Andre Menezes on Leaving TiNDLE, His Proudest Achievement & What Plant-Based Brands Can Do Better
4 Mins Read
An interview with former TiNDLE Foods CEO Andre Menezes, who stepped down from the company in late December, about his biggest learnings from his rocketship journey.
Just before the winter holidays, plant-based chicken startup TiNDLE Foods announced that co-founder Andre Menezes was stepping down as CEO, and co-founder and Executive Chairman Timo Recker would take over in his stead. Recker had previously held the position from July 2020 to May 2021. In a press statement, TiNDLE said that Recker’s extensive European market experience, specifically in Germany where TiNDLE is seeing significant growth, and with his former plant-based meat company LikeMeat.
Menezes, a Brazilian native with over a decade of experience in the food industry and who previously worked with meat giant BRF, originally started as COO and Co-Founder.
Under Menezes’ tenure, TiNDLE grew from one meat alternative product to a complete range of patties, nuggets, tenders, wings and more, presence in over 10 global markets including significant launches in the UK, Germany and the US, retail launches at thousands of stores, dozens of foodservice partnerships and a plant-based dairy startup acquisition.
“I am incredibly proud that in only two and a half years, our team grew the business from an early concept in Singapore to bringing our foods to some of the largest markets in the world while establishing a healthy business model and strong financial position that will support further growth,” he said in a statement.
As he begins a new chapter, we asked Menezes to reflect on his TiNDLE experience, what he is most proud of, what he wishes he’d done differently and what can plant-based brands do better.
Q: Why did you decide to step down as CEO amid significant growth?
Andre Menezes: My decision to step down as CEO was made in conjunction with Timo and other shareholders, considering the future trajectory of TiNDLE Foods. Despite our significant growth and strong financial health, with Timo relocating to Germany—a market where he has considerable experience—we agreed he is better positioned to accelerate our growth even further while leveraging the great fundamentals we have built over the past years. With a solid foundation, a globally recognized brand, a lean cost structure, and a strong commercial pipeline, I am confident the company will continue to thrive.
Q: What are you most proud of from your time at TiNDLE?
Andre Menezes: Reflecting on my tenure at TiNDLE Foods, I am immensely proud of our robust financial status, positive unit economics, and a burn rate that’s been greatly reduced. Our infrastructure is strong, we’ve become a globally respected tier 1 brand, and we’ve seen accelerating growth each quarter. Notably, our 2023 volumes more than doubled from the previous year with much leaner expenditures, providing us with a significant runway of over 7 years, which effectively allows us to become profitable. But beyond these figures, it’s the team we’ve built—talented, dedicated, and aligned with our mission—that truly fills me with pride. Their efforts have enabled us to introduce our products to major markets worldwide rapidly—a rarity for any food business. This journey, although short, has made a significant impact and set a sustainable path for the future.
Q: Do you have any regrets? Can you share one thing you wish you’d done differently?
Andre Menezes: I view our past actions as learning opportunities, not regrets, and I avoid the trap of being a “hindsight genius.” I am proud that our team did the best we could at every step, considering what we knew and the context we were in. However, advising companies now, I’d recommend a more incremental growth approach. The market hasn’t evolved as quickly as expected, so setting more conservative growth expectations would likely lead to similar outcomes with fewer resources. Back in 2020/21 when we set our strategic plan, the fast-paced category growth and liquid capital markets demanded rapid transformation into market leaders. This scenario has since shifted to a marathon focusing on financial sustainability and profitability.
Q: What are your biggest learnings from the journey?
Andre Menezes: My time at TiNDLE Foods taught me never to underestimate the difficulty of changing consumer behaviour on a societal level. Purchase decisions are complex, driven by emotional and habitual factors, not just logic. Furthermore on the business side, while ambitious goals are exciting and essential, a gradual and measured approach is key, especially in challenging markets when you are reliant on purchase decisions of hundreds of clients and millions of consumers. This approach ensures the efficient use of resources, while not losing sight of a big bold dream. These learnings have profoundly influenced my approach to business strategy and consumer psychology.
Q: What can plant-based brands do better, given a challenging environment for the sector?
Andre Menezes: The plant-based sector has grown rapidly but now faces a critical point where it must evolve. Reassessing innovation in product development and avenues to accelerate consumer education is imperative. Our ability to capture consumer imagination with exciting, delicious products and to reinforce the public’s understanding of the category’s benefits is vital for the next phase of growth.
Q: What’s next for you in 2024?
Andre Menezes: My immediate focus is on supporting Timo and the team during this transition, ensuring minimal disruption. Looking ahead, I’m excited to use my diverse professional experience to assist other companies, founders, and funds on their paths. Having worked across various sectors and continents, I bring a unique perspective to business challenges and opportunities. I aim to guide and support others toward efficient goal achievement, helping them avoid the pitfalls I’ve faced and contributing to their success in a rapidly evolving business landscape.