Finding Happiness on the Sunshine Coast

Holy Crap

A series of life changing events led Corin Mullins and husband Brian to the top of a booming enterprise. Their entrepreneurial spirit is unwavering. Acknowledged as one of the most successful ventures to come out of the highly acclaimed Dragons’ Den, the Mullins’ healthy, nutritious natural food products have reached great success in Canada and internationally.

Corin, a retired flight attendant with Air Canada, is CEO of HapiFoods Group Incorporated along with co-founder Brian, now also retired from a career in marketing. The husband and wife team developed a cereal phenomenon from their home in Sechelt, B.C in 2009. The product’s humble beginnings are rooted in their local farmer’s market, where they took the cereal when it was first developed. Their cereal is humorously called Holy Crap, one of four cereal brands now manufactured in nearby Gibsons, B.C.

Aside from Holy Crap cereal, HapiFoods Group hosts three other cereal brands including Wild Chia, Mary Jane and Skinny B. The Mullins’ employ 20 fulltime employees and seven additional staff on contract in their factory. They have had to expand into two warehouses to keep up with the demand.

“Primarily Holy Crap is the number one seller,” says Brian. “Skinny B, which goes into smoothies, is really starting to pick up and represents about 20 percent of sales… People asked us for hemp, so we introduced Mary Jane, a pure hemp product. They can add it to their salads.” Brian is pleased to announce that the team’s cereals have reached 27,000 Likes on Facebook: “Those are what we call organic likes… these are people that genuinely like us,” he explains.

Not Just Another Cereal

HapiFoods Group believes that ready-to-eat cereals should be nutritious and healthy to start the day. To this end, the company’s cereals are rich in fibre, complex carbohydrates and protein. They are certified organic, non-GMO (meaning free of Genetically Modified Organisms), and free of lactose, gluten, nuts, salt and sugar.

The cereals leverage the powerhouse nutritional benefits of ingredients such as chia, hemp seed and buckwheat (in the case of Skinny B) and organic cinnamon, raisins, dried apple and cranberries (found in Holy Crap). HapiFoods cereals provide health benefits to individuals with issues such as intestinal issues, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.

Corin and Brian acknowledge that eating right is all about making wise food choices. “We’re part of the food revolution that’s taking place,” says Brian. “People are realizing that they can help to manage their health problems through proper diet. A lot of people are moving toward plant strong diets now.”

A True Success Story

HapiFoods now has its cereal brands in over 2000 stores across Canada and exports to 20 countries through online sales. That amounts to over ten tons of cereal a week, 70 percent of which is Holy Crap cereal. Although the Mullins’ have plans of expansion in to the U.S. market, right now they are concentrating on sales within Canada. This advice comes from Dragons’ Den’s Jim Treliving, who jumped at the opportunity to invest in the company when the couple appeared on the CBC show in 2010. It was one of the fastest deals ever made on the Den.

“To this day they still serve Holy Crap on the set of Dragons’ Den,” Brian shares. The producers of the show tried the cereal and loved it before Corin and Brian even made their pitch to the Dragons. “It wasn’t the name, not the approach, but the fact that they ate it and had magical results themselves,” he adds.

“We never knew when we were walking in [to the Den], whether we were going to be a joke. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were just there to have a good time,” Corin muses. Incredibly, after the airing of the episode, HapiFoods Group generated $1.5 million in internet sales. “Following Dragons’ Den, it was 90 percent internet and 10 percent in store,” says Brian. “Now it’s the reverse. It’s 10 percent internet, and 90 percent in stores. We’re focused on keeping the shelves in Canada full first.”

The Power of Chia

One of the main ingredients in HapiFoods cereals, chia is an ancient seed crop rich in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Originally grown in Mexico, chia thrives in volcanic regions. HapiFoods sources its chia seeds from fields in Mexico. The environmental impact of shipping ingredients across such a long distance is a concern. According to Corin, there is potential with global warming to grow chia in northern climates. “We just learned that there’s a farmer in B.C. that is growing chia. That’s important to us,” she says.

Corin and Brian caution that with their cereals, two tablespoons is sufficient especially with the added chia. Chia seed has a tendency to expand. “It’s hydrophilic so it grows to nine times its size,” says Corin. “So your two tablespoons becomes quite a large bowl. It’s hydrated with water, soya, almond or regular milk.” The choice is yours.

Reaching New Heights

Holy Crap was originally designed as part of a survival kit after the Mullins’ experienced the Quebec ice storm of 1998 without power, food or water. Acting on a means of preparation in emergency situations, Corin eventually developed Holy Crap after much trial and error. With a storage life of up to a year, the high protein cereal has caught the attention of Canada’s military, who has asked for samples. “We have submitted samples with the Canadian military for desert testing… the military is saying that they want to feed the soldiers healthier rations and meals,” Brian says.

In December 2012, Holy Crap cereal was one of twelve Canadian foods to accompany Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield on his five-month mission to the International Space Station. Holy Crap was deemed an appropriate choice with the strict criteria for food products. The cereal was chosen for its nutritional value and extended shelf life, since there are no refrigeration units on the ISS. Corin and Brian were elated that their cereal was taken to new heights.

At this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show at New York’s Javits Convention Center, 80 countries and over 2400 companies showcased their food products. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch attended, on the lookout for up and coming food products. Holy Crap was there and made quite an impression. In fact, Holy Crap was chosen as one the hottest new food products to come out, ranking in the top five among 180,000 products according to the Journal. “Our company is the fastest growing cereal company in Canada [at] 2000 percent over the past three years,” says Corin.

The couple receives letters every day from people sharing how the HapiFoods cereals have helped with alleviating health problems. “That really keeps us going,” says Brian. “We’ve been asked to do clinical studies with a couple of universities here, so we’ll be moving in that direction.” The team’s cereal brands will also be carried in pharmacies across North America in their gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and organic aisles.

Taking a Chance

Making the choice to be an entrepreneur is not an easy one. “You have to have a passion for it,” says Corin. It’s all about taking a chance. “Just go out and try it, but don’t put all of your eggs in a basket,” she explains. “That’s what we did. We invested $129.00 buying the ingredients [and] going to the farmer’s market. We didn’t know what was going to happen… We were successful.”

The Mullins’ are definitely committed to their company and their product. “On an entrepreneurial level you don’t shut off at 4 o’clock. It’s 24-7,” Brian notes. It is a commitment which is certainly paying off.

May 29, 2020, 3:39 AM EDT