Everyone thinks about it every morning, mid-morning and sometimes the night before. Breakfast. Some do some don’t, most do and with that comes the array of selections from a humble piece of toast with spreads through to eggs benny or an elaborate healthy smoothie. Today I caught up with Clare Robinson – breakfast is her business.
Tell us about your time working in the food industry
‘I worked at Affco in the freezing works for eight years in quality control and as a butcher, I was the only female in the beef slaughter board. If you didn’t keep up everyone banged their knives so you learnt pretty quick to keep up! I’ve also worked for Fonterra, Tegel and Hansells.’
‘I took the job at Hansells because I love baking but I discovered that manufacturing is different to baking for love. It made me open my eyes and look around at other products realizing that there are so many processed foods now and I saw a gap in the market for unprocessed products. At the end of the day convenience is the attraction of processed food so I thought unprocessed but convenient was a gap I could fill.’
Why muesli as opposed to any other food product? What made you want to make a difference in what was being offered to the public?
‘I’m really good at it and made it for myself for years and people always said they loved my muesli so why not do that. I wanted a muesli product that looked home made and there was a gap for low sugar muesli but still tasty so that was my original product and then I had heaps of requests for gluten free so I started making gluten free.’
‘A lot of muesli are made cheaper but using cheaper ingredients and are high in sugar and very processed. It’s really important for people to get away from sugary high-processed foods. For example the gluten free options will have rice bubbles or rice flakes which are a cheap product but they are also low on nutrition. I chose not to include cheap products which made my muesli options a lot more challenging. I get really good feedback on my product, I was at the gluten free show about a month ago and there were a couple of other brands there that were selling a lot cheaper than mine but I still had people come and buy my product which was pretty cool. Quality rather than quantity.’
What is the shelf life of Te Atatu Toasted?
‘6 months because it’s quite dry, it should actually go longer than that but the reason I say six months is because people have things sitting in their pantry for too long and you shouldn’t do that foods should be eaten sooner rather than later. I’m guilty of it too, I have tins of baked beans in the back of my cupboard’
‘If you have a survival kit at home with tinned food and the like, you should actually eat the contents of your survival kit once a year and replenish it.’
Was it quite daunting to start your own business or were you confident that your product would succeed?
‘It’s no less daunting now then it was to start, it’s kind of a mixture of daunting and exciting every day! Te Atatu Toasted is my first business, I was a bit lucky in that when I worked for Tegel I was the production manager there and I had to do a lot of costings for products so I understand the costing process. The marketing side of the business is all new to me.’
How did you come up with the name?
‘I went overseas for a month after finishing at Hansells and had a great think session about a lot of things and the muesli idea was definitely on my mind. After I came back I started selling my muesli at the Oratia market, I didn’t have a name, it just said toasted muesli on the label for three months. I asked people what they thought would be a good name and one of my friends suggested Te Atatu Toasted which kind of stuck. I was thinking of calling it Matipo Road where I live but I’m glad I went with Te Atatu Toasted. I had an ad in Bite magazine recently and have had quite a few people remember so that’s brilliant.’
Tell us about your customers
‘I think my customers are people who are strong on good nutrition, care about good food and are looking for something that’s not filled with fillers. I also have customers that are looking for an alternative after their favorite brands have changed their recipes and added things they don’t like. All you need is a third of a cup, if you really want to make it last you can sprinkle it over porridge.’
Given that you are surrounded by muesli on a daily basis what do you have for breakfast?
‘This morning I had muesli and I do almost every morning. Only a third of a cup, top it up with milk or yoghurt and leave it in the fridge over night to soak and in the morning I’ll have it with yoghurt and fruit and that will keep me going until lunchtime. Once a week I go to Fuze usually on a Saturday morning and have eggs on hash browns as a treat.’
What do you enjoy about living in Te Atatu Peninsula?
‘I enjoy the great community spirit, which partly comes because it is a Peninsula. The community feel and Facebook has bought the community together I think. There are so many wonderful businesses here too and it has been fabulous to work with some of them in my business. A good day for me is a day when I don’t leave the Peninsula.’
Where can people buy your muesli?
‘In the Peninsula at Fuze and at Sue’s Cupboard Love (the old Miss Malicious store). Out west you can buy it at Borich’s and 3 Farro stores and some New World who have all been amazing to deal with. You can also buy it direct from me through my website Te Atatu Toasted.
Given that your product is so wholesome, do you eat wholesome clean foods most of the time at home or do you enjoy some not so healthy treats now and again?
‘My one bad vice is too much coffee. Yes, I eat pretty well and clean. No preservatives and refined sugars although I do make my own preserves and bread.’
Where do you buy your coffee?
‘Fuze – always Fuze.’
Clare very kindly gave me a packet of Te Atatu Toasted to sample. I used a third of a cup as suggested and covered with milk, left it in the fridge over night to soak. In the morning I had it with banana and apple – it really was delicious and I would recommend it. I’m going to keep it in mind for gifts too.