The greatest ideas often come from the simplest of problems. For Annie Morris and Jonny Shimmin, the problem was one faced daily… every morning in fact. And the idea that would solve it? Make utterly delicious, healthy, award winning, give-me-another-bowl-immediately granola. The kind that makes you fall in love with breakfast all over again.
Annie and Jonny, the pair behind the UK’s favourite new granola, took ‘Spoon’ in hand (subsequently making it their brand), in a quest to produce the first seriously tasty, health-conscious breakfast cereal; one that would also look great and tell an inspiring story. What they didn’t anticipate… was being propelled into the spotlight within months of launching, with a nationally televised pitch on the BBC’s hit program, Dragon’s Den.
We caught up with Annie and Jonny to find out what makes their award winning granola so unique, the challenges of taking on the big dogs and how Dragon’s Den enabled them to put ‘homemade and healthy’ on shelves and into the breakfast bowls of Brits.
What inspired you to create Spoon Cereals in the beginning?
Annie: Everyone loves breakfast, and yet a lot of people skip it because of time constraints in the morning. I’ve always loved breakfast. I religiously have a bowl of cereal every morning. But I’m not an early riser, so was always that person rushing to work yet never able to find anything I really liked, to grab on the way. I’d always make it myself when I got to work.
Jonny: We started by making fresh granola pots. Soon after launching we had a pop-up at Old Street Station and quickly realised that we needed something else to sell for the rest of the day. We also realised that everyone loved our granola, which and so the take-home packs became our core offering.
We figured out that we’ve spoken to more than 50,000 people, who’ve tried our product right in front of us. Even the breakfast haters enjoyed it and would come back for more!
What is it about Spoon Cereals that makes it different to other major breakfast cereal brands available in the supermarket?
Annie: There is a lot of product packaging out there that is very misleading. When I was younger I used to think that eating something that promoted itself as zero calories, meant that it was good for me – when in actual fact, it was packed with sugar. We set out to make an honest looking product, but with the best ingredients as well – the result is a product that speaks for itself.
Jonny: We couldn’t find a cereal that lived up to its claims – which is why a lot of people choose to make their own granola at home. The next secret lies in how we can get a great tasting product to a greater number of people.
Annie: We always come back to taste. Always.
So how exactly can you achieve this, without compromising the home-made quality of the product?
Jonny: We’ve come up with an amazing arrangement, where Spoon Cereals will still be home-made, fully organic and the taste is still going to be so much better. We’re focusing on maintaining a high level of quality in our ingredients, rather than the big competitors who spend a huge amount on marketing to the detriment of the consumer. We want the product to be tasty first and foremost.
Londoners have definitely fallen in love with Spoon Cereals, what do you think it is that makes the brand so special?
Jonny: It’s unique because it has that homemade quality to it, and then with the use of maple syrup as a sweetener (no refined sugar), it always outshines the competitor products on every taste test we’ve ever done. It’s a bonus that it’s high in fibre, rich in nutrients and low GI.
There’s also a great story behind Spoon Cereals. We really want to share our story, our experience with Dragon’s Den and how we started.
We’ve got a product with great ingredients, that looks great, tastes great, and has a great story behind it… it’s a powerful combination which people enjoy!
So tell us about your experience on Dragon’s Den?
Jonny: When we applied for Dragon’s Den, we’d only done one market stall – everything was brand new. In our heads, we had a plan, but we’d only made sales of about £500… and we were asking them for £50,000!
We were doing brutal days during the filming, getting up at 4am to get to Old Street for our pop-up, but we knew it was an amazing opportunity to really take Spoon Cereals to the masses.
The scariest part was waiting in the lift… and you’re being filmed. In the end, they grilled us for an hour. We pitched, and it became clear quite quickly that they all loved the product and which ‘dragons’ were interested in investing. They bought into the whole package: our background, the product, the story, and they could see its potential. We received mixed feedback from the public after the show, but mainly positive. Our social media went wild.
The Den has helped us get a lot more recognition and the Dragons who invested, Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden, have both been great. There’s a process after the show that includes lots of follow up meetings to see how everything is going.
So, what can we expect to see next from Spoon?
Annie: We have several other granola recipes up our sleeves, which we have trialled at a number of our pop-ups in the past. The flavours and ingredients are all inspired by the seasons, as well as what we believe will get people really excited about breakfast and these are products we would love to bring to market.
We are brimming with plans and ideas for the future, which I cannot wait to explore. For now we want to give everyone the opportunity to try our granolas and we invite them to join us on our journey in doing so.