This week on The Average Conservationist Podcast, Marcus sits down with Shannon Waters from Gastro Gnome. The two kick things off catching up on the Western Hunt Expo and the recent BHA Rendezvous. Shannon talks about how the product offerings have changed since their last episode and the process that goes into creating a new meal. The two talk about Gasto Gnome's most recent offering and that is instant coffee that is unlike anything else on the market. Shannon also discusses her love for what she's doing and how she didn't have a backup plan when she started the business two and half years ago. If you haven't already, be sure and pick up one of the many different meals GN has to offer for your next backcountry adventure.
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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the average conservation in this podcast. And I'm your host, Marcus Shing. First off, quick apology, just that I've been MIA for a few weeks. Just had some stuff going on and needed to just take a quick break from the podcast just to get everything lined back up here, get everything back on schedule.
But going forward we'll be back to Your regularly scheduled program, if you will weekly episodes with some great guests coming and to get back into the [00:02:00] swing of things, if you will. Today on the podcast I have Shannon Waters. Shannon is the founder of 2% certified gastro no meals.
Gastro. If you recall I had Shannon and Matthew from from Gastro Noman probably a little over a year ago. And they had recently launched at that time. And since then they have gone through changes, I guess is the right word, but changes in a good way. And by that I mean they have expanded their offerings and really branched out in terms of what's possible for food in the back country.
Most notably just this past week they launched instant coffee which is, I'm not gonna get into the weeds too much on it here. Shannon does a really good job of explaining it in the episode. But just something new, unique and there was nothing else like it in the market, much like all of the meals.
that we've all kind of become accustomed to seeing from Gastro Rome. And [00:03:00] if you have not tried it what are you guys waiting for? Because they're, if you're doing any type of eating in the back country, and hell, it doesn't even have to be the back country. Maybe you just, if you're on an all day, sit in a blind or something and you have the capability to boil some water do yourself a favor again, pick.
Any of the gastro no meals because they're all outstanding. It does not taste like something that should come out of a bag. And I mean that as a huge compliment because it is delicious food. So Shannon and I get to talk about, really the changes over the course of the past year and a half, how they've continued to grow, continued to put new and exciting things into the market possibly where things may be going.
Shannon lets the cat outta the bag on a new product they have coming. I'm not. I'm not gonna put her on blast here. If you catch it throughout the course of the episode then yeah, you know what to expect. But some very cool stuff. Other than that, we really just get to catch up. We saw each other at the Western Hunt Expo back in [00:04:00] February.
We're gonna try to record then. It was just bananas out there and far too busy. To, to sit down and do it. And of course, by the time the end of the day comes everyone is just absolutely exhausted and I didn't want to ask her to have to stay after and sit and talk to me for, for a half hour, 45 minutes or whatever.
So we got a chance to to catch up today and just. Just a really good conversation. I'm really excited to see what they have coming not only in a few weeks to a few months but just, two years from now. Because I think the sky's the limit in terms of what Shannon and the team there are capable of coming out with, and.
I'm just making your backcountry eating experience that much better. So without any further ado, episode 1 43 with Shannon Waters. Enjoy. Before that though, I'm gonna tell you about my friends over at Go Hunt. If you have not signed up to be a Go Hunt insider, now is the perfect time. It's starting to get into the early stages of planning.
Maybe [00:05:00] some in-state or out-of-state hunts. Next year, depending on where you're at now is a great time to sign up to become an insider. You can use code average for that and you're gonna save 20%, I believe that's what it is on a membership there, code average. And yeah, you're gonna get draw odds.
All this historical data to. You make the best decision possible for yourself when it comes to, where you're going to spend your, your week to 10 day vacation, or whatever the case is on outta state hunt. So head over to go hunt.com. All right, Shannon Waters, welcome back to the podcast.
How are. Thanks for having me back. I'm great. How are you? I'm doing good. It was it was nice to catch up for a few minutes before we started recording here. We had the chance to see each other out in Utah, back in, gosh, what, early February. Does that sound about right? . And we were gonna try to record out there, but.
I quickly learned and realized like how bananas that show is. People [00:06:00] had told me oh it's crazy. It's so busy. Wait till Saturday, it's gonna be off the walls. And yeah, like sure enough it was for me to go out there, like it was great to meet a bunch of people who I've only talked to and things like that.
It was great to, to do that and spend some time with my friends from hard side. Yeah, it's just I have to go into that like saying, okay, Shannon, like at Thursday at seven o'clock we're gonna sit down and do this if you can make that work. Let's do that because Yeah, to try to do something throughout the course of the day out there was impossible.
Yeah. We had no idea either. We're like, oh yeah, that sounds like we can step away for the afternoon. I went to the bathroom like one time every day and maybe not even one time every day and we were like working. Constant shifts, and it was like someone was gonna go take a bite of a sandwich, like it was gonna be a bite, and then you had to return.
So yeah, it's, yeah, it was wild. And it's such a, that's what, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, since, a four day show and you're looking at, nine, 10 hours a day, . It's brutal. It was, I've done some trade shows in Michigan and I've done it by [00:07:00] myself and they're not nearly as busy, but it's the same thing.
