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Continued: Schafer: Innovator finds her niche amid big cereal companies

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 27, 2014 - 8:55 PM

Another is that Kellogg damaged its brand by mishandling a controversy over GMO ingredients. Meanwhile, the company is likely feeling the effects of dragging all sorts of products under the Kashi label.

Barnstable said a key to the Seven Sundays brand is authenticity. She observed that it couldn’t have helped Kashi’s brand for longtime customers to see Kashi frozen chicken Florentine dinners for sale.

She isn’t planning anything of the sort, of course. But even with an opportunity to carve out some sales from conventional competitors, “this has been 10 times harder and 10 times more expensive than I thought it would be.”

A spot on a shelf, with the label facing the consumer, is expensive, scarce real estate. So-called slotting fees are common. As a start-up, Barnstable says, she more often gets demands for what are known as “free fills.” That means giving away the first cases for the retailer to stock the product.

The challenge of getting into stores is why longtime food industry investment banker John Trucano summed up what Barnstable needed with just one word: “Perseverance.”

She sold her first bag at a farmers market in June 2011, got products into Lunds and Byerly’s in 2012 and last year launched in Whole Foods, Cub, Hy-Vee and other retailers.

Last year, Target approached her to discuss its plans for products marketed by natural food companies like hers. “That to me was really telling, somebody like Target, because they are really tied in with the big cereal companies,” Barnstable said. “They are almost partners with them.”

Seven Sundays products began appearing on the shelves of Target stores in Minnesota in mid-January.

Barnstable is 32, and she said she’s still just getting started. But she no longer thinks selling Seven Sundays to one of these big companies will be in her future. She now envisions a longer run with lots of products in addition to cereal.

“Our goal is to reinvent breakfast in the U.S.,” she said. “You think of all the things in the breakfast aisle and kind of how bad they are, like the Pop-Tarts and that stuff. And we think, ‘How can we improve this?’ ”

Sounds like an opportunity. • 612-673-4302

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