A Healthier Breakfast Cereal: Three Wishes Cereal’s Origin Story

Three Wishes founders.

Any parent who has taken a toddler to the grocery store knows the temptations found in the cereal aisle: row after row of sugary, processed breakfast food with little to no nutritional value. What’s a health-conscious parent to do? Margaret Wishingrad, CEO and co-founder of Three Wishes Cereal (and a mother), came up with a solution: grain-free, high-protein cereals that parents can feel good about serving to their kids. 

This is Three Wishes Cereal’s origin story.

In Search of a Healthier Breakfast

Margaret, like all mothers, wanted her children to have healthy food. However, breakfast presented a special challenge. “There were no healthy cereals” before she started her company, she says. “Cereal was really just dessert: a lot of sugar, no real nutrition.” 

Many parents would have given up and just fed their kids Fruit Loops, but Margaret had a better idea: Why not start her own cereal company with healthier offerings? While the idea seemed great, she lacked any sort of experience with commercial recipe development or food production. Still, her innate creativity in the kitchen gave her a leg up. “I've always played around with ingredients that weren't super conventional,” she says. “But the actual creation and commercialization of cereal … couldn't be further from that.”

Because cereal is such a challenging food to produce at scale, she and her husband needed professional help to get Three Wishes Cereal off the ground. “Creating cereal is not a commercial kitchen process where you have a recipe, you bring it, and you put it in a KitchenAid,” she says. “It's extremely, extremely technical.”

One of the company’s first hires was a food scientist to provide crucial expertise. After that, the fledgling firm had to create, test, and pilot different formulas at different production facilities to see what would work. Two years and almost $200,000 later, they had a product they believed would sell. “There were so many ups and downs … to get to the final product,” Margaret said. “But that's entrepreneurship. You have to be prepared for those roller coasters.”

Pricing, Sales Channels

One challenge has been around pricing. On the one hand, charging more than a typical box of cereal in a conventional store signals that it’s a premium brand. On the other hand, charging too much will put products out of reach of many consumers.

“You want to keep that barrier to entry pretty low,” she said. “So we tried to balance that fine line of, ‘Oh it's another dollar, another dollar-fifty from the not-so-healthy cereals, and I know that I'm making a good change and choice for myself and my body.’ So that's kind of how we decided on a pretty healthy price point.”

Margaret also knew from the beginning that choosing the proper sales channels would be crucial for the company’s success. “We really wanted to make sure that you're discovering us in a place where people look for [healthier foods],” she said. “So we really focused on natural channels for the first two-ish years of the business.” 

She pointed out that people typically spend longer in natural and specialty grocery stores than in conventional ones because they take more time to read labels. Thus, the company wanted “to start in a place where you’re allowed to tell a story and where people are looking for a story,” she said.

Today, Three Wishes Cereal is distributed in natural food stores across the US. But to reach the next level, it has to crack the conventional grocery market and persuade owners to give the company shelf space – which is much easier said than done. “So even though we are omnichannel and you can buy us on our website and on Amazon, we really focused on brick and mortar,” she says.

Increasing Brand Recognition

One of Three Wishes Cereal’s primary long-term goals is nothing less than to become a household cereal brand right up there with all the unhealthy junk. If that happens, most parents will know there’s a better alternative. 

“I have my name on this, so I would hope that it has some wonderful sticking power and stays around for a very long time,” she said. “I just want to continue making really great decisions and steering this brand [so] it continues to grow in a really smart way. And for me, that's channel strategy and just all these other experiences and flavors and innovation.”

Even though Three Wishes Cereal doesn’t yet have the name recognition of Post or Kellogg's, Margaret is proud of how far the company has come and bullish on its future. “I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world,” she says. “Even on the days that I wake up at 2:00 in the morning for no reason but to remind myself to do something. It's my whole life.”

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