Exeleon Magazine

Matthieu Kohlmeyer: Disrupting the F&B Industry

Matthieu Kohlmeyer_Exeleon Magazine

It is said that vision is not just a picture of what could be; rather it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.

When Matthieu Kohlmeyer set out from France to Northern California, he had a vision to build a company from scratch. That vision led to the formation of La Tourangelle, a company producing specialty artisan oils that are natural and organic.

Two decades later, La Tourangelle stands out as a premier brand selling over 24 million bottles last year in the US with over 25,000 stores nationwide.

Exeleon proudly interviews the Matthieu Kohlmeyer on his incredible journey and dives into how more F&B brands can follow suit and apply sustainable methods in their business operations.

What according to you makes one an influential leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

Influential leaders are driven by purpose. They decide to take action to make a difference and create solutions. The problems they are trying to solve can be small and local or large and global, no matter, their energy will create a movement. This positive flywheel is beautiful to witness and so inspiring. I thrive to lead my business with passion and storytelling. By clearly articulating the “why” of our action and by sharing how we help make a difference, my goal is to make what we do less about work and more about mission.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader that you can remember?

I grew up in Paris metro, France. Culture and travel were my main hobbies. Art exhibits, cultural events, and history is an endless source of inspiration and discovery in Paris. I feel that my youth was not spent leading but exploring through culture and arts but also travel. Travel included adventure- hitchhiking, train riding, meeting lots of folks, and learning. After I finished high school, it became clear that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The fact that I started my first business 9,000 miles away from my hometown is rooted in my passion for discovery.

What was the idea that led to the formation of La Tourangelle? How has the company changed the artisan oil market?

It all started with my desire for entrepreneurship and adventure. I was casually engaged in various projects but once in business school, I discovered the CPG space through an internship at Unilever. As I was getting ready to travel across North America ahead of a semester at the MBA of University Laval in Canada, my father mentioned to me that one of his California-based nut oil suppliers had expressed interest in making French-style nut oils locally. I spent the summer researching the opportunity and then followed on to write La Tourangelle’s business plan while finishing my graduate degree. The supplier was convinced and offered to fund the venture. I ended up graduating and starting the business right out of school. Since then, La Tourangelle has grown to bottle and sell over 24 million bottles last year in the US alone. We have elevated the specialty oils category and made high-quality specialty oils available to most by gaining distribution in over 40% of supermarkets in America.

How is the company helping make a big impact on tackling climate crisis? Why is it an important subject for you?

La Tourangelle is making good food. We believe that good food has to be good for the table, the community, and the planet. Agriculture and food are both major sources of global warming emissions AND a potential solution to global warming. By promoting regenerative agriculture and healthy soil build-up at scale, our agri-food system has the potential to sequester huge amounts of CO2. Simply detailed, regenerative farming is a holistic practice of land management that employs techniques such as crop rotation, cover cropping, composting, animal pasturing, and a complete absence of tilling to combat climate change by capturing carbon in the soil while producing nutritionally dense crops. In essence, La Tourangelle could go from being a massive emitter to a massive sequester. This solution is not well understood by consumers. We believe that consumers want to make the right thing and that we can lean on their power to help farmers make the change. Oilseeds farming represents 100 million acres in the USA alone. This is a huge area of opportunity.

As the CEO and Founder, what role does Matthieu Kohlmeyer play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

La Tourangelle has around 150 employees between California and France. I’m very involved in the day-to-day operations and actively lead our growth and initiatives. We have built a very strong team. I essentially split my time between supporting and coordinating our existing business, promoting innovation and internal entrepreneurship, and making a point to carve out time to meet new people and advise external projects to constantly enrich my vision and learn from others.

What is the process followed by the company to ensure optimal quality and results in its production?

Being a food business, quality is critical. We are IFS and BRC certified and a firm believer in lean manufacturing. Quality is also offering the best food products leaning on our commitment to table, community, and planet. This constant search for better opens lots of opportunities and forces us to rethink how we operate.

What are the changes that F&B companies should be making to reduce their environmental impact?

F&B companies hold a lot of power. They have the power to promote attributes and should leverage their strengths to promote better farming, better nutrition, and better packaging. It is my belief that F&B companies have a huge responsibility to make better choices and support initiatives that will have a massive environmental impact. The winners of tomorrow will be the ones that embrace their power and responsibility.

What is your vision with the brand? What does the future look like for La Tourangelle?

La Tourangelle is 20 years old but still a quickly growing company. I believe that we will double the size of our business in the next few years by continuing to expand our leadership in the premium oil market, by expanding into adjacent categories (nut butters, condiments, and dressings) and all this by leaning on our commitment to make delicious, healthy & sustainable food products.

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Visit La Tourangelle’s Website.

 

Ashley Haywood

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