I’ve always found it fascinating how brands are born. Some start from identifying a market needs, others from a me-too quest for success. But the really great brands, 99% of the time, are the blood, sweat, tears and soul-satisfying dream of an inspired founder. These brands start from a twinkle in the eye, an intuition, and grow to oh-so-much more. They’re the brands we cheer on, talk to our friends about and buy products from time and time again. Seven Sundays is that kind of brand.
Seven Sundays was started by Hannah and Brady Barnstable, in Minnesota, after honeymooning in New Zealand. They fell in love with the muesli eaten by New Zealand locals and served in some of the bed and breakfasts they stayed in on vacation. Muesli is breakfast at a slower, “easy like Sunday morning”, pace. Slower than the latte on the run, or bagel we typically grab while rushing to work here in the United States. And not only is muesli a delicious way to start the day, it can also be packed full of good for you treats like whole grains, flax, chia, seeds and dried fruits.
Today, Seven Sundays is the fastest growing U.S.-made muesli, with national distribution, after just four years in business. With five crazy-delicious muesli flavors and recently introduced Breakfast Squares, Seven Sundays is on a mission to re-invent breakfast. Family-owned and passionate about their company’s mission, the team at Seven Sundays inspires us to slow down, enjoy a meal and connect with our family for a few more minutes every day.
Seven Sundays products can be found in Target, Bristol Farms and a whole host of other grocery specialists across the country and online. The Brandettes recently caught up with Co-Founder and President of Seven Sundays, Hanna Barnstable, at the Natural Products Expo West. Hannah, expecting her second child, was a burst of sparkling energy.
We’ve spent a lot of time on your website looking at Seven Sundays’ story and it’s so inspirational. Tell us about some of the first steps you took in creating this brand.
Hannah Barnstable (HB)- I spent a good fourth months, up front, really thinking through the business and developing the recipes. That was kind of my passion. Plus, we started working on the branding. So, for basically four months straight, I didn’t sell anything. I focused on crafting the recipes.
Our recipes are based on the New Zealand muesli that Brady (Co-founder, Brady Barnstable) and I had in New Zealand. I had already been making our Original Toasted Muesli recipe in the blue bag for about a year and half at home, because we just wanted it. We tried to remember what was in the first muesli we tasted in New Zealand; brazil nuts, coconuts and other natural ingredients. We contacted the bed and breakfast to see if they had recipes, but we didn’t hear back. So, I just made it up.
We wanted to create additional flavors and launch muesli as a category in the United States, because it really was nonexistent. So yes, I spent a good four months crafting. I called up other food companies to learn about UPC labels and all of those little steps you don’t think about. It helped me get it all ready to go.
Yes, these little steps can become speed bumps, if you’ve never done it before.
HB- Yeah, it takes a bit of time, but it was the perfect way to learn. We launched Seven Sundays four years ago today, literally, and that’s when I quit my job. We spent the spring figuring out the little, nitty gritty details and focused on recipe development. We launched it at our local farmers market- we wanted people to try it, to make sure we were on the right track. I’m not a food scientist or a professional chef or anything; I just like to be in the kitchen. I like flavors and mixing things up, and we like to eat clean foods.
We were swarmed at the farmer’s markets- it was really fun. People engaged and wanted to know what muesli was and try it out.
Tell us about your name, Seven Sundays, and how you came up with it. Was it the first name that you hit on or did you go through many?
HB- Absolutely not. We had a lot of renditions. A lot of the names revolved around just eating as a family, or a community. We lived in New York when we came back from New Zealand and everything was communal. One of our name ideas was Communal Table, but it wasn’t quite right. We thought it brought to mind cool restaurants with community tables but everyone told us to can it.
Naming is so hard. Seven Sundays came up when we were coming home from a ski trip up in Northern Minnesota. Brady and I were talking about how much we were obsessed with Sundays. Sunday is just the best day of the week. Saturdays are great for their own reason, but Sunday is such a refreshing day. You spend more time relaxing on Sunday morning- you’ve unwound from the hectic workweek and you’re done for the week. It’s about spending more time in the morning- drinking your coffee, reading the newspaper, making pancakes, doing whatever you want. That feeling gets so lost during the week and it’s really sad.
