Cereals don’t always have a good rep. They’re often laden with hidden sugars and processed beyond what any health conscious person would be comfortable with.
But not if Emily Miller, the founder and CEO of OffLimits, can help it. This plant-based and gluten-free cereal brand is revolutionizing how we think about breakfast food from what’s in it, to who’s representing it.
“I wanted to take back cereal culture for a modern generation with a new world of inclusive mascots and whole ingredients,” says Miller.
All of its cereals, regardless of flavors, are made from a combination of organic oat, rice, and coconut flour. Each flavor has its own health benefits. Strawberries, for example, are packed with antioxidants and help bolster immunity, while cinnamon is rich in fiber and boosts metabolism. In short, OffLimits cereals help you get the daily dose of nutrients.
It also has a range of delicious flavors that’s hard to resist, drawing from influences that stretch as far as pandan — a flavor found in Southeast Asian cooking. Others include strawberry, packed with antioxidants, cinnamon, and coffee — made with a blend of organic cacao and micro-roasted coffee beans.
Like every other cereal box, OffLimits has mascots too. Here, the brand has an edge because each mascot is humanized and portrays an emotion.
We caught up with Emily to learn more about her brand, how it’s creating waves in the cereal industry and why her mascots are integral to her cereal.
You’re also a cookbook author on breakfast — why is this meal so important for yourself, and the wider community?
OffLimits is a defiant cereal brand that breaks the rules and proves that cereal can be fun and healthy. [They are] all offensively delicious flavors, moody mascots, exclusive toys, and thoughtful ingredients that parents would approve of. I've spent my career straddling food and design. But my niche became breakfast through a global event series I started called, BreakfastClub and BREAKFAST: The Cookbook, my 380 recipe book, published by Phaidon, featuring traditional breakfast from around the world.
What is your mission for OffLimits?
Decades’ spent without change have left cereal culture craving newness, inclusivity, and transparency. OffLimits is rethinking cereal culture, from moody cereal mascots to exclusive toy drops and custom art boxes. We created American cereal's first-ever female-identifying mascot and are one of the few entirely plant-based cereal brands on the market. We also support youth art programming as I vehemently believe in encouraging creative entrepreneurship from a young age.
Photo: Spark Strawberry Cereal
Cereal is a niche industry. What made you want to focus in this direction?
After years of talking to people about breakfast, I wondered why cereal had such a strong culture decade prior, from characters to commercials, but its affinity was dwindling. Consumers lost trust in the brands they loved because we found out that big cereal corps have been deceptive with ingredients and health claims all these years. I wanted to take back cereal culture for a modern generation with a new world of inclusive mascots and whole ingredients. OffLimits was created to give everyone permission to enjoy cereal again.
What are some interesting trends you’ve noticed about the cereal market?
The cereal market is in an exciting, transformative moment. OffLimits is championing whole, plant-based, gluten-free, and non-GMO ingredients and researching how to incorporate upcycled and sustainable suppliers moving forward. There are also plenty of trendy grain-free, high-protein, and alternative sugar cereals out there that empower choice for anyone with dietary restrictions and preferences.
Photo: Zombie Pandan Cereal
We love that you’re a big supporter of mental health. How does your brand encapsulate this?
Each of the four OffLimits cereal mascots projects exaggerated emotional cycles. Even cartoons can't be happy all the time. At OffLimits, I like to show the reality behind Dash's work hustle or Zombie's obsession with gaming. They have inspired moments as well as times that test their emotional well-being. Especially for kids, I think it's important to normalize conversations about mental and emotional health.
How does it feel to be a conversation starter in this industry when there are many long-standing cereal brands? Tell us more.
Over the decades, cereal has been more than just a breakfast food — it's a culture. That culture has had no change for too long. It's important that OffLimits creates an inclusive and forward-thinking brand universe that's more than just about selling cereal but connecting with consumers and giving counterculture personalities a place to feel at home. This happens through our defiant design and flavors, as well as our partnerships and willingness to take the non-traditional brand trajectory.
Photo: Spark Strawberry Cereal
The mascots you have created for Dash and Zombie are poles apart in personality. What’s the thought process behind creating the design as well as the flavors?
The characters came before the flavors. Each character was inspired by the different extremities I see in creative people, and the flavors match that feeling.
Dash is a coffee flavor because she's always on the move, getting ready, and working on her side hustles.
Zombie is the midnight gamer type, likely eating cereal in bed and pandan is a relaxing flavor to keep things mellow.
Spark's strawberry flavor has all the antioxidants for recovery after a night out. She's the friend you go to for all the gossip and latest beauty trends.
Flex is the wake-up workout type. He's perpetually on his way to the gym or at the gym, which is why a cinnamon flavor provides a quick metabolic boost.
Photo: Flex Cinnamon Cereal