It's nine or 10 hours. Like I can never leave my booth because I'm there by myself and that kind of thing. So yeah, kudos to you guys for for sticking that out cuz it's a long weekend. For sure. Yeah, we it was the three of us and everyone did great. But as soon as we got home, Matthew didn't come to work for a week and , I think it took me a full week to recover, just to get rest and feel like I'm an ultra introvert.
And to just feel like, wow, I talked to so many people, enough people for me for three years. So it took.
Did you guys drive down for that? Yeah, we did. It wasn't a bad drive. What is that, five or six hours? Yeah. Oh, that's not too bad. Yeah. But to make that drive home Sunday after four days or if you waited till Monday. But either way, that's just one more thing on top of all of it. Yeah, it was something, it was definitely worth it for us to be able to connect with that audience.
, generally speaking, we get [00:08:00] a lot of Montana people in our retail store, so I see them all the time and I get to connect with them at like our local shows, like the BHA Rendezvous and stuff. But I don't see a lot of the Utah folks or a lot of people traveled there from all over the country. So a lot of first timers being exposed to, and that was really great for.
Yeah, it's Salt Lake City. It's pretty, in terms of kind of the West, is to find a centralized meeting point that's probably about the best you're gonna do. Where it's fairly accessible in, half day's drive or a day's drive, depending on what you consider a day's drive.
But to get there. But I noticed that. Was, it was a lot of people from Wyoming, from Colorado that were like making a long weekend of it. They were coming in, they were hitting the show for a few days and then heading back home. Yeah. So you just mentioned B H a Renue. I know you guys just took a part in that last week, and how'd that go?
it was great. Very different vibe for us than the Western Hunter Expo, mostly because a [00:09:00] lot of folks at the b h a know who we are and it was more of reconnecting with our direct community that we have known for a handful of years. That was our third time going to Missoula for that event. So it was more of Hey guys, how are you?
Tell us what's new. Not what is this? I've never heard of this. So a very different type of conversation and more like building our relationships with. Some of the nonprofit chapters that we work with in there and some of the people that we don't get to see that often, but we have had a three year relationship with Really great to be around everybody and talk all things publicly and conservation in a more relaxed vibe than Western Hunter.
Western Hunter was like really ton of people, very aggressive. No one knew who you were, so we were doing a lot of storytelling about who we are and sampling versus the B H A, where everyone's I've tried everything. I love everything . I don't need to sample anything. So more ketchup than sales. Yeah.
And I think that as time goes on, like maintaining those relationships is always key. In terms of your [00:10:00] customer base and that slower base, low key vibe has gotta be a welcome relief for you guys, especially after, almost, you probably feel like for four straight days you're just repeating yourself.
You're having the same conversations over and over again. It just it gets very tire. . Yeah. There's a yes and no to that. Like for me, the story is so integral to my being at this point that I don't mind like saying it over and over again. What's just it's just a different feeling, catching up with someone and not explaining the product, than standing around all day explaining the product.
And a lot of people need the whole background to be able to understand why your food is better. And some people just need one bite. So the just a, like a totally different type of conversation, neither of which I mind. But I wouldn't say that one's more, more like tiring than the other, but it is a lot of storytelling for.
Now would you say, when you're talking to customers who are new to Gastro, who [00:11:00] maybe they've only heard of you guys in passing, or maybe they haven't heard of you guys at all? Like at the at the expo there, Is there do you notice when you're, explaining the story and you know your story and the story of gastro, that at some point you see the light bulb go out in their light bulb go off in their head?
Like where they're like, oh, so this isn't like everything else that I've been eating, right? Or is it. They listen and then they try it and they're like, oh, okay. What is, what does that conversation look like? I think it, it depends on the person and how they approach because you just get different experiences with different people.
Some people will walk up to your booth and be like, so tell me why you're different. And I'm like, . Okay. And if it, if they've got that type of approach, I generally just say we use food. And that usually breaks the ice and they stop, like p. to get me to give them a spiel and then I'll talk with them about the brand story and what we do that's different.
But if it's that kind of approach, I'm like we start with food and that's it. [00:12:00] And that usually gets them to laugh or like at least chill out. And then if it's somebody that , as listening to the story, generally speaking, if they're like acquainted with food, they already get it.
When I say we start with food if it's somebody who hunts a ton and is eating a lot in the back country I'll start asking them about what they normally eat and how that works with their digestion and will go into conversations about that. That, and there's so many reasons that I could go into that Gastro, like solves all the problems.
So it really just depends on the person. And most of the time that light bulb moment occurs within a matter of seconds, whether they're tasting the food or it's like the first thing I say. But the light bulb moment is right when we start talking because our product is so different. I don't really have to sell them on something.
Yeah. And it's funny to me like that you have to kind of preface things or start conversations sometimes saying, yeah, we use food , right? Because if let you know, let's quick role play here, but not actually [00:13:00] I approach you. And I was like, so tell me why this is different than, Joe, you know this brand over here, that brand over there.
