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Christine Mei of Gathered Foods: “Trust and respect are earned”

Trust and respect are earned. If lost, it is hard, sometimes even impossible, to fully reclaim. Do what you say you are going to do — each and every time. Your reputation — personal and professional — depends on this. Act with integrity, deliver on your commitments, be transparent, communicate clearly and often. Don’t spring on surprises — and if you have one, notify […]

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Trust and respect are earned. If lost, it is hard, sometimes even impossible, to fully reclaim.

Do what you say you are going to do — each and every time. Your reputation — personal and professional — depends on this. Act with integrity, deliver on your commitments, be transparent, communicate clearly and often. Don’t spring on surprises — and if you have one, notify your team as soon as you can. Furthermore, as I tell my children, be willing to work hard. Deliver nothing short of high quality and be willing to go above and beyond to achieve. These are not empty words — these will earn trust and respect. In the event that you do choose to fall short on any of these, there are always consequences — intended and unintended.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Mei.

Christine Mei is the CEO of Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch®, a chef-driven revolutionary food company developing flavorful, 100% plant-based seafood alternatives. A global leader with over 30 years of CPG industry experience, Christinehas enjoyed assignments living in the US, China, and Hong Kong and held various leadership positions at companies including Beiersdorf, Royal Philips, The Coca-Cola Company, The Dow Chemical Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve had a rewarding career with some amazing multinational companies, including Beiersdorf, Royal Philips, The Coca-Cola Company, The Dow Chemical Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble, and experienced countless adventures living and traveling across the globe. As a global senior business leader, I have enjoyed general management roles and held functional leadership positions in marketing, strategy, sales, and operations It has been my pleasure and privilege to manage teams around the world in developed, developing, and emerging countries — crafting multi-year strategies and establishing operational processes to catalyze accelerated growth, even in volatile conditions. I love to inspire, pioneer, and deliver change — always as a passionately committed team player.

Deciding to migrate from a corporate environment to an entrepreneurial ecosystem was a purposeful journey. I knew I’d stay in consumer goods and that I wanted to focus on health & wellness, tapping into food or beverage. I also really wanted to partner with a founder to help scale a brand onto its next curve of growth. While I acknowledge these were tight parameters, they were nevertheless my goals.

Enter Chris Kerr, the co-founder and CEO of Gathered Foods, and a charismatic, committed visionary. After meeting him and the team, I was wowed. The Good Catch brand’s potential really checked all the boxes and more for me. It was important to find a challenge where I could “have fun” while “paying it forward” and a sustainably sound brand looking out for the health of our world is the way I can do just that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in a disruptive industry that doesn’t quite have its playbook yet, which creates endless opportunities for our brand to be creative, innovative and a leader in the plant-based seafood space.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Good Catch is a chef-driven brand developing flavorful, 100% plant-based seafood alternatives, which offer the taste, texture, nutrition, and experience of seafood without harming the environment. We are on a mission to raise consciousness, reduce harm, and preserve environmental resources, all while delivering a great culinary experience. We broke new ground in the plant-based seafood world by creating the flaky texture of seafood and fresh taste of the ocean that is packed with protein and dose of vegan sourced DHA. The only truly sustainable seafood is seafood that allows fish to remain in the ocean. It is abundantly clear that we needed a new approach to seafood. With over 200–300 offerings of seafood being consumed across the globe, our team has a wide net to be creative and culinary-driven to deliver great-tasting plant-based foods for everyone, from vegan to omnivore and everything in between.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a young process engineer working in a manufacturing facility, we were required to wear protective equipment like hairnets, steel-toed shoes and clothes which were pragmatic for a plant environment. After having been onboarded for a few months, we had a department offsite including all managers and technicians. I couldn’t figure out why one individual appeared so familiar in mannerism but I wasn’t able to place him until he started talking. On a day-to-day basis, I saw only this man’s white sideburns poking out of his hairnet and most of his face was obscured by a beard net, which led me to believe that he also had a head of white hair and a white beard. Nope! The man, Bobby, actually had brown hair, brown beard and that day was dressed in business casual clothes. I hadn’t recognized him! With a sparkle in his eye, he started to talk to me and saw my dawn of realization at the sound of his voice as I exclaimed, “Ah, it’s you, Bobby!”

Even with things directly in front of us, we still as human beings make assumptions, drawing conclusions or making contextual guesses, when we don’t see the full picture. Sometimes things aren’t always as they seem. When it comes to people specifically, look beyond what you see and listen with all of your senses.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

What a fabulous question — and an important one. I am so grateful to have had the great fortune of having several special mentors along my career journey. They have all honestly made such a deep impact on me with every seminal moment. Because of them, I have made an equal and positive commitment to pay those effects forward.

I have been a working mother for the better part of my career. For me, along with that came the highly discussed “mommy guilt” of balancing time at work and time with children. One of my most impactful moments with a mentor helped give me a fresh perspective and quell my stress. I have kept in touch with my very first boss and in a conversation with him, long after I had left that company and cycled through many roles and geographies, I told him that I still felt the pangs of whether or not I was making the right choice to work versus staying home with my kids. His response still stays with me. He said, “What is most important is what your children see. They learn by watching you — how you carry yourself, how you treat others, how you manage stress. You are their role model. Whether you are balancing chores at home or addressing a contentious situation at work, they are watching how you manage your own behavior. Focus on that, as this is a timeless gift that you will leave as a legacy to them, stamped with your imprint no matter if you are at home or at work.”

