The growth of muesli in South Africa has resulted in a proliferation of different brands and mixtures to appeal to different market segments. Paul Ruiter of Paul’s Muesli started his business making muesli almost by chance. While working in the hotel industry in 1991 as a breakfast supervisor, a particular hotel ran out of muesli pending a director’s visit the following day. Paul remembered his mother made muesli and used that recipe to create something for the important visit. It was so well received that he started to make small batches and sell them to his employer. He started selling to other hotels in the area and was soon making 30kg per week.
In 1992 he commenced cost and management accounting studies and pursued his small business after hours and in his spare time. Within a short time, he was producing 30kg twice per week and needed help with production. He employed Thini Mogale to cook and pack the product. Thini is still with Paul 19 years on as the packing manager, producing in tons rather than kilos.
The story is a typical ‘working from a renovated garage’ one and continues as the business grew out of the kitchen and by 1996, into an entire house but, this was still insufficient space. Next, containers in the garden were used for additional production capacity. Around this time, Paul imported his first container of oats and slowly began importing other ingredients.
This helped to keep the costs down, but it was necessary to improve stock turnover by selling some of the volume to other businesses in the area. The end product was still sold primarily to hotels and some success also came by supplying various airlines. Paul then negotiated his first third party packing contract. In 2000, the company moved to bigger premises in Strijdom Park and two years later – when volumes necessitated another move – to his current premises in North Riding.
With this growth, investment in equipment also became important. A strip-packing machine was essential to service the convenience market, before a versatile packing machine to automate the filling of 500g, 750g and 1kg bags. In 2008 the rotary ovens that had been adequate were replaced with a modern conveyor oven which is now a dominant feature in the factory.
The factory is well set up to receive the quantities required to keep customers supplied on time and in full. The oil arrives by tanker load, the syrup in one ton bulk containers and most other ingredients by shipping containers which originate from all over the globe, namely USA, UK, Vietnam, India and Canada. Once the batches of rolled oats, quick oats, oil and syrup have been mixed, there is careful control of the depth of muesli entering the conveyor oven, to ensure even baking. The hot mixture is then cooled over a long conveyor. Once cold, batches of only 200kg are mixed with the fruit, nuts and seeds in a paddle mixer. This is a gentle blend and ensures good distribution of the ingredients and superior quality of the final product. The aim is to reduce clumping or breakages and to ensure that every packet has a fair distribution of the speciality inclusions which every consumer wants to find each morning in the breakfast bowl.
What’s the secret to a good muesli?
Paul’s Muesli currently produces about 80 % volume for third party businesses, while 20% is supplied to wholesalers, hotels and airlines. Paul’s secret to success: stay focused on the product and give clients what they want. He can create muesli to any specification by mixing different ingredients. The clients handle all the packaging design, retail listings and distribution. Manipulating ingredients to achieve the desired nutritional values is important, remembering that the appeal of muesli is a healthy image of the product. Although the ingredients are not necessarily all healthy some consumers require various ingredients for their preferred diets. Most muesli’s consist of 70-80 % oats, either as rolled oats or quick oats or a combination thereof. Oats themselves contain 6 - 8% fat, so if a lower fat product is required, bran or wheat can be added. In some cases manufacturers use these rather for bulk, but then there is also the need to consider wheat intolerant consumers and the allergen labelling requirements.
Nuts, seeds and fruit are vital in a good muesli and the question is always which ones to add and how many. South Africans like a lot of nuts, however they are also very expensive and so the target price of the product often limits what can be used. Nutritionally, nuts also add a lot of fat, but a high proportion of this fat is the beneficial mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The typical values above will vary with country of origin and different seasons. This fat profile together with the oat bran has enabled all Paul’s Muesli products to be approved by the local Heart and Stroke Foundation. The oat bran is a soluble fibre which acts as an agent for lowering blood cholesterol. Labelling of any such claims is not permitted but the Heart Foundation logo is the product endorsement that consumers can be reassured by.
