In Just One Year, This Cereal Creator Grew a Multi-Million Dollar Brand That's Now Stocked in Whole Foods Nationwide
Margaret Wishingrad's journey to cereal company founder started with a simple question: If moms are the ones feeding cereal to their kids, why aren't moms the ones making it?
A quick stroll down the cereal aisle at your nearest grocery store reveals a familiar sight. Bright boxes broadcast kid-friendly cartoon characters and larger-than-life depictions of the products themselves: sugar-dusted squares and rainbow-colored rings. The boxed breakfast offerings have something else in common too. Laden with sugar and other unhealthy additives, they're far from nutritious — and far from what many parents would like to feed their children on a regular basis.
Three Wishes co-founder Margaret Wishingrad was one of those parents, frustrated by the lack of healthy-but-delicious cereals available to feed her son Ellis (and to enjoy herself). One day, inspired by her desire to see tasty and nutritious cereal on the shelves, she turned to her husband and said, ""Crazy idea, but I think we should create our own cereal, because there's nothing I want to feed Ellis. And there's nothing I want to eat as an adult either.'"
"I can't throw on a KitchenAid attachment and experiment"
For the next two years, Wishingrad and her co-founder husband, Ian, tried to figure out how to develop a grain-free, high-protein, low-sugar cereal that wouldn't sacrifice taste. The process took many phone calls and the help of specialized manufacturers.
"Cereal is very difficult," Wishingrad says. "I can't throw on a KitchenAid attachment and experiment. It requires technical machinery, so finding the right production partner along the way was a difficult part of it as well. And getting those people that work with big cereal producers to take on a brand they'd never heard of before."
Finally, they cracked the grain-free, clean-ingredient code, and Three Wishes debuted three flavors: cinnamon, honey and unsweetened. Today, the brand also offers frosted, cocoa and fruity varieties. "Three Wishes," as you might have guessed, refers to the trio of Wishingrads: Margaret, Ian and their son. The birth of the couple's second son since the company's founding will require some creativity; Wishingrad says he might get his own flavor.
"Being available to retailers really strengthened our relationship with them"
Three Wishes had been approved to sell in Sprouts and was already in stock at Wegman's when the pandemic hit. As Covid-19 gripped the globe, Americans flocked to their nearest grocery stores and emptied the shelves — racing to scoop up non-perishables like cereal in particular. "Wegman's had a sign that said you were limited to two boxes of cereal per purchase," Wishingrad says. "It was crazy."
While many competitors pivoted to sell directly to consumers, Three Wishes doubled down on retail, helping grocery stores keep the cereal on their shelves. "Being available to retailers really strengthened our relationship with them," Wishingrad says. "And it gave us continued exposure to customers." The approach was wildly successful: In just a year, Three Wishes was stocked in every Whole Foods in the U.S. — an achievement that typically takes years and a strategic entrance into each market one-by-one.
Three Wishes also relaunched its website during the first two months of the pandemic, giving customers with more limited grocery store options the chance to ship the cereal directly to their doors. "We completely redesigned it to make that buying experience really easy for consumers," Wishingrad says, "so those that couldn't get a time slot on Fresh Direct or couldn't get to a store were able to shop comfortably online."
"Coming in as a female felt like my superpower"
Despite Three Wishes' early and massive success, Wishingrad's road to founder wasn't always smooth. "Cereal — and I think a lot of food in general — is a category that feels very old school," Wishingrad says. "It's a very male-dominated industry." Wishingrad and her husband are co-founders, but as the company's CEO, she's in charge.
Yet there were times when Wishingrad wasn't respected by other industry players. "For example," she says, "there was a co-packer who, when it came down to talking about the financial part of it, the potential deal, he called my husband. And that was crazy to me."
But Wishingrad didn't let those challenges deter her; if anything, they only reinforced why she'd decided to launch her company in the first place. "Coming in as a female felt like my superpower," Wishingrad says. "I went into it like [Spanx founder] Sara Blakely, who said, "Men are making pantyhose — why aren't women making pantyhose?' So I felt, if moms are feeding this product to their children, why aren't moms making it?"
"We wanted to build a platform brand, keeping our promise to consumers every time"
With so much accomplished in such a short amount of time, the future looks bright for Three Wishes. Wishingrad has been excited about the possibility of expansion from the very beginning. "We didn't want to build a brand that's centered around one product," she says. "We wanted to build a platform brand, keeping our promise to consumers every time: Clean ingredients and an innovative product that they might once have felt they didn't have permission to consume. We want to make it a real household name and continue to grow the brand."
Until then, you can push your cart down any Whole Foods cereal aisle, where Three Wishes' charming pastel boxes line the shelves, enticing parents and non-parents alike with their grain-free, clean-ingredient promises and a range of flavors that recall the Sunday-morning breakfasts of childhood. Three Wishes offers the perfect balance of must-have nutrition and delicious nostalgia — one that keeps adults and their kids coming back for more.