This article appeared in The Star on November 23, 2010 by Allison Cross
Holy crap: An exclamation of utter disbelief. Or, a wildly popular vegan cereal that has no gluten and actually tastes good. Demand for the cereal skyrocketed after the owner of the Boston Pizza restaurant chain offered creators Corin and Brian Mullins $120,000 for a 20 per cent stake in their company mere moments after tasting the product.
The husband and wife duo from Sechelt, B.C., appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den last week to pitch Holy Crap, a combination of chia, hulled hemp seeds, buckwheat, apples, cranberries, raisins and cinnamon. The show invites entrepreneurs to present their ideas to a panel of real-life business bigwigs ready to invest their own cash. After only a couple of bites, Dragon Jim Treliving was sold on the product created by Corin, a former flight attendant now in her 50s. “I don’t want to hear any more,” he told the Mullinses. “I want to buy it.”
The deal was the fastest struck in Dragons’ Dens history, says producer Molly Duignan. Duignan says. “(Treliving) hadn’t even finished sampling the product and he basically made an offer.” Orders for the cereal have been rolling in, jumping from an average of 10 a day to 10 every minute. “We’re making and shipping. Making and shipping,” says Corin from Sechelt, a town of about 8,000. “We’re non-stop. We sent over 300 orders (on Monday).” More than 5,800 online orders have been placed since the show aired, she says.
Demand has been so great, the Mullins hired five new employees. The local post office took on two new staff members, too. Postage alone for the 5,800 orders will be near $62,000, he says. Orders are coming in from 11 countries, Brian says, because the Mullinses sold the cereal in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The pair had been offered a spot on NBC’s Today Show, but turned it down because they wouldn’t have be able to keep up with an increase in demand. Cereal fiends have shown up to the couple’s front door in Sechelt, cash in hand, hoping to snag a bag, but the Mullins told them to place an order like everyone else. “We had two people show up this morning,” Brian says, “because they can’t find it in the store.”
Even distributor EcoTrend Ecologics is out of stock. It could be a while before the cereal is available in the Toronto area. The Peanut Mill Natural Foods Market in St. Catharines ran out a few days after the Mullinses’ TV appearance. “We should be getting more in the next couple of days” says owner Jason Sebeslev. And at least 30 people requested the cereal at the Whole Foods on Avenue Rd. at Bloor St. W. on Sunday, said manager Rob Luscombe, although the store doesn’t carry it. Why the fuss? A 28-gram serving of the cereal has 120 calories, six grams of fat, six grams of fibre and no sodium. It’s eaten with almond, soy, hemp or cow’s milk, or over yogurt, although some consumers soak it in tea.
When the pair got stuck in the ice storm in Montreal in 1998, they discovered how valuable it would be to have an easy, nutritious cereal that didn’t need to be cooked. “We’ll never, ever be able to compete with large companies like Post or Kelloggs but we have our own niche. It’s a very healthy cereal,” Corin says. “It has lots of fibre and all that stuff.” Brian adds yogurt to the cereal and refrigerates it overnight. Holy Crap contains chia seeds, also known as salvia hispanica L, which are high in fibre, calcium and antioxidants.
Chia seeds don’t taste very good on their own, says registered dietician Helene Charlebois. “You can also always just buy chia and put it in your other cereal in the morning, as long as it’s healthy, but that can be very expensive,” she says. “There’s no artificial anything (in Holy Crap), so starting your day off with that would be awesome,” she says.
Chia can also help curb hunger because is expands in the stomach, Charlebois says. Zee Cajtgamlova, the chief operating officer at EcoTrend, said customers can expect Holy Crap at Toronto health food stores in a few weeks, as soon as the Mullinses catch up on their orders.
How Holy Crap came to be When Corin and Brian Mullins released their new cereal in early 2009, it was called HapiFoods. They sold 10 bags or so online that first day. “It was cute and everything but people were calling and saying: Holy crap, this is great,” Corin says.
Brian, who has worked in marketing and communications, suggested they name the cereal Holy Crap, just for the summer. “We put it online and the first day it was Holy Crap, I sold over 100 bags,” Corin says. “It was the exact same recipe.