Growing up, my mom would make my brother and I a decent breakfast everyday. She would wake us up with the smell of eggs or, on Valentine’s Day, she’d make crepes. Breakfast was always a really great time for our family. Seven Sundays is helping to make breakfast that special mealtime again.
Seven Sundays is a lot more about experience than simply about the product in the bag.
Breakfast is weird in the Unites States. Everywhere else in the world, breakfast is a meal that people sit down to enjoy. Here, we focus on how fast can it be, how few calories or whatever the trend is. “I don’t have time, so I’ll just have a latte.”
Rethinking breakfast is really our passion. Muesli is a slow breakfast. You can soak it, you can throw fruit it in- it’s more interactive than cold cereal. It’s a good fit for us.
We noticed that not all breakfast cereal or muesli comes in a clear package, but Seven Sundays shows the product rather prominently. Can you tell us about the steps you went through to decide on your packaging?
We actually used to have a really unique peak-top box that was very crafty. Same branding, but that’s what we started with. Our packaging has always had a window because showing the product is really important to us. We use macadamia nuts, coconut and other ingredients that really entice you. Most cereals are pretty bland- you don’t really salivate when you see them. We wanted to show all the good stuff that we put in our muesli.
I’m just obsessed with packaging. It’s not enough to have a picture of the product on the front, we wanted to leverage what we have and show our muesli all the way to the bottom of the package. Because mueslis are known to be bottom-shelved product, some imported from Europe, a lot of people think they’re dusty and bland. So we wanted to take the product window all the way to the bottom to show people that we’re using real stuff; a lot of transparency. My favorite part about this re-design was just showcasing exactly what’s inside.
Did you work with a big branding agency on your packaging?
No. We have a freelance designer who we work with out of San Francisco, CA. She had never done food packaging before, which I love. She’s a good fit for our brand and she works really hard. She doesn’t just think in pillars.
What are some of the ways you get the word out about Seven Sundays?
Food, you know, is all about trial. Our biggest hurdle is that people don’t, precisely, know what muesli is or what to do with it. We are constantly getting brand ambassadors in different major cities; we make our little breakfast crepes and do tons of breakfast drops. We try to keep our brand up. We’re not just throwing stuff out over here; we try to show the element of how you prepare it. We do tons of interactive breakfasts with our breakfast crepes, actually.
People like to hear or write about muesli because it’s interesting; there’s the international element, and the soaking element. It’s very interactive, so we work on getting people involved in the preparation. It’s mostly about trial, brand ambassadors, events, etc.
Any sneak peeks that you want to share with our audience about what’s next for Seven Sundays?
Well, I just packaged something this morning that is super new. It’s so new that we were taping everything together for the show! They’re squares, they’re adorable- a full breakfast in a nice little square shape. A lot of the bars and things like that in the market today aren’t really a full meal, or they have a lot of sugar in them and aren’t really clean food. These are super clean- we only use organic honey, fruits and coconut oil. They’re nutritious but a little indulgent at the same time. Personally, I like to indulge a little at breakfast. The Breakfast Squares are not heavy. You can get a blueberry muffin and it kind of weighs you down. I like to have a good, warm flavor profile. The Breakfast Squares are perfect if you are traveling, if you have kids, or for an easy breakfast at home. They’re really clean and nutritional- high in protein and fiber- and come in CocoPumpkin and Blueberry Lemon Chia flavors.
You have a toddler at home; does he eat Breakfast Squares and muesli?
He loves the Coco Breakfast Squares right now. That’s his big one. And he loves our muesli. Kids tend to really like it. I think parents are surprised, they’re like “nah it’s too healthy.” I haven’t met a kid who didn’t like it, and most kids aren’t very adventurous.
Are you as excited about Seven Sundays’ muesli as we are? Check out the Brandettes’ favorite flavor, Blueberry Chia BuckWheat, and start savoring breakfast again.