An Interview With Our CEO
It Takes a Team
Charcutnuvo is a team effort. We work with U.S. ranchers to bring us the best quality all natural, organic, antibiotic and hormone free meats on the market. We then partner with select retailers and distributors to bring quality organic sausages to your table. The sausage making is our part of the puzzle and that too is a team effort. We have men and women dedicated to bringing you hormone free sausages and everyone does their part.
It Takes a Leader
At the head of our Charcutnuvo team is our owner and CEO Eric Gutknecht. Eric is a fourth-generation sausage maker. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Eric immigrated to the US at the age of three. The family settled in Denver, Colorado and Continental Sausage was born. In 2003 Eric and his wife Jessica purchased the company from his parents and began to make it their own. Eric honors his family’s European sausage-making heritage while bringing a fresh take with organic and all natural quality ingredients to the process. This pivot toward organic ingredients put his mark on the product. Charcutnuvo was born out of this fusion of tradition and intense attention to detail.
We don’t want you to take our word for it. You can hear directly from Eric about his commitment to quality. Here are excerpts from a recent conversation we had with him on building a company dedicated to bringing customers the best quality sausage in the market.
What does it mean to be a fourth generation sausage maker? What prompted you to take over the family business?
Eric: It feels good to continue on the family tradition, especially since all of the family businesses in Switzerland have either sold or closed. Charcutnuvo is now the only brand continuing the family legacy.
Growing up in the business, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Starting to work at age eight I learned to appreciate the value of a dollar. I saved up and purchased my first bike in middle school and funded my love for skiing through high school and college. In high school, I would earn money by purchasing candy and snacks and then sell them for profit on the ski train or ski bus every weekend. I’ve always loved business and knew I’d be in business for myself some day….it just so happens that I also loved my time at Continental Sausage, and when my father got sick, I decided instead of going to business school I’d come back into the business to figure out if it made sense for me to eventually purchase it.
What is the evolution of Continental Sausage to Charcutnuvo? What does Charcutnuvo mean?
Eric: As we expanded nationally with Whole Foods, we ran into some potential trademark issues and decided that changing our name made sense. Since many of our long term customers considered us to be at the front end of the charcuterie movement, we took charcut from “charcuterie” and “nuvo” as a clever way of spelling the French word for new, nouveau.
On Quality Ingredients
Why did you transition to a product with clean ingredients when you took over the company? Why didn’t you just continue to do things the way they had been done in the past?
Eric: I learned about the harmful effects of antibiotics and hormones through ranch visits and getting to know folks in the natural space. I met Bill Niman, the founder of Niman Ranch, and spent some time with him and his family on his ranch in Bolinas, CA. He helped me understand the importance of natural meat sourcing.
We had our first child, Alex, in 2002, and did not want to feed him any products that could potentially be harmful to him in the future. When we purchased the company a year later in 2003 we switched some things around. We committed to never, ever using antibiotics or hormones and removed the nitrites from all of our sausages.
On Animal Welfare
Animal welfare is obviously a hot topic in conversations around meat, is animal welfare a concern of yours?
Eric: Absolutely. Animal welfare is very important. We firmly believe that animals should grow up in as natural a state as possible. They should be free to roam and forage. We work with ranchers who share our values in this. It’s not only best for the animals, we believe it’s best for our customers because it produces the most quality meats. You will be able to taste the difference as a result.
On Locally Made
You make everything in your own facility in Denver, why do you feel it’s important to have your own production plant rather than using a much larger company to make it for you?
Eric: We are all about community and like to support the community in which we live and work. Manufacturing ourselves allows us to directly employ many folks. It also allows for better quality control, higher quality production, and the ability to be fluid and flexible and adjust to meet customers’ changing needs. If we were to use a large manufacturer to produce our product, the quality and taste would certainly suffer. We would also lose the ability to control raw inputs and make necessary adjustments. Our commitment to quality is reflected in every part of our production and every intentional decision along the way.
What is the process behind creating a new product? Where do the ideas come from?
Eric: Mike Sells (our operations guy) and I are both deeply involved with R&D (Research & Development). Sometimes I come up with the concept, and he figures out how to execute it…..or he comes up with his own concepts and mixes and matches until it works. We have a very collaborative approach to R&D, and believe that there is no idea that is too out there. As business owners we know if we’re not constantly trying to innovate, we’ll get left behind. But we also want to be continually responding to our customers’ needs. As we hear what people are looking for, we try to give them the best quality sausages in response. The world moves at such a rapid rate and I think we are just scratching the surface on creating new sausage profiles.
On Personal Excellence
Tell us about your experience as an elite triathlete. In what ways does being a high level athlete demonstrate your commitment to excellence?
Eric: This is a tough question to answer, as I never like to talk about myself for fear of “bragging”, but I’m a very driven and determined person. I never quit and I set super high goals and am very motivated to meet my goals. (both professionally and as an elite triathlete.) My ultimate triathlete goal is to become a world champion in some discipline of triathlon. I was national champion in 2018 and 3rd in 2019, and will continue training and fighting until I reach my goals. Triathlon has many distances and specialties, from sprint distance to olympic distance to ironman distance, and specialties range from the traditional triathlon (swim, bike, run), to the duathlon (run, bike run), to the aquathlon (swim, run), and to my favorite: the aquabike (swim, bike). I’ve competed in all specialties and all distances, and have been ranked as high as 6th in the world (my current ranking in aquabike ½ ironman distance), and 41st in the world in the biggest category (olympic distance triathlon – like they do in the Olympics.) In business, I utilize this training structure and focus to better our company.
On Excellent Sausage
How does this commitment to excellence spill over into your company with regards to both the food and the company culture?
Like in triathlon, the details matter. Every step and every action affects our overall time. It is the same in production. We strive to be super efficient and over prepared so that any challenge we face can be overcome. We also strive to be the best with the greatest quality and flavor profiles that capture the delight of both sausage consumers and athletes. I care deeply about what I put in my body as I need to consume 3500 – 4000 calories a day in order to sustain what I do physically. We happen to produce products that are perfect for the athlete and for the person or family that cares about healthy, organic foods for fuel. For me, this means eating healthy proteins and carbs that will fuel me for that great workout or race. Because of my intense training regimen, minimizing inflammation is critical. On top of this I have rheumatoid arthritis, so reducing inflammation is especially critical to me. This is one of the reasons why we don’t add any sugars to our meat products and focus on regenerative farming, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, and non-GMO products.
Needless to say, I eat a ton of sausage and we have so many incredible varieties, that I’ve never once been sick of eating it. I am for sure the largest individual consumer of our products.
Charcutnuvo is more than sausage. It’s family, heritage, adventure, and excellence. Eric’s values are evident in every quality sausage on your plate. There is a reason he guarantees your satisfaction. He works to make the best product with you in mind.