Fruit inclusions can differ, but raisins and sltanas are readily available locally and widely used in most products. Other options include banana chips, papaya pieces, pineapple pieces or cranberries (see adjacent insert). Fruit pieces also add a considerable amount of sugar, so once again the required nutritional profile needs to be considered. Adding seeds is increasingly popular, with sesame being the most common. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds can all be used as well.
Paul Ruiter has made good use of various trade shows to increase his market profile and grow the business steadily over so many years. He has exhibited at Hostex for the hotels and wholesalers in parts of the country other than Gauteng. Last year Paul’s Muesli was part of the GEDA (Gauteng Economic Development Agency) stand at Africa’s Big 7 show. This support was forthcoming as the growing business employs more people and now runs 24 hours a day.
A highlight for Paul was his participation at Anuga in Cologne, Germany in October 2009. The company was approved to exhibit on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) stand along with 27 other local companies. The DTI sponsorship included one airticket, subsistence allowance, freight of stock to the show, not to mention the actual stand and space at such a prestigious show. The goal was to obtain international exposure and target export markets. Pauls’ Muesli is now in a position to contract manufacture for other countries, supermarket groups or hotel chains. The contacts made at Anuga are extremely valuable and provide a platform to work on in the year ahead. The report back to the DTI will determine if another opportunity will be sponsored by them in the future.
Muesli is a lasting symbol of an alternative and healthy lifestyle that started over 100 years ago. The product is well poised in the 21st century to grow, develop and convert many more consumers to eat a balanced nutritious breakfast. As the product evolves, Paul’s Muesli is well positioned to supply this burgeoning sector.
Muesli is a Swiss German word which has become incorporated into virtually every major language. Muesli was first created by Dr Bircher-Benner in around 1900. It was a breakfast meal containing grated apple, lemon juice, oats, nuts and milk which was to be eaten daily by the patients in his clinic. This idea spread quickly and has become synonymous with a healthy lifestyle and balanced nutrition. Muesli really means a ‘mixture’ and now refers to a cereal made of oats, raisins, other fruit and grains. Today’s product bears little resemblance to the original mixture but is served at breakfast tables around the world.
Cranberry juice, cranberry flavoured drinking yoghurt, cranberry biscuits, breakfast bars or yoghurt; the possibilities are endless. It is not that long ago that none of these products would have been found on the shelf of a local retailer. As this fruit is native to North America, not much is known about it here in South Africa.
Cranberries are a unique fruit which can grow and survive only under a combination of specific factors. These include acid peat soil, adequate fresh water and a long growing season in the Northern Hemisphere from April to November. (refer www.cranberries.org) The cranberry is a wetland fruit which grows on trailing vines similar to a strawberry. The areas where they grow are called bogs or marshes and many were originally formed by glacial deposits. Water is supplied by sprinklers or flooding and this water is essential to protect the fruit from frost as well as heat in summer. The flooding is best known as a harvest technique once the berries are well ripened. Water in the bogs is agitated to dislodge the fruit off the vines and due to their pockets of air, they float to the surface. The fruit is rounded up by the use of booms and then lifted by conveyors onto a truck to proceed to cleaning. Thereafter the berries may be frozen, pureed, powdered, dried and prepared for any of the specific applications in the food industry. Ocean Spray is an American marketing co-operative founded in 1930.
It supplies of all forms of cranberry and have state of the art processing facilities. With over 600 fruit growers across different areas of the USA they can ensure a consistent supply. Ocean Spray is represented in South Africa by Euroberry. It originated in Cape Town in 1995 and in mid 2009 opened a branch in Wadeville, to better service the Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal markets. It can offer all the variants and has its own frozen stores to ensure prompt deliveries. Commonly used is the Sweetened Dried Cranberry or the Glycerated Cranberry. Something new is the Juice Infused Cranberry, with either pomegranate or blueberry juice creating a new taste sensation. For more information and inspiration, go to www.oceansprayitg.com.
Locally contact www.euroberry.co.za or call 021-851-3462 or 011-824-0906.