As little boys Dikom, Bakang and Sylvain had a healthy diet with quality, nutritious products. Supermarket foods were a no-go. For Dikom and Bakang, who are brothers, Sunday was market day. That’s when their mother let them pick out dried fruits for the granola she made for the week. It was that childhood memory, in particular, that stuck.
As young adults, they continued to cook granola on their own. But with busy schedules, they needed a quick alternative and struggled to find high-quality products in supermarkets: “We would always pick something out of the granola, and it kind of pissed us off.” The Muesli Boys team was born.
The three young athletic men built a thriving start-up called Dear Muesli, selling homemade granola based on their mothers’ recipes, using algorithms to tailor it to your nutritional needs. And what started as a DIY lunch, turned into a fulltime life-occupation.
I met with ‘The Muesli Boys’ at their granola laboratory in Paris, to find out more about their food tech start-up.
When exactly did you decide to turn your idea into a business?
Bakang: “It became a business by itself, it was natural. We were just selling granola to our friends, but then more people asked for it. Everyone was telling us to do something with it. So we started creating a brand, a logo and so forth. Once we launched our website, we knew it was getting serious enough to quit our jobs.”
How did you know your granola was different?
Sylvain: “When we started in 2014, granola wasn’t sexy at all. For most people, it was just a bunch of seeds and stuff. The healthy food scene in Paris exploded early last year. Only this year foreign brands such as Lizi’s Granola and Dorset Cereals came to France.”
If you build products based on nutritional needs, how do you make sure they’re still satisfying taste-wise?
Sylvain: “There are 500 quadrillion types of possibilities. We use algorithms to take out ingredients for people who eat gluten-free or are vegan for example. We already have an algorithm in place that allows people to create their own recipes, based on micro and macronutrients. We’ve been working on our custom-mixes for one year and a half, but we are about to take it to the next level.”
What is the formula behind ‘Dear Muesli’?
Sylvain: “We are further developing our custom-mixes. Supermarkets offer the same cereals with identical nutritional values to everyone, even though we are all different. We want to be able to tell our customers what nutrition they are missing. They respond to a questionnaire and we link that information to other KPI’s or data to see what they need.”
How do you know what your customers want?
Dikom: “You need to put your ego aside. You think you know what would work, but it’s your customers that make your business. Take in the feedback, get innovative. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Be sure, but listen to feedback, and adjust accordingly. Our custom-mix provides feedback before we even start making anything. When customers assemble their own recipes, their order tells us exactly what they want.”
How did you go about raising funds?
Sylvain: “We started with as little as 700 euros of our own money. After a round of ‘love money’ from friends and family, we got the founder of ‘Columbus Cafe’, Philippe Bloch, on board. We sought him out ourselves because we were inspired by his book. When we started, we were aspiring to be the ‘Starbucks of granola’. Later on, another investor put money in. It was the founder of Robot Lab, Alexandre Ichaï. He also fell in love with the project.”
How challenging has your start-up journey been?
Dikom: “We can go very low in terms of living conditions and sacrifices for our business. We go low and we wait. When you find the right people, there is no need to be worried. Bakang is my brother and Sylvain is my best friend, he is like a brother to us. We will always work it out, and find a solution. We want to take ‘Dear Muesli’ very far. We are only at one percent of what we want to accomplish.”
Are you going for growth or sustainability?
Sylvain: “To grow you reach more people, but it is less sustainable because you have to keep growing quickly. Yet sustainability is a big subject for us. We want all our products to be as traceable, healthy and sustainable as possible. Our ultimate mission is to reduce obesity in the world.”
How will your help people eat more healthily?
Dikom: “I’m setting up a foundation that educates children about nutrition. When I was in middle high school, a friend of mine fainted in class. He didn’t eat in the morning because his parents didn’t have enough money for breakfast. I was shocked to realize that such things existed in our own class. I want to teach kids that healthy food can help them concentrate in school.”