There are few food & beverage categories as monolithic as the breakfast cereal group. Maybe that's why there are few as secretive as that bunch. It wasn't too long ago that Battle Creek, Mich., housed not only Kellogg Co. headquarters but cereal plants for Post – which is where that company began.Our Plant Operations story is about improvements in the cereal business, and it includes a story on the new Cereal Partners Worldwide (the Nestlé-General Mills joint venture) innovation center in Switzerland.
No doubt there are big innovations going on there. But there's another joint venture, this one operating out of a home in Barrington, N.H. What it lacks in scale it makes up for in immediacy, engagement and fun.
While doing research for something else, I was delighted to stumble upon Me & Goji a tiny, mail order, custom cereal company started by Alexander Renzi and Adam Sirois. They call their concept "custom artisanal cereal," and explain it came to them "while playing soccer together at Northwestern University. Forced to live off dorm food and training multiple times per day, we were being asked to perform at a very high level without the proper fuel."
Check out their web site -- www.meandgoji.com -- it's a fun exercise, especially for you marketers.
From their home page, you can either "shop our recipes" or "start creating." The stock recipes are fun enough. They include Adam's Apple (flax flakes, apples, cinnamon, cranberry, goji, golden raisin and pumpkin) and The Swedish Moosely (raw, five-grain muesli, strawberry, chocolate chips, choc gojis [whatever those are!], brazil nuts, blueberries and quinoa).
"We have a lot of exotic ingredients you don't see in regular cereals," Alexander explained to me. "The best of the national brands contains 8-12 percent of mix-ins. Ours is 20-25 percent or more."
The real fun begins when you "start creating." On subsequent web pages:
Step 1: Choose one base – from such things as samurai wheat, golden granola and healthy hoops.
Step 2: Enhance the base – with such things as wheat germ, cocoa almonds or nutmeg.
Step 3: Add dried fruits – mulberry, cranberry and goji (goji seems to be on every page).
Step 4: Add nuts and seeds – like chia, sesame and macadamia.
The final step is packaging, and that's customized too. Cereals are packaged in a "capsule," a paperboard canister with whatever name you choose to give your cereal. For an extra $2.99, you can add your own photo to the package (a la Jones Soda).
You just ordered 30 oz. of cereal for $10.90. Not counting the mandatory 99 cents for the canister and $3.99 for shipping.
Alexander says they buy the basic flakes from "traditional" food processors, probably private labelers.
Remember Cereality, the chain of breakfast cereal restaurants briefly popular 2-3 years ago? Its downtown Chicago location is closed, as I think most of them are. I never got the idea of $5 for a bowl of cereal … then again, I never tried it.
I like stumbling onto little companies like this. It reminds me there is a huge world of food processing out there beyond the Top 100© we focus on so often. And some of them deserve to be celebrated.
I'm not sure $16 breakfast cereal, even if it is customized right down the picture, will succeed in this post-recession, private label time we're living in. But maybe it will keep Alexander and Adam in goji berries. It sure is an engaging idea.