Sunday, 14 March 2010

The saviour of breakfast on the go?

Can a tiny London breakfast company do for bircher muesli what Innocent did for smoothies?
"Lots of people have said 'this is the new Innocent'. Well, I hope so," founder Tom Mercer told me this week.

I met him at his Liverpool Street Station stall, where his bircher muesli pots, or mOma Jumbles, have got me hooked and even got the attention of The Times.

Tom is a Staffordshire farmer's son so he's no stranger to early mornings. When he started mOma he would get up at 4am to make his oatie mixture and take it to Waterloo station to sell from a stall made out of a filing cabinet.

Now his company has grown to a team of 22 including chefs, stallholders, drivers and marketing, and the range of Jumbles and now Oaties - thick oat and fruit smoothies is set to expand.

Bold new packaging will be launched later in the spring,alongside new flavours, multi-packs, kids' pots, there's a deal with Sainsburys in the wings, and you could even be served one of his "jumbles" on a Virgin Atlantic flight.

What started off in 2006 as a single Waterloo stall selling breakfast pots produced in a Deptford railway arch has now become eight stalls in central London train stations, and presence in 50 independent shops, Selfridges, some Waitrose stores, the John Lewis Foodhall on Oxford Street, and the BBC canteen.
Tom left a well-paid city job to pursue a career selling "healthy fast food". You can see why the parallels are drawn with a certain smoothie company... the one that sold a £30m stake to Coca Cola last year.

Tom is coy about the future, but passionate about his product. The challenge, he told me, is explaining to people what it is - something he appears to have struggled with himself. The company recently switched from oaty to oatie, and plans to drop the cows and sunrise images from its packaging to scream "breakfast" and "healthy" instead.

Another challenge is the supermarkets. He wants to get his product onto the shelves, but the usual story is that the supermarkets sit back and let a new product generate demand, then launch an own-brand product to rival it.

"It probably will happen," he said, "but we are established."

The vitals look good - 302 calories in a 235g Jumble and 5.7g of fat. The sugar is high - 22.5g per pot, but most of this comes from the fruit and no sucrose is added - they use agave instead. Even diabetics have contacted him to say they can eat it, not to mention the people who say they've taken to eating it five times a week as part of a diet plan.

Some of its is locally sourced too: the oats are from Cheshire, the yoghurt from Dorset and the berries and apple juice from Europe.

So, what's next? Aside from supermarket presence, new flavours will come along (Muesli Lover suspects mango and other more exotic fruits), and some will be dropped (red cherry just isn't selling).

Not everyone is convinced. Costa chose to sell a yoghurt breakfast pot over the Jumble, presumably fearing customers wouldn't be brave enough... but I've got a feeling they might come round in the end.
See the mOma website, to find out where to buy Jumbles and Oaties.


  1. I love Moma - I think they do a really good job of promoting themselves with the little samples they give out.

    You might like this granola - I've made it quite a few times and it really is delicious.

    I've also made this one and liked it although it's very sweet.

  2. Thanks for the tip Lynne - love the Orangette blog and will give it a go