And you say, oh, we use food. Like for me, that immediately one puts me in my place. Thank you. The second would be like, what the hell have I been putting in my body for all of these years while I'm out hunting? If I'm, if you're bringing dehydrated food, it's like, Wait a second. So I'm not like, I feel like at that point, like you really have someone's attention because the first time, if you tell someone like we start with food.
I don't know what they start with, or, I do, but it's not food kind of thing. That's such a great approach to it. Yeah. I think , like of course other people are using food in whatever way they come across it. What I like that line is just meant to get a funny reaction out of them.
And also they know what I'm talking about. They're never like, wait, don't they have food in their meals? No one's ever confused by that statement. They like laugh and they're like, I totally get it. Because everybody's using food. But like we literally start with the [00:14:00] raw ingredient. Like I go to the ranch where.
Cows are raised and I go pick up literal food. And it's way bigger than one step of knowing like who a supply chain comes from. Everybody knows where Cisco, like you can see a Cisco truck I like can shake the hand of my rancher. I can go pick the basil if I want to. I have picked our basil before.
So like starting with food means something so much greater to me if we dive into it. But for the average person who's what's different? I'm like, we use food and they think it's funny. They also know the difference. I know other people use food too. It's not like I'm ignorant to the fact that there's actual food in their bags.
It's just a very different approach. And I think also one of the things that, you know, as a, as a user of your product, that is, I don't know if reassuring is the right word. That's, reassuring, comforting. Is like knowing that you are a chef, right? Like you're not just some big company that's just, weighing ingredients or, adding this much of this much of that.
And [00:15:00] then just making sure, like it, it meets the requirements for the bag, sealing it in on down, the assembly line that it goes. I think that there's. There's something to be said for someone who puts a lot of thought and care into, not only the ingredients, but like every meal that you guys offer, like has a purpose.
I know that and we'll get into this here shortly, since the first time we talked, you guys have launched, oh gosh. At least I feel like a handful of new products. , since then. And what is your approach when it comes to, creating a new dish? Creating a new meal, and how do you know if it's one that you guys are, testing and things like that at the store and you go, yeah, this is it, or No, this one probably isn't it for us.
What does that kind of process look like? ? I think when we launched the first five meals, I had no understanding of what our target market was or even what people in the backcountry really wanted. Like I was my target market and I was trying to solve [00:16:00] my eating issues in the backcountry really for myself and like my direct peer group.
So I created a menu. hit all these different notes basically based on flavor profile. And now with a little bit more time behind us, I've used a I, I've used and been able to gather a lot of data points from our customer base as it continues to grow. So when we launched the five, it was like, these are my personal things that I like.
I hope. Wow, I really hope that works. And it did. Luckily a lot of people like what I like, but then when we were crafting a breakfast line, it was like, we need one option that meets this type of palette and one option that meets that type of palette. Like I'm a more sweet than savory person in the morning.
But you ask the next guy and they're more savory than a sweet person. And then thinking about those different types of personas and what they're looking for, like high calorie. protein rich versus lower calorie, really satiating, but not super [00:17:00] protein and calorie rich. So those two meals were designed very purposefully, but then I start with flavor.
Then it's cool, where does my mind go when I think of satiating and warming? And then I start to craft recipes around that thought. And the same thing with the two flavors that we're launching here and a couple. weeks, more like a couple months that kind of happened. The biggest difference at, in year two for us was that I crowdsourced ideas that people wanted to see.
And we've had such an awesome community of eaters who like send us ideas but then are like, Hey, this packaging. This when I have it on my packaging. Do you guys ever consider changing that? So we've taken everything from like recipe ideas to how people like their packaging into consideration for the next flavors.
But yeah, we'll be launching two new ones that are most requested by our people. Now, are those gonna be breakfast or more like your first five? Like more what I would consider like end of the day dinner type. We [00:18:00] have one breakfast and one dinner. Okay. I won't ask anymore cause I know you're not gonna tell me.
Yeah, , we do, we have a Kickstarter that's launching on April 4th. You can either find that on our Instagram or send up for a newsletter and be a part of it. It gets you the first meals, the first round of both meals before anyone else. So check that out. Oh, right on. Yeah. April 4th. It's a good day.
It's my birthday, actually. Wow. Happy birthday and happy kick. Yeah, I'll have to be sure to to give you guys a present on my birthday. Yeah. . It's funny, as you were explaining your thought process for creating a new meal I started to think about, some of the other brands that are out there and how your thought process was, what do I like, or I hope that other people have the same palette or the same, taste buds, whatever that I have. And like you said, like it was a very positive feedback that a lot of people shared that, same sentiment I guess when it came to the foods that you were making. And I almost compare [00:19:00] like everyone else is. , like what? You make your kids for dinner, right?
Like it doesn't have to be like, great, it just has to satisfy the masses. Like mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, right? If you think about like things that you make your kids and it's like you're not eating it because it tastes good, you're eating it. Because one, you can make a lot of it really easily.
