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OC500 2022 – HOSPITALITY/FOOD: JESSE MERRILL

CO-FOUNDER, CEO, GOOD CULTURE, IRVINE

Organic dairy brand that’s leading the comeback of cottage cheese. Company offers a variety of multi-serve and single-serve cottage cheese products, as well as sour cream. While it operates out of a small office space in Irvine’s Eureka Building, its products line the shelves of over 10,000 stores, including Whole Foods and Target.

THEN: Founded in 2015. The idea for Good Culture was born after Merrill was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory disease with no known cure. This prompted a complete overhaul of his diet; for three years, he ate nothing but fermented foods, organic meat, fruits and vegetables—and cultured dairy.

NOW: Firm has experienced “explosive growth,” with a 79% compounded annual growth rate, and $70M in sales for 2021, officials say. That growth stands as an anomaly, as the country’s cottage cheese industry has seen declining sales as customers have gravitated more toward Greek yogurt offerings in recent years, according to industry reports. In February, the company secured $64M in a Series C funding round led by Colorado-based investment firm Manna Tree and Pennsylvania-based food investor Semcap Food & Nutrition.

FUTURE: On track to reach $100M this year, according to Merrill. “Good Culture is the biggest contributor to cottage cheese growth in the U.S.,” Merrill told the Business Journal. “We expect a growth rate well into the double digits for the upcoming years.”

IN THEIR WORDS: “Cottage cheese was an overlooked superfood with more protein and less sugar than yogurt, but it lacked relevant innovation and brand appeal,” Merrill said.

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