“We [Hannah and her husband Brady] were in New Zealand for our honeymoon [in December 2009] and we got into this habit of eating muesli every day, and just fell in love with it," Barnstable told FoodNavigator-USA.
"We were living in New York at the time and when we got back we went to every grocery store searching for muesli and found two brands imported from Europe.
“But when we got home and poured them into a bowl, it was a like eating a bowl full of dust, it just wasn’t the same. It was night and day. The muesli we’d been eating was homemade, it didn’t have all these fillers and milk powders; it had big chunks of Brazil nuts, cinnamon, amazing flavor combinations, it was just phenomenal.
“So I became infatuated with making muesli and trying and replicate what we had had on our vacation. In the end, I left my job [in investment banking], we moved back to Minnesota and I got a spot at a farmer’s market and started Seven Sundays. A friend of mine owned a diner and I’d go there after they were done making all this fried breakfast food and I’d be making my super healthy breakfast muesli!”
Cash injection from Katjesgreenfood
So what’s the difference between the stuff Barnstable found on shelf in 2010 and the product that would become Seven Sundays – which is now in around 4,000 stores in the US?
“First of all it looks different, so we don’t use any fillers, puffs, or skim milk powder,” said Barnstable, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after selling a minority stake in the business to Katjesgreenfood, the investment arm of German confectionery giant Katjes Group.
“Ours is a classic Swiss-style muesli. Also, far less than half of our recipe is oats, so imagine pouring out nuts, seeds, buckwheat groats, fruits, visually there’s more textures. We use a bit of organic wildflower honey instead of sugar – only 2g of added sugar, but it’s enough to brighten up the cereal a bit and we lightly toast some of the ingredients such as coconut.”
Ingredients list, Bircher muesli (apple cinnamon): Gluten free oats, sorghum flakes, buckwheat groats, almonds, dates, currants, unsweetened coconut chips, pumpkin seeds, apples, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon, cardamom.
Each half-cup (57g) serving has 220 calories, 7g protein, 6g fiber, and 6g sugar.
Fiber and protein
Each serving of Seven Sundays 100% wholegrain muesli has 5g fiber, 6-7g protein and 6-7g sugar, compared with 5g fiber, 7g protein and 10g sugar for alpen muesli (original) and 3g fiber, 10g protein and 12g sugar for Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey granola protein, and features a wider mix of ingredients, from pumpkin seeds, chia and blueberries to sorghum, flaxseed and cardamom.
While granola and muesli are both oat-based cereals, granola is a baked product that’s typically higher in fat and sugar, said Barnstable, who says that most people eat muesli cold with dairy or almond milk or yogurt and fresh fruit, although some people like to soak it in milk overnight and others add hot milk or water: “Muesli is the original overnight oats.”
We’re the fastest-growing brand in the category
And while retailers still devote a lot more space to granola and oatmeal, they are starting to pay more attention to muesli because the category – while small – is growing fast, said Barnstable, who launched her second product, soft baked muesli squares (bound together with dates, nut/seed butters and honey), in January 2016.
“The US muesli category is growing at around 20% year on year as more people are looking for clean ingredients and less sugar, whereas granola is pretty flat now, and we’re the fastest growing brand in the segment. We’ve also been able to bring our costs down with scale and we’re priced at the same level as a national granola brand such as KIND at around $4.99.”
While Seven Sundays has secured shelf space in retailers such as Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and Sprouts, it also performs well in Amazon, Costco and Target, said Barnstable, who unlike many food companies, started out in the Midwest and later pushed out into the coasts, where its velocities are much higher.
“Target actually came to us after we’d only been in business for a year or so. We were in about 50 independent stores in the twin cities at the time, and Target invited me in for a meeting. They weren’t even on my radar at the time, but we’ve been in Target ever since. Sales on Amazon are also exploding. There aren’t that many brands in the muesli category so you can spend a minimal amount of money and make some pretty big waves.
“We’ve been doubling every year in terms of sales growth as muesli is a totally underdeveloped category in the US versus other parts of the world; and buyers are looking for something new in the cereal category. Our mission is to turn the breakfast aisle on its head. Consumers want lasting energy that will keep you going throughout the day, less sugar, and clean ingredients.”