It's going to. and it's Yes, it's also cheap. Yeah. But then, when you know mom and dad sit down for dinner, they're like I don't want mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. I want a steak and some asparagus, or, some good pasta or something like that. And it's that's how I look at it, is.
you guys are, you're the adult dinner, right? Like you're the big boy dinner. And I think that, I appreciate that. Yeah. And anyone who's tried it I feel like would, especially if they have kids, like they would certainly echo that same sentiment because yeah, you can put stuff in your body.
Doesn't mean it's gonna make you feel good, doesn't mean it's gonna do what food should do in, and that is fuel you. . Yeah. It's a funny way to think about it for the [00:20:00] adult dinner. Cause I've toyed around with the idea of making a kid's line of food that is just like a more basic meets your needs of satiating calorie rich, but like super palatable for kids.
Like nothing green, nothing like super seasoned . , but I'm not totally sure. I, when I think about cooking for my future family I don't know that I can necessarily dumb down the way that I cook. I don't really have a lot of capability to do that. I don't think about flavors in a way that allows me to do that.
Yeah. But I think that's a good thing. I don't think you should, this is completely unsolicited advice, but I don't think you should necessarily have to. I think that what you do is really good and there's no point. And like you said, dumbing it down or, making it less than what it is, because I think that's what makes gastro so great is that it's high end, it's high quality compared to everything else that's out there.
Yeah. Even when we're developing some of the things that people have requested, which aren't necessarily things that I'm super familiar with making, but they're like really homey [00:21:00] dishes that I've, my background is fine dining, so I definitely haven't made them in the fine dining scene.
And trying to get to know the dishes through, like eating out at restaurants that have them, or asking people to make it for me, the way that their parents made it for them that they love so much, and eating that and trying to grasp the flavor profile that they're after. Even when I go to recreate it, I'm like, oh, it needs a red wine sauce with Rosemary and Black Pepper.
And they're like, A what? . We're just gonna, we're just gonna level up here. We're just gonna make sure that it's the best version of this that you've ever had. It's not. The same one. It's one that you like stop in your tracks and are like, I've never had a better version. Yeah. And it's funny too that it's one, it's gotta be tough, like when you do the crowdsourcing and you're asking for, what would you know, what would you guys like to see as the consumer, as the customer?
And there's certain meals I feel like growing up that are staples. They're regulars in, the household in the rotation for, the week of dinners and things like that, like [00:22:00] spaghetti maybe lasagna, like kind of very comfort food, very at home dishes that you grow up eating and that's all that you know, for the most part.
Yeah. And you think that is just so good, blessed. and then you try something that actually is good and you're like, what was that shit I was eating for 20 years before I moved outta my house? And I've been missing out on this. And it's gotta be tough to, yeah. What you just talked about in leveling up some of these dishes that people want you to try to re.
Yeah. Yeah. It, it's like challenging but not like food is food. Like the reason I make good food is so that people feel good. And understanding like, what about these elements make you feel really good is the first place to start. And then I can tweak it to be a bit more refined. Or maybe just have some more complexity that you didn't expect to show up in the same spot.
So for me it's not necessarily oh, that's [00:23:00] really hard. It's this is an exciting challenge to show you what I'm capable with these same ingredients and the same flavor profiles when like a little bit of extra care goes into it. And then people are like, and this isn't a bag. So I think it's how long is the process for you when you're creating a new dish? How many, and it's probably different for each meal, but how many different iterations, from the, time that, from the inception of the idea, to the point where you and the team are like, okay, this is really good, this is really solid.
Let's really consider putting this in a bag and, pushing it out to the mass. . In the beginning it was definitely harder cuz I was battling, like not knowing anything about the drying processes. Especially like freeze drying. I had no concept of. What that might even entail and what that would do to ingredients and flavor profiles.
But now that I have just a lot more of those ingredients have gone through my, my kitchen now, and I understand how they work, it's a bit more efficient. [00:24:00] But that being said, like the biscuits and gravy had 25 iterations. And. I couldn't even understand what was happening. Oh, I just spilled one, didn't I?
You're smiling over there. You're like, oh, she did it . There, one biscuits and gravy. But I wasn't gonna say anything. I was just gonna let you just breeze right past that. Why are you so happy? But yeah, that, so now that the biscuits and gravy is out there, that one took a really long time mostly because I couldn't figure out like, some textural things that were going on.
And that's such a simple dish that I was definitely like struggling where to find an opportunity to make it richer and better. But once I got what I needed and figured it out it's really amazing. Yeah that certainly took a lot of time. So that probably is like a six to nine month span for Wow.
One of the more challenging recipes, and then maybe closer to four to six for [00:25:00] something that I have a better grasp on. Do you find that, like you just said the biscuits and the gravy it's a more simple meal. Do you find that? The more simple meals are more difficult to get right, let's say, or to perfect as opposed to one, like I think of like the pesto that it just has so many different flavors in it.
That's just it's very complex. Is one more difficult than the other when it comes to getting it right? No, I think it's more like biscuits are such a specific thing that people understand. It's like a very familiar product. And when I'm always trying to answer what people are missing and what is wrong with the current products out there.
