Imagine – cereal, your way! That is exactly what Hajo Engelke aimed to deliver when starting Custom Choice Cereal in 2009. Spurred on by a friend who suffered from severe gluten intolerance, Hajo has now created a company that lets you custom-make your own fabulous gluten-free cereal, which is then delivered right to your door! With over 2.5 billion combinations, we think you will find something that suits your unique taste and needs!
An Interview with Hajo Engelke, Founder of Custom Choice Cereal
Tell us about your eco-inspired company!
Inspired by a gluten-intolerant friend’s frustration with the limited breakfast options available to him, I started Custom Choice Cereal. It is my mission to make living gluten-free a fun & enjoyable experience. What better way than to start with breakfast as the most important meal of the day? Since tastes are different, we let everyone create their personal gluten-free cereal online. Over 2.5 billion combinations and an automatically updating nutrition label ensure that taste and dietary needs are met. All cereal is mixed from the highest quality ingredients in our dedicated gluten-free facility and shipped conveniently to the customers’ doorstep.
How do you choose to go green in your own life?
All of our custom cereal comes in a re-sealable stand-up bag that we package in sturdy cardboard boxes made from recycled material for shipping. For my own cereal, I save the box and thus reduce the waste I create. At the company, we have recently replaced all light bulbs with energy efficient ones and of course, we recycle all of our trash.
My life has also been influenced significantly by growing up in Germany. As a result, it is completely normal for me to recycle paper, cans and plastics and compost natural waste. In addition, my parents always told us to switch off lights (and here also fans) when we leave a room, so that’s become a natural behavior for me as well. I also run any errand I can on my bicycle. Some people here in the South look at me funny when I tell them that I go grocery shopping with a big bag on my bike but I really enjoy it; I don’t have to worry about parking, it helps me to stay fit, and I help to keep the environment clean. A nice side effect of taking my big bag is that it allows me to avoid having to use any plastic bags for my groceries.
Guilty green pleasure?
It actually is a pleasure for me that I can interpret traffic laws a little bit more “flexible” when I am riding my bike. I am extremely pleased when I roll past the cars during rush hour 🙂 Besides that, I am a sucker for locally raised organic meats and vegetables from the farmer’s market. They are a little bit more expensive but I am convinced that my body will thank me in the long term for feeding it well. It also simply tastes better.
Can you offer any encouraging words for those with a small sustainable business?
If you are passionate about what you do and believe in it, you can definitely do it. Persistence will always eventually pay off! Along the way there will definitely be some tough times, and a few people will also ask you why you put yourself through the difficulty of starting your own business instead of following the path of least resistance.
However, people who haven’t experienced it themselves cannot understand the truly overwhelming feeling of knowing that you are doing something good, even if it might just be on a tiny scale. Because quite a few of Custom Choice Cereal’s customers suffer from celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten, they haven’t been able to enjoy a variety of tasty gluten-free cereals for quite some time. They are literally close to tears and thank us for what we do. Receiving an email or call from such a happy customer is one of the best feelings in the world and definitely makes up for the frustrating and stressful times of running a small sustainable business.