- Spoon Cereals
- Business Insider met with 30-year-old Annie Morris, one half of Spoon.
- She took her obsession with cereal and turned it into a successful business with her cofounder and brother-in-law Jonny Shimmin.
- Spoon is an urban cereal brand that focuses on quality ingredients.
- The pair won £50,000 ($66,000) of investment from two investors on “Dragon’s Den,” the British version of “Shark Tank,” in 2014, and have just completed a Seedrs fundraising campaign for another £278,025 ($368,000).
- Spoon has five products – three granolas and two mueslis – which are now stocked in over 250 supermarkets.
In 2014, Annie Morris made the drastic decision to quit her job in advertising and build a business out of her love of cereal.
Morris, 30, along with her now brother-in-law Jonny Shimmin, 42, are the cofounders and owners of Spoon, a slick urban granola brand that focuses on quality ingredients.
Six months after first launching the concept at a London food fair, the pair went on the BBC’s “Dragon’s Den,” the British TV show that allows entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to a panel of wealthy investors. America’s “Shark Tank” has the same premise.
They managed to secure £50,000 ($66,000) of combined backing from two dragons.
Now they have five products – three granolas and two mueslis – on the shelves of over 250 supermarkets in the UK, including Waitrose, Ocado, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges, as well as a published cookbook.
Morris and Shimmin also just completed their second round of funding via a Seedrs campaign, raising £278,025 (368,000) for an 11.46% stake.
With the newly raised funds, the pair plan to hire new staff and possibly launch products beyond granola and muesli.
- Courtesy of Spoon Cereals/Jon Payne photography
The Beginning of the Brand
Spoon is born from Morris’ own obsession with breakfast cereals, which started as a kid and carried into adulthood.
“I used to be really obsessive about getting into work and having my downtime, enjoying breakfast and spending time over it,” she said.
As an adult, she “got more into healthy granolas – or what I thought was healthy at the time,” she said.
Rather than sticking to plain old cereal and milk, Morris said she got into taking time to “build a bowl” – a phrase that would make its way onto the brand’s packaging. She used different toppings, like yogurt, fruit, compotes, nuts, and seeds.
At that time, most mueslis and granolas on the market were still very much geared to the older consumer, she said.
“They were quite rustic and countrified. We wanted to create something a bit different: an urban cereal brand.”
Shimmin, who has a background in finance and private equity, was the boyfriend of her sister at the time. The pair got chatting about the idea at a family BBQ.
“I presented the idea to him and he started mentoring me, eventually we decided to go splits on the business as we both knew we had quite a lot of time to commit to it.”
The duo first tested the build your bowl concept as a pop up at a food fair in Barnes, London, serving on-the-go breakfast pots as well as packets.
Below, Morris is pictured during her pop-up days.
“We stuck out like a sore thumb as we were serving breakfast at a lunchtime market,” she said.
“Then our branding was very amateur,” Morris added, who is by trade a graphic designer. “It was quite rough and ready but I had a vision of how it would look: clean, modern, and a bit more appealing to a younger audience.”
The branding is certainly pretty slick now.
The appeal for granola was proving big. Morris credits Spoon’s relentless pop-up days, when she and Shimmin would regularly get up at 4 a.m. to bake the granola themselves in their own kitchens. It’s a major reason why they were successful in winning backing from the famously grueling dragons, she said.
“We’d spoken to about 10,000 people, that’s invaluable market research,” she said. You can’t get that kind of insight from focus groups, she added.
Granola versus muesli
It’s also where they learned what people wanted from a cereal brand: something that was healthier and tastier.
“We quickly realised how much tastier it could be just by stripping out all of the refined sugar and adding more quality ingredients,” Morris said.
“Some people don’t know the difference between muesli and granola,” she went on.
Muesli, she explained, is a mix of grains, nuts, and dried fruit – all healthy ingredients – although some brands pile in lots of dried fruit to make it taste better, which naturally increases the sugar content.
The countdown begins to our new cookbook launch party this Thursday @kitandace The perfect opportunity to thank all the legendary people who have helped make this possible, including all our contributors, @k_for_kate @kj_mistry @jacquimelville and Clare Skeats To order our cookbook, click the link in our profile here >> @spooncereals #spooncookbook
“You could argue that granola is less healthy because it’s typically baked in the oven with oil and sugar,” she said, adding that Spoon strives to use the best quality ingredients like pure maple syrup.
“At the end of the day [it’s] still sugar, so you need to be conscious about how much of it you’re eating.”
Morris argues it’s all a question of transparency.
“I think the reason granolas sometimes get a bad rep is that they’re made to look really healthy on the outside, but when you read the ingredients you’re like actually that’s just full of sugar. It’s a brand’s responsibility to be completely transparent about what’s going in there.”
- Spoon Cereals
A healthy treat
Morris said she sees granola as a “healthy treat” and points to the popularity of other similar items on the market, like energy balls and brownies that are primarily made with ingredients like dates.
“That’s where I place granola,” she said. “A lot of our consumers eat it as an afternoon snack, for when you want something sweet.”
And who doesn’t know about the 4 p.m. cereal bowl downtime?
“It’s a treat, but I don’t feel guilty eating it,” she added.
Spoon is clear, however, that while it’s selective about the ingredients that goes into its products, taste always comes first.
“There’s no point creating a product that doesn’t taste good,” Morris said.
Spoon’s most popular product, the cinnamon and pecan granola (pictured below) has won a Great Taste award three years in a row.
- Spoon Cereals
Entering the den
Having spent a year and a half on the food stall scene Morris and Shimmin found themselves at a crossroads.
“We were deciding where to apply to next and applied to Glastonbury and Dragon’s Den. We got a ‘no’ from Glastonbury and ‘yes’ from Dragons Den!”
After a successful audition the pair went before the dragons in 2014 and walked away with £50,000 worth of investment in equal parts from Deborah Meadon and Peter Jones in exchange for a 30% stake.
The connections they gained from the dragons were a game-changer, Morris said.
“Pretty much the next day we were on the phone to Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Asda, and Tesco” she said. “The feedback was all positive but we were still tiny. They said come back when you’re ready.”
They spent a year looking to outsource Spoon’s production and launched in their first supermarket, Ocado, in 2015.
Raising a second round of investment
Spoon completed their second fundraising round via a Seedrs campaign in July 2018.
“We felt like there was a lot of momentum and we wanted to get to that next phase of growth,” Morris said.
According to their Seedrs page, Spoon is now experiencing 100% like-for-like sales and values itself at £2.1 million pre-investment. They reached their target of £250,000 around a week before their deadline, and ultimately raised £278,025 for an 11.46% stake, overfunding by 11%.
“When it comes to investment some people don’t want to give away any of their company, but I’ll happily have a smaller slice of a bigger pie.”
Morris and Shimmin are currently being mentored by John Stapleton, a Spoon key investor and cofounder of New Covent Garden Soup.
“I think we’ve done a good job of building the brand and now we have to let people takeover some of the day-to-day running of the business,” Morris said.