Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Founder Feature:
Kira Akerstrom of Puuro

Meet Puuro: Kira Akerstrom’s line of Nordic-inspired gut-friendly foods that put fiber front and center

Like many CPG founders, Kira Akerstrom’s path to founding Puuro — a line of Nordic-inspired gut-friendly foods — was far from linear. She says, “My background is in food but in recipe development, food photography, and food content creation. I also won Master Chef Finland back in 2013.” After being laid off from her job at a startup four years ago, Kira and a friend decided to start a holiday season side hustle selling non-alcoholic mulled wine while they were on the job hunt. This side hustle quickly turned into a fully-fledged business, and it thrived for three years before Kira and her business product realized that a holiday-focused product was not exactly scalable.

They enjoyed working the industry, so they began to consider other potential product lines. Kira explains, “We didn’t want to be in the beverage industry, and we were itching for something in the wellness space…We felt we couldn’t find great grab-and-go high-fiber, low-sugar options. We both grew up foraging wild foods and appreciating clean and simple ingredients. We wanted to bring those roots forward, so we decided to develop Puuro.”

The beginnings of Eat Puuro

After only a few months of development, Kira’s business partner decided to step aside. Kira explains, “I had to decide, ‘Do I have what it takes to continue on my own or should I quit now?” Kira decided to forge ahead and she spent the next eight months developing Puuro’s first product. “It was something I grew up eating — Cold, whipped porridge. It’s made out of semolina flour and wild berries, and it’s low in sugar and with moderate protein to keep you full.”

Developing this first product, Kira explains, was rife with challenges. “I didn’t have the money to outsource the product development. I was playing around, but nothing was working. I landed on a product I was happy with, but the shelf life was only six days. I thought, ‘I’ve been working on it for almost eight months. I just need to get this out there and see if it’s a viable product.” Kira began selling Puuro at farmers markets and she found that while people loved the product itself, the short shelf-like was a problem. “People would say, ‘I forgot that I had it and found it in the fridge and a week later it had gone bad…I was also handing out samples to retailers, and they said, ‘We can’t work with this shelf life. I thought I could figure it out, but then, about six months in I realized that it wasn’t a viable product.

“I had to pivot and it wasn’t easy. I felt defeated because I’d worked so hard on something but I couldn’t figure it out. Thankfully I had also developed our [Prebiotic Oat & Berry Powder] as a side product, and people loved it. I focused all my efforts on the powder and pivoted from the [cold porridge] to a dry oatmeal product, enhanced with Nordic wild berries and functional mushrooms.”

Getting the word out about fiber

Eat Puuro’s most popular product — the Prebiotic Oat & Berry Powder — is a unique blend of oat fiber, flaxseeds, and polyphenol-rich wild Nordic super berries that can be added into one’s oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie for a whole-foods boost of nutrition. Kira explains, “Most of my customers don’t view [the fiber powder] as a supplement and I’ve never intended it to be one. It’s a food-based solution to bridge the fiber gap in people’s diets.” Kira has also seen this product make a tangible impact on her customer’s gut health. She says, “I have customers that suffer from GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease] and constipation, and they’ve come to me to say, ‘This is working and it tastes amazing. It makes my breakfast more fun.’ Hearing that feedback has been amazing.”

For her new dry oatmeal product, Kira is still gathering feedback and making the use case clear for customers. She says, “You can use it to make overnight oats or a hot bowl of oatmeal. Everybody’s crazy about protein, so I’m working on upping the protein, too.” That said, Kira explains, “Most people get enough protein but don’t get enough fiber. 95% of the US population is deficient in fiber, and colorectal cancers are rising in young adults. With Puuro, I’m trying to get the word out that fiber is so important.”

Advice for fellow founders

Becoming a CPG founder tends to come with a steep learning curve. Kira says, “The biggest lesson was learning when to pivot. I should have done that way earlier. I watched my bank account dwindle. Learning how to pivot and doing it as early as possible is so important.”

“I’m also a solopreneur, so having to make every single decision in my company has been a big hurdle for me. Every day I’m Googling how to do things, and that can lead to frustration and burnout, which I experienced at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I had major anxiety. It’s the feeling of being alone in your business. You have no idea what you’re doing, and you still have to do it.”

To avoid future burnout, Kira prioritizes taking one full day off of work every week.  “Your business is not going to fail if you take one day a week completely off. That was a really hard thing for me to do, but it has been so important and made the biggest difference. It’s hard not to think about work, but I always try to do something fun, like go into my garden and do other things I haven’t had time to do.”

Kira also reminds her fellow finders to practice self-compassion and avoid the comparison trap. “I’m very hard on myself and I think most entrepreneurs are. ‘I should be doing better, faster, and more’ — we compare ourselves to other entrepreneurs ahead of us. But someone told me, ‘Don’t compare yourself to others — compare yourself to where you were a few months or a year ago. Use that as a guide and not what other people are doing.’ One reason you get burned out is because you’re always chasing something and you lose focus. It sounds obvious, but that [advice] has helped me center myself.”

The future of Puuro

As she looks to the future, Kira says, “I want to think about the financial health of my business, and focus my energy where the money is this year…I’m trying to hone in on my DTC to make it work so it can run itself in the background. I’m still trying to figure out my marketing strategy and build on that. In Q3 and Q4, I’m going to start focusing on wholesale again with the fiber powder, and then I’m also going to work on the oatmeal. My goal is to design packaging that would be wholesale worthy for the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”

Beyond her goals for this year, Kira has her sights set on a much larger impact for Puuro. “I want to become a national brand in the next five years. I want to help people understand why fiber is so important, and with our products, I want to help them feel better.”

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