And when people really wanted biscuits and gravy, like it, it was there were so many requests for it that it was like impossible to not make it. But I was like, so what do you like? And people gave me examples of things that they thought were, like edible or ones that they currently used or the way they make it at home.
[00:26:00] So when I dove into those things, and they also told me what they didn't like about it. , those are hard to address. The problems that they were having with the existing products were not because the companies like just suck. It was because it's really hard to answer the things like the textural differences that are happening and to actually make a biscuit that rehydrates and is not a hockey puck, like that's gonna take some time or complete mush.
Or complete mush. Figuring out that w took a lot of time. . But yeah, it, I don't know. It's it depends on the ingredients to, to address. Yeah. But no, a more complex flavor isn't easier or less easy than a simple one. The simple ones shock me cause I'm like, I don't know how I'm gonna do this and how to make this more elevated.
But then I tend to figure it. . And that's another one that the biscuits and gravy, and I promise I won't pry anymore after this, that it feels like everyone probably has their own version of what it should taste [00:27:00] like. So trying to come up with a product that you feel like is going to appeal to everyone the most, right?
Like the best version that it can be, but also the best version that it can. that for everyone, not maybe for a smaller demographic or anything like that. Yeah, and we do, we get pretty aggressive with our field testing. I think. We've sent samples to so many people now. I don't really keep track of how many samples we've sent out and The only, we will not stop until the only feedback is this is amazing.
And so that has to meet so many different palates. Like some people, no one had any input on this one, but if someone was like, I wish it had more parsley, like the thing that I'm used to eating always has more parsley. I wouldn't take it into consideration. I'd be like, cool, you're one in a million.
Yeah. Or that's how your mom made it. But if enough people had that, I'd be like, okay, I have to look into why they're saying this and what. That changes about the dish in general. And if I'm comfortable making it my way or if I want to make it the way that most people prefer, [00:28:00] but with the biscuits and gravy this last round that we've been sending out to field testers they're just like, so when can I have it
That's it. , that's a good, that's a good follow up question, right? Yeah. It's that good that yeah, people are like, okay, when can I actually stock up on. Yeah, so you started off with the five main dishes. Where are you guys at now? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. We have six free, nope, I can't even count. 5, 6, 7, 8. We have eight freeze dried meals.
A line of trail mixes, ice cream sandwiches, and instant coffee . , two things. One, the ice cream sandwich was great. I picked one up as a little late night snack as things were winding down on Saturday back at the expo. But the coffee, this is something that you guys just launched last week, and I was super excited when I saw it because obviously we didn't talk about that at all.
I was as surprised as [00:29:00] everyone else . , walk me through that process. Tell me first off, tell the listeners what the product is besides, just coffee. What makes it so unique but then what that process looked like. . Yeah. So our instant coffee is very one of a kind. And we approached it like anything we tried to approach, which is what's missing in the market, what are people upset about, and how can we be a benefit by solving the problem?
So looking at the existing marketplace of what already existed, like everyone's seen the Sache tea sachet styles that you have to dip in your mug and wait for it to steep and then pull it out. Now you have wet trash or you have the little vials that you know, don't make a cup of coffee unless you had two of 'em, and then you have garbage that you're packing out and they taste like an old freezer.
So we were addressing a lot of things between flavor. and use and waste and all of those things came together. It took us about a year to launch the product and we did launch very suddenly and [00:30:00] unexpectedly. I really didn't prepare for it because it just when it came together quickly and we just went for it.
So we launched an instant coffee product that fully dissolves. in the packet that it comes in. So you drop the pouch in hot or cold water, which was another thing we wanted to address. And the whole thing dissolves, and it is by far the best tasting instant coffee on the market. And I have tasted all of them a lot.
And so just the process of refining the flavor and then refining the use and making sure we nailed all the things that were missing in the market to make ours the best. Took a little time. And then once, once we were done, we. So couple follow up there. When it comes to just like your everyday coffee, right?
Like you make cup, you get up in the morning, you make a cup of coffee, what is your process? Are you, do you like the puree? Do you just do like a drip, a pour over, just make a pot of coffee, kind of standard stuff? What is your process? Oh, I am a cappuccino grill. I have an espresso machine and a milk seamer, and.
I'm pretty, pretty [00:31:00] committed to that. But in the backcountry, like I didn't have a solid solution because all of it tasted pretty bad. I knew that I had to do something about it, but in general, I was a, like the little rip and open, pour in and stir and grin and bear person. Okay. And the reason I ask that like if you were, a strict coffee drinker, how you prepared it, because obvious.
There's lots of different ways to, to brew a cup of coffee and everyone has their own preference. I personally like pour over I got turned onto it a few years ago and I will spend the 10 minutes to make it that way in the morning. It's just, especially if you have, good beans, fresh beans that you can grind yourself.
Like I think it's, for me, drinking coffee as much as I do it's just far and away better that way personally, in my opinion. So I was curious as. Depending upon how you drink coffee, you drink espresso or cappuccino, which delicious by the way. I don't drink enough of those because I [00:32:00] feel like it just has me wired for three days.
