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Ah breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, and yet most of us just grab at whatever cold leftovers are sitting around and wolf them down on the way to work or school. And thus breakfast might also be a market opportunity.

When Beth Gallo survived breast cancer, she decided to start eating healthier, and the best way to do so was to improve her morning meals. Starting a business was far from her mind, but she also soon realized that none of the many breakfast options actually seemed appealing, or if they were, they could not fit into her busy lifestyle. Using organic oats, dried nuts, fruits, and whey protein powder, Gallo began making her own hot cereal, which she eventually named Mad Hectic oatmeal—and then grew into a company that sells in 28 locations across Massachusetts and Rhode island, including 3 Whole Foods Markets, and that has tripled in size in the past two years.

The hot cereal market, though declining, remains a billion dollar industry, in which Mad Hectic is a tiny little player. But the company also enjoys some serious competitive advantages.

  • Price. At approximately twice the price of commercially popular oatmeal brands, it seems like Mad Hectic suffers in comparison, but it actually represents part of its success as a high-end offering.
  • Product. Offering more protein and fiber than comparable products, Mad Hectic can tout its health benefits, such as increased energy from protein, weight control due to fiber, stronger bones thanks to added calcium, and a healthier heart from Omega-3 oils.
  • Placement. It isn’t easy to find Mad Hectic on supermarket shelves, but those who love it will seek it out and incorporate it into their daily health regime.
  • Promotion. For now, Gallo prompts interest in her oatmeal by hosting tastings in local stores that carry the product. Customers react enthusiastically, and store managers can’t help but notice. Whole Foods thus plans to increase the number of stores carrying Mad Hectic if it continues selling well.

As one market research expert notes, consumers often willingly pay a premium for products marketed as healthy and quick. A small company that promises to make their lives easier will not stay small for long.

Discussion Questions:

1. Should Beth Gallo take Mad Hectic national?

2. What promotional tool would be best for Mad Hectic?

Gal Tziperman Lotan, “Sowing the Oats of Prosperity,” Boston Globe, March 13, 2010