Growing up in Brooklyn after emigrating from Israel with her parents in 1993, Margaret Wishingrad ate cereal for breakfast – like most American kids. It wasn’t until her son Ellis was born in 2017 that she began to think about what cereal consists of.
“I realized there was no truly clean cereal,” says the Scarsdale resident.
So in October 2019, just months before the pandemic hit, she launched Three Wishes Cereal, now a multimillion-dollar company. Its product is a high-protein, low-sugar, gluten- and grain-free cereal made with four to eight ingredients, including chickpea, pea protein, tapioca, organic cane sugar, monk fruit and vegetable juice. And it comes in six flavors — cinnamon, honey, frosted, fruity, cocoa and unsweetened. There’s also a seasonal flavor, the present one being pumpkin spice.
The Three Wishes in Three Wishes Cereal are the Three original Wishingrads on the project — Margaret, husband and co-founder Ian and muse Ellis.
“I’ve always loved food,” Margaret says. “What I really wanted to do was go to culinary school, but my parents didn’t think it was good enough.”
So instead she majored in sociology at Hunter College in Manhattan. Looking back, she says, sociology was good preparation for creating and marketing a cereal as it helped her understand how people think.
After college Margaret worked in real estate. When she met and married the Stamford-born and raised Ian, she joined his Manhattan ad agency, BigEyedWish, whose clients have included AT&T, Macy’s, Nestlé and Diageo, a beer and spirits producer. As chief of staff for BigEyedWish over eight years, Margaret worked with Fortune 100 companies to seed start-ups. Little did she know she was preparing the ground — or should we say palate — for her own start-up once Ellis was born and she began feeding him solid foods.
Creating a product that was not “dessert masquerading as breakfast” by turning the family cupboard upside-down, as Three Wishes Cereal’s website notes, is one thing. Producing it (in the United States) and getting it onto store shelves is another. Here’s where the couple’s marketing savvy came in to play.
“Retail is a whole different game,” Margaret says. “A grocery store isn’t going to expand its shelves. To get that placement (on the shelves), something is going to have to be taken down.”
Which means that you’re going to have to convince stores that what you have is worth the placement. Clearly, the Wishingrads have been able to make the case that their brand — part of a venerable tradition that is as American as apple pie — is a better way to breakfast. The cereal is in all the high-end supermarkets, including Balducci’s, DeCicco & Sons, Erewhon, The Fresh Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Stew Leonard’s and Whole Foods. It has a “decent footprint” in Bronxville Natural Market. It also has a strong DTC (direct-to-consumer) arm.
“I think consumers over time have become more knowledgeable about what they put into their bodies,” Margaret says. “They want products that are healthy.”
Products like the Fruity cereal, which was going into production last year as Margaret was on another production — giving birth to younger son Jonah.
“The saying ‘it takes a village’ is a cliché, because it is extremely true,” she says of her support team, led by Ian, whom she calls “a great helper” both at home and in business, where he handles the advertising end of Three Wishes Cereal. Margaret in turn serves as consultant to BigEyedWish.
And what is their BigEyedWish for Three Wishes?
“Our next wish is for the cereal to become a staple in every home in America,” she says. “Being known as a classic is the goal.”
For more, visit threewishescereal.com and bigeyedwish.com.