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FMI Connect 2014

Do-it-yourself foods: the next consumer trend?

Hubertus Bessau is co-owner of MyMuesli, a German-based food firm specializing in consumer-customized cereal blends.
Hubertus Bessau is co-owner of MyMuesli, a German-based food firm specializing in consumer-customized cereal blends.

A German cereal start-up is seeing booming sales of its personalized muesli cereal, thanks to growing demand for consumer-customized packaged foods.

Hubertus Bessau, co-owner of MyMuesli, spoke to FoodProductionDaily about the company's stand-out business model of enabling customers to select their own blend of 80 different cereal ingredients (fruits, grains, nuts, chocolates, and other morsels). The range of options leads to 566 quadrillion possible product combinations, he said.

Humble beginnings

The company was founded in 2005 by Bessau and two university friends, who saw a need in the market for cereal personalized to meet a consumer's particular tastes, dietary restrictions, and health/wellness goals.

"Customers had been asking for specialized cereals for their allergies, gluten intolerance, health performance needs," he said. "That's where we came in."

He told FPD during the firm's early stages of growing from a modest web-based retailer, to a larger e-commerce outfit with a small storefront, and beyond, they had more drive than business knowledge.

"We had no idea what was going on, but we had our friends to help, we had each other, and importantly, we had customer data to build on," he said.

Growing business

Early on, MyMuesli had a tiny storefront to interact with customers, and a website for additional interaction with customers. Promotion, as with other aspects, were on a shoestring; its first ad was shot by a friend, using a borrowed high-speed camera, in a field.

Eventually, Bessau said, the company decided to evolve into a web-forward "multi-platform" food business, with an internet present, storefront, print catalog, and other avenues to reach customers.

"None of the individual channels cannibalizes each other," he said. "Rather, if one channel prospers, the others do as well."

In just a few years, MyMuesli has grown from a three-man operation, to a food production and packaging operation with nearly 300 employees in two countries (Germany and Switzerland) and 12 stores.

Packaging options

The product is sold in multi-serving cartons, but Bessau told FPD the cereal has seen significant interest in its 85-g, single-serve containers.

"The benefit of the single-serve is twofold," he said. "It provides an entry for customers to try the product, and it offers convenience."

Automated equipment

The first batches of MyMuesli cereal were hand-blended. In 2010, Bessau said, they added custom-built automated machinery.

"It's not yet as fast as we'd like, but we're getting there," he said.

Bessau spoke to FPD at FMI Connect 2014 in Chicago. Scheduled June 10-13, the event is dedicated to food packaging, processing, and safety pertaining to retail and fresh produce.

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