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I am so energized about the tremendous potential for Gathered Foods. In fact, our brand Good Catch is on a trajectory of positive disruption. It’s both humbling and exhilarating to be able to amplify social impact through purposeful innovation in the plant-based seafood space. This playbook is yet to be written. That is completely compelling and totally appealing! Why? Positive disruption, positive impact, positive momentum. My message is that having the courage to disrupt for positive change is the differentiating catalyst here. 4 out of every 10 pounds of animal products consumed are fish. In fact, fish are the largest class of farmed animals globally. Good Catch offers the same texture, flavor, and nutritional value as conventional seafood, without the environmental impact. Our products are completely plant-based, free of dairy, GMOs, mercury and are safe and enjoyable for those with shellfish allergies. Good Catch products aren’t just for consumers whose dietary restrictions require them to seek alternatives, as 1 in 8 consumers will replace some, or all, meat with plant-based foods within the next year and nearly all of those who purchased plant-based meat also bought regular meat. The point here is to invite exploration into alternative proteins. To create a platform for dialogue and education. To surprise and delight with a delicious, craveable food which offers taste, texture, and comparable protein. In short, disrupting with a positive solution.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Trust and respect are earned. If lost, it is hard, sometimes even impossible, to fully reclaim.

Do what you say you are going to do — each and every time. Your reputation — personal and professional — depends on this. Act with integrity, deliver on your commitments, be transparent, communicate clearly and often. Don’t spring on surprises — and if you have one, notify your team as soon as you can. Furthermore, as I tell my children, be willing to work hard. Deliver nothing short of high quality and be willing to go above and beyond to achieve. These are not empty words — these will earn trust and respect. In the event that you do choose to fall short on any of these, there are always consequences — intended and unintended.

Don’t compromise on what is important to you.

If you have the luxury to choose, don’t compromise on what is important to you. Remember that you are worthy! Whether it is that next job or that next personal passion, remaining faithful to your priorities is key to enduring success, inner peace and sustained focus. It is no secret that my family is the singular most important priority for me. Nothing comes ahead of them, I do not compromise. Knowing clearly where I draw the line on what I will and will not do brings amazing clarity. It may close some doors, but it will open others and at the very least some windows! Have I made professional sacrifices because of personal priorities? Yes. Do I have regrets? No. Instead, I have embraced a professional journey that I would have never been able to map and would not trade. And, for all of that, I now sit in my dream job with an amazing team, charged with positively disrupting an industry which will enable our living oceans to thrive.

Team up to win.

You team up to win but you lose separately. There is not one instance in my career where I have seen a downside to genuine teamwork. It is about understanding clear roles and responsibilities, the respective fulcrums of strength, and the willingness to rise out of the silos and reach across to join hands to achieve a common objective. It doesn’t mean that we have to agree with each other all the time or that there isn’t creative tension. It does mean trust, respect, transparency, communication, courage, and compassion. There is undeniable strength and joy which cements the bond of a healthy team.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I can say with humble confidence that I am where I want to be. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the Gathered Foods Family — having fun, while doing good! I am teamed up to win with an amazing group of people. Together, we are focused on propelling change through craveable plant-based foods so that all beings and our planet can thrive. At Gathered Foods, we have an end to end value chain ready to be a leader in the plant-based food industry — — from innovation, to manufacturing, to marketing to sales — all anchored by the creative standard of culinary excellence. I am equally as excited as you to learn what I will do next. It will be meaningful and fun, for sure — but I’m focused on finishing this playbook first!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter is a favorite business fable I have shared throughout the years with my teams. I use it to catalyze discussion and provoke reflection. I also value it for dimensionalizing that people think, act, and react differently to the same information or problem. As leaders, we need to take the time to understand that and have the commitment to embrace that. How can you set up for success under the stress and uncertainty of rapid change? My personal belief is that change will always happen. It’s how you handle that change — for your people and for your business — which will differentiate you as a valued leader.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My leadership legacy statement (I invite anyone at any level to tell me if I’m not living it) is,

“Listen, learn, and connect with your heart…only then can you lead with authentic passion.”

I am completely convinced that we must lead as people and connect as human beings. Leaders need to be curious and respectful, suppressing the immediate impulse to jump in with our own action plan or solution. In these situations, I remember to take a breath to not lose the insights that can make a difference.

This quote also reminds me to lead with passion — to be bold, but humble and have conviction, commitment, consistency and compassion. With this, you can create unwavering trust. As a leader, I find it impactful to listen, learn and truly connect with my whole team, bridging the “powerpoint” to execution or diffusing the tension of competing metrics. Why? We win together, but lose separately.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I came across this inspirational quote online and copied it into my phone. I carry it with me and share it with others: “Choose Joy! Don’t wait for things to get easier, simpler, better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy right now. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time.”

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find more about Good Catch and the work we are doing on www.GoodCatchFoods.com and on our social media channels @GoodCatchFoods.

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