Minneapolis Sustainable Cereal Brand Raises $6M
Minneapolis-based cereal company Seven Sundays has raised $6 million in a recent funding round.
Founded in 2011 at a Minneapolis farmers market, Seven Sundays produces breakfast items like nut-based granolas, protein oatmeal, grain-free sunflower cereals, gluten-free mueslis, and a new oat protein cereal. In recent years, the company has grown as it has continued to expand its ready-to-eat cereal product portfolio.
The latest funding round, which closed in late June, was led by a group of individual private investors along with follow-on from venture capital firms Sidekick Partners, Clover Vitality, and grt sht Ventures. Internet chef Bobby Parrish also invested alongside existing angel investors. A June 23 SEC filing said a total of 25 investors participated in this round.
Seven Sundays reported a separate $1 million funding round a year ago.
Company founder Hannah Barnstable told TCB that she plans to use the recent raise to ensure the company can produce enough inventory to stay in stock. She said she also plans to expand the company’s supply chain programs, which focus on “upcycling” food materials, or using materials that would otherwise be thrown away or disregarded. Proponents of upcycling say the practice supports regenerative agriculture and reduces packaging waste.
Seven Sundays, which currently has 11 employees, also plans to hire more workers and purchase processing and packaging equipment.
Barnstable said her focus has always been on people’s health, while her husband and co-founder, Brady, has a passion for planet health. For his part, Brady has years of environmental and sustainability consulting experience. Seven Sundays is the result of the co-founders’ personal missions, Barnstable said. “Eating real food is what’s best for our health and what’s best for our planet,” she said. “It’s all been mission-driven from the very beginning.”
In 2019, Seven Sundays became a B Corporation, a designation that signifies a company has met a series of environmental and social metrics. Getting the certification didn’t mean Seven Sundays’ actual business practices needed to change, Barnstable noted. But, as the brand grew beyond its local customer base, the B Corp certification was a way to show the company’s values to a wider customer base, she said. It was also a way to solidify company principles and values through documentation, Barnstable said. “Of all the certifications we have … the B Corp is the most difficult (to get) and it’s the one we’re the most proud to have.”
After getting the certification, companies are required to score higher every three years. That impacts every decision Seven Sundays makes, Barnstable noted. For example, when deciding which film to use for packaging, the company opted for one that’s made from recycled milk jugs. “We’re trying to remove the plastic put out in the world,” she said.
The extra cost associated with these sustainable products means the company has less to spend on marketing. “But we’re okay. We’ve always been comfortable just growing at the natural rates,” Barnstable said. “Having people discover products, word of mouth, or through scrappy events. We do stuff like that.”
Meanwhile, Seven Sundays continues to expand its product line. Last month, the company partnered with Eden Prairie-based manufacturer SunOpta to launch its first certified upcycled cereal brand made from the byproduct of oat milk production.
Barnstable said a recent oat shortage inspired her to create the new line. In 2021, a drought across the Northern Plains ushered in an oat shortage the likes of which Barnstable had never seen in her 10 years running Seven Sundays. The price of oats doubled overnight. At the same time, the oat milk industry was still riding high. Barnstable was making oat milk at home and knew that, after blending the oats and squeezing out the starch, the byproduct left behind had three times the protein and twice the fiber of whole oats. This is what led to a partnership with SunOpta to create oat cereal she calls an “amped up cheerio” from this byproduct.
“I think a lot of people they see upcycled and they think, ‘Oh, the ugly banana,’ right? But there’s a tremendous amount of nutrition that gets lost in certain production processes and we’re just ready to do the heavy lifting to get it to food grade,” Barnstable said.
The new product is available at nationwide at major retailers including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Amazon, and on Seven Sundays’ website.