So how does, how would you say your instant coffee compares to, if I were to just go make a regular cup of coffee here at my house or just the average person? I think the greatest thing about it is it's like unintelligible difference. Like you can't tell the difference between a cup of coffee and our instant cup.
And what was super fun about the B hha is we were debuting our coffee there and we were just giving out mugs of coffee and some people knew about the instant and some people didn't, and. You couldn't tell the difference between our instant and and a regular cup of coffee. And that was pretty cool.
I think that took a lot of dialing in on the flavor profile front to figure out how to make it so it didn't taste like just freezer burn coffee. But I think we achieved it. So I would say if you're drinking drip coffee at home, you're probably not gonna notice the difference between this instant and your drip coffee.
If you're someone like me who's drinking espresso with milk mixed in, like the back [00:33:00] country is just a different place. And I drink black coffee in the back country because that's what I got. I'm not bringing milks anywhere out. . Yeah I'm certainly excited to, to give it a try because yeah. I've had, yeah, some of the other instant coffees out there, and it's one of those things like it fills a need or it fills a void of, having coffee.
That's super easy to make while you're out there. But it's never good. I never enjoy it. Yeah. It's just, it's hot and it has caffeine, right? So check a couple boxes right there, and that's, I like that you took the same approach to coffee that you did to food, right? You want something that you can enjoy because if you wake up and you have a good cup of coffee, like day's a little bit better, right?
Then you wake up and you. , your coffee's just old. It's stale. It doesn't have a lot of flavor to it, and you're just like, ah, shit is terrible, right? Like, why do I continue to drink this? But no I'm certainly excited to to give it a [00:34:00] shot. Now, are you guys like partnering, are you roasting your own beans?
Are you partnering with with a roaster locally there? Yeah, we took the same approach that we take to, like when we're sourcing beef or pork or basil, like we start thinking about the farmer first and what's nearby. We did the same thing with coffee and we're like, okay, what's our favorite coffee?
In this vicinity and who's doing it the absolute best. So we called our friends at Ghosttown which is in Bozeman, and started chatting with them about the concept of it, and they were really into it. And we worked on a really great flavor profile of roasting the beans together. And what we created, I think is amazing.
So yeah we did the same thing. We kept it super local and worked with the best product we could get our hands. Yeah. What flavor profile would you say the coffee has? Or like what tasting notes , would you say it has without sounding too pretentious here? Yeah. It's funny cuz when I, like all of our meals have tasting notes underneath them on our website and I was like, I really don't wanna do this.
It's , it is a [00:35:00] little bit pretentious for what's happening, but if you have to if you're gonna sit there and you're gonna evaluate it, it's like a little bit nutty, sort of chocolatey rich. Say no more. Yeah. It's pretty intense, flavorful, and and it smells great. But that's how I think coffee should be like personally that, that, that's how I like something, not necessarily this super dark roast, but like something that's just.
It just, you take a drink and you're like, yeah, that's coffee, right? Like sometimes you just, you take a drink and you're like, yeah that's what it should taste like. And yeah. No, that's, that, that's super exciting. And I it seems like as time goes on and it'll be one of my questions here in a second, but you guys are just really expanding your offerings and really rounding out.
Anything that someone going into the back country for whatever reason, may want and or need when it comes to, when it comes to their food. Yeah. And when I, like when I started the business, I was, it's gastro meals technically rather than gastro. [00:36:00] and I was like, is this too narrow for what I'm trying to do?
And I didn't know the answer at the time cause I was like, I think I'm only gonna make meals. So it's gastro no meals. Now everybody just calls it gastro, which is great because we don't just make meals anymore. We make coffee, we make trail mix. Like we ha we're doing all sorts of things that aren't meals.
And when I think about what our mission is, it has nothing to do with Solid little meal corner. I always said we want to change what's possible for flavor and quality in the back country. And with that our options are like, Endless. Like I, I will never stop thinking about the needs in the backcountry of people when, like maybe people are obsessed with tea in the backcountry, which I'm pretty sure is not a thing.
But if that was a thing, then we would be going there and we would be trying to figure out how to make the best of that. So as long as there's improvements to be made in flavor and quality in the back country, whether that's drinking or eating, whatever people are doing with it, I'm always gonna, I'm always gonna keep diving into.
Yeah. [00:37:00] Did you think when you started the business that you would be where you're at now? Did you think things would snowball? I think in the back of our mind, anyone who's starting a business and is, really, truly passionate about it, like they have the, the picture like, man, this could be huge.
Like this is gonna be, you have all the positive kind of imagery of where things are gonna be, five years down the line, 10 years down the line, whatever the case is. Did you expect to be where you're at, I guess this quickly and for, consumers and people, not just, hunters but backpackers, whether you're going on back, back country fishing trips or you're just going out camping and you want to take minimal amount of food with you.
Did you see it getting to this point this quickly? No, I really didn't have a concept for what was gonna happen and I purposefully didn't plan. Like I didn't have a five year plan or a 10 year plan or any of that cuz I didn't even know if it was going to work. I didn't know if what I was making mattered to anybody, so I really just didn't plan for the future.
