The direct-to-consumer (DTC) craze has birthed businesses that have challenged the mattress marketplace, the eyeglass shopping experience, options for luggage and sneaker selections, among many other sectors. But rarely has it come for one specific category: your groceries.
Magic Spoon, a DTC company that launched earlier this month, is changing that. The company sells cereals in four flavors: fruity, frosted, cocoa and cinnamon, and touts that greater nutritional value than its mainstream competitors—think the cereals typically associated with childhood, like Lucky Charms or Trix.
Balancing health with good taste is Magic Spoon’s mission, according to Gabi Lewis, one of Magic Spoon’s co-founders. But what’s truly revolutionary about this cereal is the way it’s sold. Despite the fact that cereal is most often bought in the aisles of a grocery store during a visit that typically includes picking up an entire assortment of items from produce to poultry, it’s not something that consumers usually buy online or with a subscription.
Magic Spoon, however, is solely available online, through the company’s website. The cereal is sold in a case of four boxes. Customers can pick and choose a variety of flavors, or four boxes of the same flavor, making a one-time purchase or signing up for a monthly subscription (each box contains seven servings, meaning that four boxes amounts to 28 servings—almost a month’s worth of cereal).
While cereal has a history as an in-person, grocery store purchase, Lewis isn’t too concerned with convincing people to buy Magic Spoon’s product online. The brand is betting that an overall consumer behavior shift to buying more and more things online—particularly items that you wouldn’t have previously purchased in that setting, like the aforementioned mattress or pair of glasses—will help people feel comfortable buying cereal online, too.
“We’re not finding that there is a major shift in behavior we need to create there,” said Lewis. “People have been primed the past several years to buy new and exciting products online. There’s such a dearth of good options in the cereal category. And it’s a category that people grew up with and loved so much that they’re really excited to find something that’s a reinvention of what they know as cereal.”
A cereal reinvention is exactly what Lewis and his co-founder Greg Sewitz were going for. Lewis said that the business was inspired by the state of the cereal aisle today. There seemed to be only two options: sugary cereals like the ones consumers ate in their youth, or options that were all about health without any of the fun that cereal is often associated with.
“I love cereal and grew up having it every morning,” Lewis told Adweek. “When I got a little older and started paying attention to my diet, I stopped eating it as much because everything in the cereal aisle today is full of sugar and carbs and just pretty terrible for you in general.”
Magic Spoon was designed to fill the hole missing in the breakfast market: cereals that married the fun of those that consumers ate in their youth with the nutritional benefits of the more grown-up options that currently line grocery store shelves, like granola and muesli.
“I start thinking there was a way to create a cereal that was quite simply better,” Lewis said. “We started experimenting and iterating with lots of different ingredients to see if I could make a cereal that wasn’t stuck in that old paradigm of just being full of carbs and grains and sugar and terrible ingredients.”
Nine months of testing later, Magic Spoon’s four resulting cereals are the promised answer to that conundrum. Each serving offers 110 calories, 12 grams of protein and three grams of carbs. Every box is grain and gluten free, low in sugar and absent of any artificial sweeteners. To compare, a box of Cap’n Crunch has 1 gram of protein, and 23 grams of carbs, while Lucky Charms has 2 grams of protein and 22 grams of carbs.
Lewis said that he and Sewitz knew that finding that perfect balance of taste and nutrition would be a challenge. “With creating a food product there are always trade-offs,” he said. “If you’re trying to make it the absolute healthiest product imaginable, then it’s probably not going to taste great. And if you’re purely focused on taste, then it’s probably not going to be very good for you.”
To avoid both issues, Lewis said he and Sewitz created “guardrails” they had to meet in production—those included being gluten-free, grain-free and having at least 10 grams of protein. “Within those guardrails, we then said to work on making it as delicious as we possibly could while satisfying those nutritional and ingredients criteria,” he said.
Also setting Magic Spoon apart from its cereal aisle counterparts is its branding. Packaged in bold, bright hues of purple and aqua, the brand worked with Gander, a Brooklyn-based design agency, to create the look and feel. The goal? Bring in the fun of sugary cereals while still promoting the cereal’s health factor. Lewis said, “We wanted to create something that was actually really healthy and then brand it in a fun, exciting way rather than a lot of health food which is branded in a boring way and really takes the fun out of it.”
Ultimately, Lewis said he and Sewitz want to give people a healthy way to enjoy a reinterpretation of their childhood favorite breakfast food.
“We’ve had customers already write to us saying things like, ‘You’re speaking to my soul,'” said Lewis. “That’s how much people loved cereal growing up and how much they miss it. So many people stopped eating it for health reasons, so they’re excited to be able to eat it again.”