For Emily Elyse Miller, founder and CEO of OffLimits, launching during a global pandemic was “interesting to navigate,” but in the end, worked out.
“Unfortunately, ‘fun cereal’ is associated with being unhealthy, and I wanted people to have fun with their food again, but in a healthy way,” Miller told TechCrunch. “There are a few startups in the space tackling the healthy side of cereal, but I wanted to take on the culture of breakfast.”
She split her time between fashion and food, attending the Fashion Institute of Technology before getting into the trends and forecasting space. It was there that she started writing about food and design, traveling all over the world. She said she “became obsessed with morning rituals” and worked with chefs to open their doors for breakfast. She even wrote a book on breakfast.
Miller launched OffLimits in 2020 out of Science Inc.’s startup studio. OffLimits uses whole ingredients, and its flavors are organic, vegan, gluten-free and lightly-sweetened with organic cane sugar. Since its launch, OffLimits’ two cereals Dash (turns your milk into cold brew coffee) and Zombie (Pandan-flavored, similar to vanilla) were picked up in stores like Intelligentsia and are available online. The cereals retail for $8.50 per box.
She is now announcing a $2.3 million round of funding that encompasses friends and family, pre-seed and seed financing. The backing comes from Science Inc., Crosslink, Canaan, DBC Creative CEO Dana Cowin, Surface Magazine CEO Marc Lotenberg, TikTok executive Nick Tran and NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons.
Miller said the breakfast market was valued at $16 billion in the U.S. and $30 billion globally. Building a cereal brand is capital-intensive and difficult to produce, so the new funding will go toward scaling into retail, hiring new talent and building up inventory.
Over the past few years, new brands like OffLimits have popped up, offering legacy brands a chance to pivot to new audiences, but largely they have not, she added.
“There is definitely room to grow and with the Gen Z mindset of questioning legacy brands, we want to support what is new,” Miller said. “We are one of the few that are all plant-based, which was both a disturbing and surprising fact to find out. It was really important that OffLimits had an extremely clean panel. We want something all chefs can be excited about.”
In addition to the funding, the company released new flavors, including Spark (strawberry flavor with antioxidants) and Flex, which has a cinnamon flavor and is targeted toward a health and workout-oriented audience. To commemorate the company’s first year in business, it is offering a “birthday pack” so that customers can try all four flavors. Miller heard from customers that they like mixing cereal flavors, so the pack will encourage personalization. There is also an edible glitter product launching in September that Miller said “turns the cereal bowl into a disco party.”
Products sold out twice already and the company is now on its third production, with plans to offer mini boxes, where the milk can be poured directly in, and optimizing the supply chain for future growth.
Aside from the flavors, Miller wanted a focus on the boxes themselves and the mascots for each one. The cereal mascots all have profiles on the website and include a female pink bunny for Dash and a zombie that eats cereal all day.
“We don’t want to impart anything on the characters, and want to keep them open to be molded into different things,” Miller added. “We want to appeal to counter-cultures in whatever sense that is.”