I planned for the moment and. . If the proof of concept, like a year of trying to run this [00:38:00] business was functional, then I would carry it forward. And every year it's just okay, this is still working, and how do we grow and plan for the next year in a way that's sustainable and makes sense for us?
So no I don't think I had a concept for what it would be like now, and we're only two and a half years in. . I'm certainly happy with where it's gotten, but I didn't honestly think it would last more than a year. I was like, I'm gonna run out of money and everyone's gonna hate this and I don't even know what I'm doing.
And as, as we continued to grow, I found out that I could teach myself a lot and everybody liked it it was, yeah. It was a shot in the dark and it seems to be working. Yeah. It's funny taking I don't even wanna say non-traditional approach because a lot of times you see some of these businesses, they're like, oh, my five year plan is X.
My 10 year plan is y. And they're. They I realize you have to have, goals to some degree, right? You could, you know whether it's, okay, we're gonna launch the business and the first thing we're gonna do is we're gonna develop, five meals and then we're gonna put those to market.
You do all the necessary testing and you take the necessary [00:39:00] steps along the way. But then you say, okay, we're gonna get to that point. We're gonna see how it goes, we're gonna see how it's received, and then we're gonna reevaluate. Do we put out, now you transitioned into some breakfast options, you've got the ice cream sandwiches, some more options coming.
Yeah. You just launched the coffee. So it's I, me personally, like looking at it and hearing, and just knowing what I know about gastro your story, the story of the company more or. I think that's almost a perfect way to, to approach it, right? Because you have to stay nimble, stay agile, have the ability to, adjust on the fly or, pivot, when you need to, okay, now we're gonna offer breakfast and now we're gonna offer coffee and just making sure that you can always.
Kind of fill that next void that's out there when it comes to, like you said, good food in the back country? Yeah. Yeah. I guess it, it depends on what a traditional approach to a business is. In my former life, in my former business I would open restaurants and [00:40:00] bars for people, and part of that was always having a very solid business plan with a five year plan.
And a lot of benchmark goals along the way that I would present to them. . And when it came to my business, I was like, absolutely not. I'm not doing any of that . Like I don't wanna be boxed in by whatever that says. And I also I didn't want to see the numbers. If I saw the numbers, I wouldn't have done it.
Yeah. And that's just the truth. And if someone had told me at two years this is what it would look like, I wouldn't do it. So I knew that I probably couldn't pencil it all out and it would work. And if I saw the numbers, I would be so discouraged that I would have no business being in it. But I think that helped me get through it because every, every month I'm not like ignoring our finances.
I'm looking at them pretty meticulously every month and making sure that we're good. But if someone told me these were the numbers, I just wouldn't, I wouldn. Gotten as far as I've gotten, I would've turned back. So I think I did it very [00:41:00] purposefully to not discourage myself in any way and to just grind through it until it looks different.
Do you think that approach with, if someone would've told you, three years ago, this is where you'll, where you will be in two and a half years, that you probably wouldn't have done it. Do you think that's just because you have so much skin in the game at this point that, and you're so passionate about that you.
It's maybe not where a traditional five year plan should say I should be, but I'm happy with where we're at. We're continuing to grow, we're continuing to launch great products. Like we're we're building steam. Like you're gaining momentum. It just might not be at the pace that maybe you would've presented, in your previous line of work.
Yeah. No I think if I presented somebody a business plan in my previous line of work and was like, you won't make money for this amount of years, and you don't really need a plan to get there it just wouldn't have worked. Like I had very clear plans on how to get there. But it's not that like I have too much skin in the game now to turn back.
It's , this was in my d n a to do this, and there was going to be nothing that stopped [00:42:00] me. And if I had a bunch of reasons not to, and was like looking at the numbers and thinking about all the things I'd have to sell or give up to be able to make the business function it would've just hurt more.
But now, no, there, I can't do something else. It's inside me to be able to do this, and I won't stop until. , I just won't stop. So it's hard to answer that. Like it's not about the money for me. It's something that I'm so driven to do for reasons I can't put a finger on. Like that business is my home.
It's where I go to feel like I'm at home and everything that we're doing feels like a part of me. I don't know. I don't know what the money would have to say for me not to do it. It would be really hard. Yeah. No I completely understand what you're saying and what your mindset is there.
If a lot of times people will say when, I don't know, it might have been like Gary B or someone out there on Instagram or social media or something that I'm gonna butcher the [00:43:00] quote, but it's if you go into a project or a business and you have a plan B, you've already. Kind of thing.
Yeah, and that kind of seems I don't wanna say that was your approach, but it seems like that was your mindset, right? Like you were determined and you were passionate, so you're like, I'm going to make this work. And Yeah, just by what you said and you know how it's just, it's in you, like that's part of your life now.
Like I can totally see where that seems like it was your mindset, like I'm, we're gonna do this and it's gonna. Yeah, and in the beginning, like it it still is just me. I'm the only owner, but there's only three of us total and one of 'em still part-time. . In the beginning it was definitely very much just me and all of the financing has come from me and a home that I sold and a business that I sold to make it all work.
