For those of you who don’t know, MOMA stands for Making Oats More Awesome. And as a company, they’ve truly delivered that promise. With potentially one of the most quirky origin stories, we were delighted to be able to talk to Tom, founder of Moma Foods, to hear about how he went from a filing cabinet with wheels to the booming breakfast business we know and love.
Hi Tom! So tell us a bit about where Moma started?
I’m a farmer’s son from Staffordshire; when I graduated from university, I worked as a management consultant for three years. When I first started out, there wasn’t the option for a breakfast on the go, except if you wanted something like a muffin or a croissant. A gap in the market became obvious to me, and the proverbial seed was planted.
I started to go to train stations in my spare time, and I’d spend countless mornings with a clicker, counting how many people would pass through. Underground and overground, I even got thrown out of Charing Cross for ‘loitering’ once. I put applications in for just about everywhere, and I eventually got the green light from Southern trains, and we set up in Waterloo East. Our ‘stall’ was a now infamous filing cabinet with wheels, and the business flourished out of it.
With a lot of start-ups who’ve become scale-ups, I think there’s a tendency to brush that slightly less glamorous part of being a new business under the carpet. For me, I take absolute pride in every step of our journey. I think those home-grown origins become a genuine motivator for the consumer, because we operate with a transparency and human quality that’s relatable, and sets us apart from the corporate giants.
How did you expand out of the filing cabinet?
As the business grew, we moved into the Debtford Railway Arch, and started to create our breakfasts there. It was a real seat-of-the-pants time, and everything spiralled out of intuition and excitement. We were waking up at half past two in the morning, making the breakfasts, packing the stall into a van, and going around to different train stations. It felt like setting off a firework; what started off as a tiny spark soon became a fantastic explosion. Quickly we expanded, and then we expanded more. In 2009, we conquered land and sky, with our first sale in Waitrose, and our airline listing in Virgin Atlantic. MOMA continues to exceed my hopes for the company, and it was and is a wonderful journey to be on.
Looking back, is there anything which you’d say to your past self?
In the past five years, we’ve focused a lot more on porridge compared to our original Bircher Muesli. Our porridge is brilliant; we constantly strive towards having better and better quality, more jumbo oats, exceptional flavours…but that was never a focus I’d expected MOMA to take, as I’d anticipated our muesli to continue as the hero product. I think that maintaining objectivity, then, is what I’d say to my past self and other start-ups looking to make decisions for their companies. When you’re an entrepreneur, your business is your passion, and so it can be hard to take that step back, but it’s precisely that uncomfortable look which will allow you to make the best choices for your company direction.
Where do you think the breakfast industry is heading?
The two mega-trends of the future are health and convenience. Products that strike a unity between the two are the ones to watch. We’re in a privileged, deliberate position where oats remain at the centre of that health and wellness focus within the breakfast industry. Our products are great for you, they give you a slow-release of energy that’s vital for a breakfast food, and they’re easy and quick for the commuting consumer. I’d also say that the free-from, plant-based focus will continue to remain an important consideration. We’ve got a great balance between having a mixture of gluten-free products and not, dairy-free products and not. Even with that broad spectrum, we’ve still got the largest selection of dairy-free porridges on the market, so that’s a good position to be in.
The breakfast industry is one which will always be there; it’s a cliché, especially for me to say, but it is truly the most important meal of the day. At MOMA, our job is to make sure we not only provide for that importance, but make breakfast the most enjoyable meal too.
Thanks for speaking to us Tom! Here at Forward Fooding, we’re proud to work with start-ups so invested in ensuring that they’re providing for the consumer in every way imaginable, and want to foster that community of companies who are truly disruptive in the food world. Speaking to companies like MOMA provides a fantastic case study of how home-grown origins can flourish into a booming and brilliant business. If you’d like to see what connections Forward Fooding could offer your start-up, feel free to get in touch with us at email@example.com! You can also add your company to our FMCG trends section on our platform to get free visibility within our corporate and investors’ network here.
Forward Fooding is the world’s first collaborative platform for FoodTech Data Intelligence and Corporate Startup Collaboration. If you enjoyed this article, follow, clap or share and join us in our Food Revolution at ForwardFooding.com