When Jono Sorenson left advertising agency Carat in March to become a sales director at Diverse Media, he signed up there for only three days a week – because the rest of his time he now devotes to muesli.
Two weeks ago he and fellow muesli-fan/fiancé Lucy Leckie launched The Muesli Hub – “a platform to build your own muesli online and have it delivered to your door”. Through a website created by Kagwa Kironde of Dream Config, customers can choose either 500 grams or 1 kilo. They then select a base, followed by nuts, fruit, seeds and sweets if they like, some extras costing more than others. It's then delivered to the customer's door.
After two weeks, there are already almost 1700 likes on the Facebook page, and “a lot of sharing”. Sorensen says they’re processing orders – every one of them completely different – in their fully-certified commercial kitchen in Point Chevalier, which they converted from an art gallery. “We mix orders daily ourselves in the hub and send them out the next morning with NZ Couriers. This is making for some late nights, but we love it.”
Sorenson and Leckie's goal is to inspire people to re-prioritise breakfast, by owning their own unique blend that they themselves chose – because, according to Sorenson's market research, people often have to settle for a muesli with two or three ingredients that they’re not keen on. “Our customers don’t have this problem. If they don’t like an ingredient, it doesn’t make it into the mix – we give people total control,” he says.
While there are the health-conscious options of high fibre, superfoods, bircher, gluten free, quinoa flakes and chia seeds (as well as nutritional information for each), people can also add chocolate bits or yoghurt-raisins. “We’re careful to be not too high and mighty about what people should eat – it’s down to whatever they personally want,” he says. He did the maths and found there are 279,4176,000 types of muesli possible using the website’s ingredient options.
He says online shopping is driving a consumer trend towards buying food from alternative suppliers rather than the big supermarkets, and buying more often and in smaller amounts. “Consumers are now very brand savvy, and they’re a negative flow against big international brands … many people are now looking outside the supermarket to get their meat, fruit and veges – and there’s now less need for the huge weekly shop.”
The market for delivered ingredients and meals has surged ahead in New Zealand in recent years - with the likes of My Food Bag, Foodbox, and smaller players like Tomette.
The muesli idea’s not new: when he was living in Australia Sorenson first noticed customised muesli makers, such as Mix My Muesli and Muesli Mixer. Even New Zealand had one by the time he got home - the Nelson-based Muesli & Co – but Lorensen wanted to create a brand that was more aspirational, more inspiring, and emphasising “individual lifestyles and facilitating choice”.
He says the transition from agency to entrepreneur was easy, as over the last ten years he’s been working with brands to connect with consumers. He’s seen how consumers work with advertising – putting something into the market and seeing how they react – and he says it’s quite exciting now owning the whole process. “It’s quite nice now working with the end user, talking with consumers. And having a lot of control over the bottom line.”