Cereal Thriller: 5 Questions With mymuesli Co-Founder Hubertus Bessau



Germany’s mymuesli is a groundbreaking brand of organic breakfast cereal that has been a pioneer in customized muesli since launching in 2007. Adapting mass customization to the popular breakfast mix of more than 80 organic ingredients including oats and fruit, the company has won a slew of awards and was named one of the first class of Interbrand Breakthrough Brands this year.

For eight years, it has been building a reputation for customized, healthy and organic cereal and fruit-based products. In addition to a booming e-commerce business, the Passau-based startup also offers a mobile app and operates more than 50 retail stores across Europe, where customers can create their own cereals and even personalize the packaging. It’s all thanks to an inclusive, collaborative customer-first brand philosophy and the visionary technology of its proprietary muesli mix machine that can automatically prepare 566 quadrillion different muesli varieties and more than 50 ready-made varieties.

For more insights, we spoke with mymuesli Co-Founder Hubertus Bessau, who explains the customer-first philosophy behind the success of the personalized organic breakfast cereal that’s sweeping Europe.

Hubertus Bessau - co-founder of mymuesli

brandchannel: Congratulations on mymuesli being named a Breakthrough Brand by Interbrand for perfectly putting customers at the core of your businesses. Why is it important to let customers be part of mymuesli and how has that impacted the heart of the brand?

Hubertus Bessau (above): Saying that customer participation is crucial for mymuesli would completely understate this fact. mymuesli would not exist without customer participation. Not only in that the product that got us started initially, custom-mixed muesli from more than 80 organic ingredients, is co-built by our customers, but also in that the development of the whole company has been shaped jointly with our customers. From fixing website bugs to developing pre-mixed mueslis and delivery packaging. Maybe this is why we never refer to them as customers, but rather “muesli-friends” as we don’t see much difference between each other: We all like a perfect bowl of muesli.

brandchannel: mymuesli was the first food company with a successful business model founded on mass customization. Today big players from the automotive, apparel, electronics and sporting goods sector have copied and applied this concept for their own products. Why is it that customization so important to us nowadays?

Bessau: In the last decades the world has changed rapidly. Today we are blessed with so many options and offerings to choose from globally. In fact, there are more options that I can name when it comes to music genres alone, for instance. There are countless shades to choose from between black and white now, the once so obvious and rather easy choice in all kinds of matters. It has become a real challenge to find and express one’s identity.

Then there is the other trend of global unification. Sometimes it is hard to tell from the shop fronts which city you are in currently. You have the same big players everywhere offering the same pieces to everyone. Finding something unique that expresses your identity, or at least fits your taste, has become a rampant process, often leading to frustration. With mass customization you can take the shortcut to a product that exactly matches your take on it – whether it is muesli, cars or apparel.

brandchannel: After the first successful two years selling customized breakfast cereal with a unique online concept, you – almost ironically – started opening your own brick-and-mortar storefronts. Today mymuesli has more than 50 stores in several countries and 800 employees. How do you continue to grow while strategically managing the brand?

Bessau: Growing at such a pace for nine years now usually demands a perfect organization, and strong, experienced management. We haven’t had that. We were just three ambitious friends starting with a rather small idea in a niche market. Aware of that, we did two things. Firstly, we tried to learn fast—from our customers, from experts and especially from the many mistakes we made.

Secondly, we hired by team-fit and gut feeling first. This is not the way business books suggest to do it, but in our eyes the only sustainable option. With people you can trust and like to spend your time with, there is not much that can go wrong. And in our case this also applies to brand management. Among the core values of mymuesli are authenticity and understatement. Therefore, hiring humble authentic people gets you half-way already.

brandchannel: With more than 170,000 likes on Facebook and almost 50,000 followers on Instagram, you have fostered a loyal, engaged community. How can your loyal customers be part of mymuesli, and how can they get even more involved by becoming co-creators and ambassadors?

Bessau: Those numbers of likes and followers are just a symptomatic reflection of the underlying sympathy in real life. If people don’t connect to your brand emotionally, they don’t hit the like buttons in social media channels (unless you give away free stuff). Today we still attract more than a third of our new customers by word of mouth. Our muesli-friends are very engaged when it comes to interaction – whether it is interacting with mymuesli or their peers about the topic.

Rather than giving them concrete engaging challenges and silly questions on Facebook every day, we try to provide them with contemporary reasons to talk with and about mymuesli. This is also the reason why we switched our bi-annual printed catalogue to a breakfast newspaper that we publish every other month. Additionally, we’ll have lead users, influencers and muesli experts becoming part of our network, thus multiplying the amount of touchpoints and mixtures for niche markets and target groups shortly.

brandchannel: What can big and well-established companies learn from start-ups and like-minded fresh-thinking, smart and fast-growing businesses like mymuesli when it comes to building and maintaining loyal customers?

Bessau: Remembering that it is not about “us” and “them”. We are all customers at the end. Being true to your promises and offering products and services that are so good that you’d like to buy it yourself would be a good starting point for most companies, new and well-established ones.

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