Granola Cereal Grows in a Crunch

Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday, December 23, 2011

WALNUT HILLS — McCabe’s Granola, the all-natural cereal launched by two University of Cincinnati graduate students in 2006, is getting a marketing and sales boost from new owners, who plan to take the product into grocery and specialty markets around the country.

Chris and Susan Muth and their sons Jameson, 28, and Michael, 25, bought McCabe’s in June with a plan to grow the business significantly.

McCabe’s was founded by Marie McCabe and Kate Desmond, who have moved on to different pursuits. McCabe developed the granola from a personal recipe, and took it to market after it became popular with her UC campus social circle.

Sales quickly grew in the first five years, as the product expanded from UC cantinas to local coffee shops and eventually to about a dozen area Kroger stores.

Made of rolled oats, sunflower seeds, cashews, ground flax seeds, raisins, pumpkin seeds and almonds, the granola is sweetened with 100 percent maple syrup. It comes in original, blueberry, cranberry, and peanut butter and chocolate flavors. Prices vary at about $4 for a 12-ounce bag.

Chris Muth discovered the business was for sale through his work as a business attorney with downtown firm Dinsmore & Shohl. Susan Muth, who has a background in sales and marketing, and who owned a consultant business, says her family thought the product was a good opportunity – and it came at the right time.

Michael Muth had recently been discharged from the Army due to an injury during training. The business would give him a project to dive into when he returned home last summer, and a job in the midst of a tight market.

Susan, the chief executive officer and majority owner, and Michael put full-time sales and marketing efforts into the business, and in six months have grown its distribution from 12 Kroger stores to 70, plus two Whole Foods stores, Pipkin’s Fruit and Vegetable Market in Montgomery and several Dorothy Lane Markets in Dayton. The granola also is available online at Alice.com and Greenpolkadot.com.

Sales have grown 50 percent, Susan says; she declines to provide figures. Chris and Jameson, a financial analyst, provide advice and counsel.

Customers will notice little, if any, changes in the product. The packaging and recipes remain intact, and the Muths will continue to make the granola at a local commercial bakery where it has been produced for several years.

Over the next six months, however, the family plans to make a push for national distribution, with the goals of increasing sales to $3 million within three years. The Muths also are considering co-branding agreements with other health and outdoor businesses, and introducing new products under the McCabe’s name, such as cereal bars.

“We want to expand in new and different ways to grow sales,” Susan says. “We feel this product is really good, and it has potential.”

Ben Pipkin, owner of Pipkin’s Fruit and Vegetable Market in Montgomery, has been carrying McCabe’s for more than two years. He says during the brief time it left shelves before the company was sold, customers missed it.

“During that period of time when customers couldn’t get it, we heard about it,” Pipkin says. “It’s a consistent seller. People like it.”

Thom Randle of Colerain Township says the granola tastes better than any others he’s tried.

“It’s fresh, crunchy and it’s very flavorful,” says Randle.

“I’ve tried many other brands now, and I’d rather go without (granola) than use another brand. It’s great right out of the bag, or on cereal or yogurt.”

Susan says she’s heard from many loyal followers who are happy that the product is back in steady supply. She hopes her family’s enthusiasm inspires customers to adopt the brand and make it part of their lives.

“We have a passion that we want it to be successful,” she says.

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