"What we realized is cold pressed juice isn’t super satiating and can often spike your blood sugar. Yogurt is great, but if you’re trying to do dairy free, that’s a tough option, and protein bars while great in concept and theory, most of the time they have 30 different ingredients, a lot of things you can’t pronounce," Thompson told FoodNavigator-USA.
"It was really tough to find fresh, healthy snacking options without resorting to the clam shell [package] full of fresh cut fruit or carrot sticks and celery, etc."
In addition, the oatmeal category has been a bit dry in terms of innovation with nearly all products being shelf-stable and requiring the addition of hot water to prepare.
It was also right around the time when Pinterest was full of overnight oats recipes and the consumer interest in convenient, on-the-go breakfast items was high.
"After a lot of research we started to realize, this whole fresh snacking category needs a huge revamp. There aren’t whole ton of CPG brands going after it, so let’s attack this market," Thompson said.
What Thompson and Thomas came up with was a range of ready-to-eat, chilled overnight oatmeal using almond milk in five varieties -- wild blueberry, vanilla bean, dark cacao, coconut cold brew, and apple crisp -- made with five to seven ingredients.
"That was the whole point, let’s not try to complicate this. We’re not trying to come out with crazy exotic flavors, we really just want to make something super satiating, super delicious, with a good macronutrient profile using whole foods," she said.
The company uses high pressure processing (HPP) to extend the products' shelf life without altering the nutrition, flavor, and texture of the oatmeal.
Perfecting packaging and store placement
Thompson and Thomas searched "high and low" for the right packaging that would set it apart in stores where it is often placed next to yogurt.
"We wanted something unique that didn’t look like a yogurt container because we didn’t want to be confused for yogurt," Thompson said.
Each six-ounce 100% recyclable and BPA-free oblong-shaped 'pod' container comes with a built-in spoon for added convenience allowing the brand to compete outside the natural channel.
"We not only want to be a grocery item, but we also want to play in food service," Thompson added.
MUSH can be found in more than 1,000 stores throughout the US with major pockets of distribution in California, the Rocky Mountains region, the East Coast, and Texas.
At retail, MUSH is typically placed alongside yogurt products in the dairy case, but Thompson noted the rise of chilled areas for grab-and-go food and drink items.
"Some other retailers who have already started to curate a fresh snacking set, they’ll have us sitting next to something like a Perfect Bar or other refrigerated bars, juices and shots, cold brew, kombucha, things like that," she said.
The brand is also moving off of shelves rapidly at food services outlets such as high-end coffee shops, fitness studios including Barry's Bootcamp, Crossfit, and Equinox, as well as college and corporate campuses.
"It’s a great brand builder for fresh brands when you can get into some of these little alternative places. There’s a fewer selection of items so you have more probability of standing out," Thompson added.
Making chilled oats an all day item
The convenience of MUSH products makes it more than just a breakfast item, according to Thompson, as consumers are eating it at all hours of the day.
"Initially we place ourselves in the dairy set and often yogurt is a morning breakfast item, and that is a huge time to consume MUSH, but we’re also seeing with some of our other flavors like coconut cold brew which has a little bit of caffeine being consumed as little pick-me-up snack," she said.
Pre- and post-workout eating occasions has also been a popular eating occasion for MUSH products, which is why the brand is focusing on its partnerships with gyms across the US.
"I’m excited about curating those special partnerships. It’s a really unique opportunity to capture a customer that’ll be super loyal," Thompson said.