Canadian company HapiFoods Group Inc. continues to ride high on the success of its popular – and distinctively named – organic chia-based cereal that often causes those who taste it to literally exclaim, “Holy Crap!”

Skinny B, Holy Crap, Wild Chia and Hapi are the four products of British Columbia-based HapiFoods Group, founded by Corin and Brian Mullins.
When the couple had retired to British Columbia in 2008 and decided to enter the food sector, they didn’t imagine they would be running very soon a multimillion-dollar firm with a wildly successful product and international expansion.

After testing 21 different recipes, they sold 10 bags of a unique blend of all-organic black chia seed, buckwheat, hemp hearts, cranberries, raisins apple and cinnamon in 2009 at the Sechelt Farmer's Market, calling it “Hapi Food.”

But after hearing customers tasting it and saying, "Holy crap, this is good," they decided to re-name it Holy Crap, triggering a 1,000 per cent rise in sales.

Reactions to Holy Crap often mirror its moniker. Maybe they’re impressed by the fact that chia absorbs nine times its size in liquid, or that a mere two tablespoons of Holy Crap cereal is enough to stay satiated for hours.

While the eye-catching product names may grab consumers’ attention, it’s the health benefits of these cereals that have attracted a loyal and quickly growing clientele.

The line offers a natural source of complete protein and is vegan and free of wheat, gluten, nuts, GMOs, salt, artificial sugar and lactose. Due to chia’s unique and powerful makeup of protein, oil, antioxidants (including omegas 3, 6 and 9) and fibre, these cereals provide long-lasting energy, help reduce cravings and aid digestion.

“We really studied many ingredients and did good research before deciding on the best blends,” says Brian Mullins. There is more omega-3 and 6 in a serving of Holy Crap cereal or Skinny B cereal than in a serving of wild Atlantic salmon; one serving has more fibre than a bran muffin and 50 per cent more protein than two tablespoons of flax seed.

Chia seeds also have more omega-3 than any other natural source and are loaded with antioxidants, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. They provide stamina, endurance and reduce cravings, because chia seeds absorb so much water and have high soluble fibre levels that help release natural, unrefined carbohydrate energy slowly into the bloodstream.

Preparation of Holy Crap is simple, which fits perfectly with today’s demand for nutritious, delicious and convenient foods. The cereal can be hydrated with coconut, hemp, soy or almond milk, as well as water, yogurt or other options.

After about five minutes, the expanded cereal can be enjoyed warm or cold for a filling boost of energy. “Holy Crap is a great raw food that does not have acrylamide, a substance present in so many baked and fried goods these days,” says Brian.

Acrylamide is a chemical that appears in plant-based foods rich in carbohydrates and low in protein, when processed or cooked at high temperatures. It is known to cause cancer in experimental animals and was first confirmed to be found in processed food, mainly French fries, cookies and breakfast cereals, by the Swedish National Food Authority in 2002.

And as interest in the Holy Crap cereal continued to grow, in April 2010, HapiFoods appeared on the hit Canadian reality TV show Dragon’s Den. Brian and Corin negotiated with one of the “dragons,” franchise giant Jim Treliving, while waiting for their episode to air. Meanwhile, several IGA and Whole Foods locations began to stock the cereals.

The episode aired in November, and sparked a surge of interest. Within hours of their much-hyped appearance, Brian and Corin received 28 kilos’ worth of orders. The company grew from shipping daily $1,000 in product to more than $10,000 per day, less than a week after the show aired.

Although a deal with Treliving was not finalized, HapiFoods remains the show’s biggest success story. Within 30 days, HapiFoods grew from a “mom and pop” farmer’s market-based company to a financially-backed organization, still family-owned, shipping to 21 countries. The exposure blew the company’s estimated $600,000 in annual sales out of the water, bringing in $5 million in just over a year.

HapiFoods runs now out of a new organic, nut, wheat and dairy-free factory that recently added a warehouse and doubled in size to keep up with production. The firm has instituted profit sharing, a comprehensive health care plan and ongoing training programs in all aspects of the business for its 15 employees. The cereals are currently available in 1,500 Canadian stores and showing at U.S. retailers. A HapiFoods Japanese website is up and running and they are exploring licensing and distribution in the UK and other Asian countries.

Last month, HapiFoods was the Gold Sponsor at the Canadian Health Food Association CHFA West in Vancouver with guest speaker and author Liza Oz, and this May at the National Canadian Celiac Association Conference in Kelowna, B.C. and at Canada’s Next Top Model in Toronto. The company will exhibit in booth # 4931 at the Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., in June.

Catchy names, a great product and team, taking advantage of word-of-mouth and other networking and promotion opportunities, as well as contact with celebrities and a strong base of well-informed health-oriented consumers who are thrilled with the product and concept, are among the key reasons for the company’s rapid success, says Brian.

And this success has allowed HapiFoods to give back to the community. The firm donates to several local civic organizations and plans to set up a community fund for the chia producers in Mexico. Holy Crap, lots of stamina indeed!

Corin and Brian Mullins, owners of HapiFoods Group with acclaimed speaker, producer and author Lisa Oz
Corin and Brian Mullins, owners of HapiFoods Group with acclaimed speaker, producer and author Lisa Oz