And when it comes down to it, like there is no fail for me, it is not gonna happen. And so yeah, having a plan B what's that gonna do? Give me an out I don't need an out. I, this is my out, this is the only thing that needs to work. Yeah, that's just my, [00:44:00] I love that. Yeah. I love that, that there there is no out, this is my out no.
Yeah. I like that. Shit. Before I let you get outta here just a few more questions for you. Knowing what you mentioned about y the planning or the forecasting of the future. Do you have a big picture and this, that you might not even be thinking about it, but five years from now, you're at this point you're knocking on the door of 10, 10 years of producing, amazing quality meals.
Do you have this idea in mind of, okay, we're gonna have, let's just throw you. make believe numbers. Like we're gonna have 10 breakfast options. We're gonna have, 20 different dinner options. We're gonna have, the trail mix you're gonna have, maybe you have different dessert options besides the ice cream sandwich, now you have coffee, you have cappuccino, you have all of these things.
Do you have this idea of what maybe this business is capable of or what you and the team are capable of being able to produce as time goes? . When I think about our [00:45:00] expansion, I don't think about a never ending role of menu items. When I think about expansion, it's more of what are our production capabilities in this moment?
We constantly sell out. And every year that we've been open, we've sold out. So when I think about expanding, it's not oh, endless series of flavor launches. It's okay, expanding means expanding our production capabilities and That's not in our immediate future because we have a five year lease on the space that I'm at, and I wanna live that out and do everything that we're capable of doing in our current kitchen.
But I'll continue to push the limits on what we're. capable of doing within those bounds. And then after that, I'm not sure we have had conversations about it at work what would this look like and what would that type of expansion look like and what would we need to get there? And for me it's, like what we're doing is working and is really good.
I don't know that I need to expand to the levels that maybe demand would ask us to, but you never know. So far it's been self-funded [00:46:00] and some bigger leaps would require further funding, and I like it being my business that no one else has a say in. I'm not sure. I'm not sure that we know what expansion looks like in the future, but I do know that I want it to be bigger, and I do know that I probably won't ever stop making it bigger and better I can't answer it now, but I bet if we have this conversation in five years, we won't be sitting in the same kitchen and it'll be a very different thing.
Yeah. I'm certainly excited for that time and to continue to watch gastro meals. Meals grow. Yeah. , yeah. Meals grow because it's been really cool. From the first time that I spoke with you and Matthew, gosh, probably over a year ago, I would say at this point, to see where you're at now and to see how well it's just been received through people that I know, through people that, on social media and things like that, and how everyone just, rants and raises about how great it is.
I remember we, before we recorded the first podcast, [00:47:00] you made me do homework. If you recall you sent me a bag of the sausage rigatoni and you sent me a bag of competitor X. And you're like, just. Eat both before we record, eat both, and then it'll give you everything that we'll talk about will make complete sense.
And, from that first bite I was I just remember thinking like, oh my God, how is this in a bag that I just boiled water and poured on top of stirred, let it sit and then just dove in like it was. You guys are doing a great job. I'll, I guess that's the easiest way to put it. Thanks. Yeah, I appreciate it.
And I appreciate you taking kindly to my rather aggressive marketing moves, but Yeah, I, yeah I appreciate that and it's great to have these relationships as the years go on. And as you've get gotten to know Matthew, who's one of three people that works at Gastro and just seeing what he's capable of as well, and it's just been very cool to build it and make friends along the way [00:48:00] that get to see.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Real quick, Shannon, where can, if people are listening to this and it's the first time they're hearing about gastro a shame on you, but b, where can they where can they, find gastro Noma and where can they pick up some some of your meals? We sell on our website, gastro meals.com, and we have a retail store in Bozeman.
You can look that up on Google and come visit us. We're open Monday through Friday, and those are your two ways to get it. Perfect. Oh, and you can follow us on Instagram. That's where we'll launch like flavor announcements. Sometimes we have like secret menu items that are going around. Any product launches happen there, some interesting news happens there.
Give giveaways, stuff like that. So Instagram is gastro meals as well. Perfect. Shannon, thank you again for taking some time this evening. It was great catching up. And look forward to doing this again and hopefully not five years, hopefully before then. But we can talk about all the great things that you guys have done from this point.
Cool. Thanks for having me. All right. Take care. All right, thank you again to Shannon for taking some [00:49:00] time to join me today. I would also like to thank the partners of the podcast, hard Side Hydration, stone Glacier Go Hunt, and as always, 2% for conservation. And if you're interested in learning more about 2% for conservation, you can visit their website, fish and wildlife.org, and over there you're gonna see all the certified brands that have committed to conservation that you should support when you shop.
I also encourage you guys to give 2% of follow on social media where it's gonna be. Positive conservation driven content landing in your feeds there. So something that you'll certainly enjoy. So again, if you'd like to learn more about 2% for conservation, you can look for them online, on social media firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for joining me this week, everyone. Sorry again for the couple week hiatus there. But as I mentioned, we'll be back on track every week going forward. Until next week. Remember, stay safe out there and conservation starts with you.