User Generated Breakfast – Story of a Muesli 2.0 startup

I love a good Web 2.0 startup, but what’s always captured my imagination are businesses that use the tools and concepts of the social web to disrupt or enhance traditional sectors.
That’s …

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29th July 2008 at 6:19 pm

I love a good Web 2.0 startup, but what’s always captured my imagination are businesses that use the tools and concepts of the social web to disrupt or enhance traditional sectors.

That’s why I wanted to interview Max Wittrock one of the co-founders of German breakfast cereal startup mymuesli.com, which lets you, the breakfast going public, choose what’s in your own muesli and have it delivered to your door.

Max, a law graduate and trained journalist and his friends Hubertus and Philipp, economics graduates with MBAs, all met while at college in the small Bavarian town of Passau. Back in 2005 they were in the car together and heard an abysmal commercial for a cereal company.  It became a topic of conversation that sparked an idea which rapidly turned into a business obsession – a pattern familiar to many startups.

By late 2006 the three of them were busy getting the business up and running. Max dealt with the brand and copy, Hubertus built the website and Philipp concentrated on research and products.  And by April 2007, mymuesli.com was born.

They’d all blogged for some time and it’s clear from the website that, like Innocent Drinks or Moo.com, they come from a generation comfortable with being social online.  This gives their business a voice which rings true and an approach which sees customers as friends and partners.

It was this ethos and the originality of their idea – tapping into the long tail of self-assembly muesli lovers [a demographic ripe for mixed metaphors] – that caught the attention of some well known German bloggers. The mainstream media rapidly followed and TV appearances in Germany and Austria all happened within six months of launch.  A lesson in the realities of modern PR for startups.

Orders took off so rapidly that they couldn’t fill their large Passau flat with any more dried ingredients.  The cereal needed a place of its own. Premises, rigorous food hygiene regulations, staff and product development followed.

Knowing how environmentally aware the German market is, I asked Max about how sound it is to ship muesli to individuals.  He points out that although they are only small they are doing as much as they can and more than many, as he says:

We started this company because it’s fun, but also obviously to make money.  But what we’ve tried to do is make money in an eco-friendly way.

Originally they thought that just saving people a car journey to a specialist muesli retailer would be enough. But they rapidly set up carbon off-setting with their delivery partners and also work with payment systems that give a percentage of transactions to tree planting projects in the rain forests.

Nevertheless they’d like to do more.  Max explains that in some cases they are pushing their suppliers to innovate in this area.

One example is the tubes in which mymuesli.com’s products ship. Currently for food hygiene reasons these have to be coated inside with a very thin layer of aluminium.  They are already looking for alternatives, but realise until they are larger many suppliers are simply not going to change production just for them.

It’s very easy to find companies jumping someone else’s train and claiming eco and Web 2.0 credentials.  I reckon mymuesli.com is the real deal.

Its forming impulse has been to do something better.  Despite being a small startup, it’s already pushing for environmental change.  And it’s using the social web including blogging and twitter to engage with customers who are already playing their part in how the business and most importantly the range of muesli evolves.

Sounds like a good way to create ‘passionate users’, as they say in the web world, for a premium product.

Mymuesli.com opens its virtual doors to UK customers for the first time on Thursday.

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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  1. […] But see (or read) for yourself: You can find the article here. […]

  2. Burak Alpar says:

    Great to see some creativity and re-engineering going into something so simple.

    Thinking about the environmental impact though, I would have thought starting a local office (or franchise!) in the UK for fulfillment of UK orders would make a big difference to cutting down the food mileage of the product.

  3. HI Burak, I’d tend to agree. I guess if sales take off in the UK, mymuesli will go down the local office route. Still, does another facility like that add to or diminish their overall environmental impact? Hard to tell, if the existing shipment is with other parcels already making the journey.

  4. […] Jeg læste først om startuppen pÃ¥ SmallBizPod . […]

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