received and Piccolo has gone from launching in one retailer to being available across all major retailers and increasingly abroad.

We support local families with charitable activity for every purchase of any Piccolo product. We offer a helping hand and partner with charities like Little Village and City Harvest that support local families with baby essentials, and provide our baby food for little ones in need, respectively. I think parents have really appreciated the giving back to the community aspect of the company too. I hope we inspire other businesses to be brave, take a risk, and ultimately make a difference to those who need it most.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I began my career with the United Nations food agencies and then became the CEO of Slow Food UK, the global campaigning organisation for fair food. I’ve always been passionate about the ways healthy, nutritious food can empower families and communities, and I founded Piccolo as part of my belief in good, sustainable food for all.

When my daughter, Juliet, was born, I noticed a gap in the market. I wanted to feed her a diet that paid homage to my Mediterranean roots, with a healthy combination of organic fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates, while encouraging Juliet to get used to a range of different flavours.

I wanted Juliet to have a love of healthy food from the get-go, so started experimenting with baby-friendly recipes at home, but when I went out, couldn’t find a single product that I thought was right. I wanted to provide an opportunity for parents to connect with provenance from family farm to family table, with a brand with strong ethics on the sourcing side as well as on the charitable side.

Who do you admire?

I would have to say my mentors. I faced a real challenge getting used to the world of supermarkets and my mentor, Prue Leith, has been there for me every step of the way. I also wanted to make a difference in sustainability and my other mentor, Jonathon Porritt, has been pivotal in supporting me to take Piccolo to the next level in sustainability initiatives.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have done it sooner; I wouldn’t have listened to the people saying I couldn’t do it, or doubted my ability to move from the non-profit sector to leading a company.

I feel having two mentors who aided me in the transition from the world of non-profit to business with commercial success has made me particularly passionate about mentorship.

What defines your way of doing business?

One of the issues I’m most passionate about is the tragic rise of families without necessary provisions. As consumers, we all want to do more to help those in need, but often don’t have the knowhow, or indeed time, to make a practical difference.   Most businesses are now acutely aware of the importance of having an ethical arm to their business, but don’t necessarily manage it in the most effective way for their own company.

Initiatives that Piccolo takes are compelling to consumers who can make a simple choice at the supermarket till and effect a small change for another family, and as a result, have a positive impact on society.  In these busy and uncertain times, surely it’s the role of businesses to take on the mantle of helping those who need it the most – and making it easy for consumers to get involved too.

I strongly believe that businesses – no matter if a huge multinational corporation or a tiny kitchen table start up like Piccolo was just two years ago – all have a duty to help.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

I really believe in mentors and not being afraid to ask for help or say you don’t know something. It’s impossible to have every skill for a business; what’s critical is knowing and acknowledging you cannot be everything to your business.

Having a mentor to work through your strengths and weaknesses is paramount. I would advise sharing your idea with someone who you think will help you get on your new pathway and be supportive of the new business idea. Sometimes it really is about having someone else to bounce ideas off who has done it themselves and help you find your way. I would say that Prue and Jonathon were very much there for me in that regard.