Well-known cereal to be back on the breakfast table

A longtime staple on western Canadian breakfast tables is about to make a comeback to a cereal bowl near you.

Sunny Boy Cereal will be hitting the shelves of grocery stores, organic food stores and health food stores in western Canada by the end of February, with a planned expansion into eastern Canada in early April.

The Schroeder family – brothers Jim, Elmer and Larry and Jim’s son Randy – have bought the bankrupt Camrose-based company from its most recent owner, Calgary food broker Paul Maloney.

The Schroeder family has had a long history with Sunny Boy cereal. As boys growing up in Camrose, they mowed the lawn of the original developers of the cereal, brothers Walter and Edgar Byers, who first settled in Camrose in 1926. The Byers established Byers Flour Mill, which was sold in 1991 to the then-Alberta Wheat Pool.

Amanda Kuttnick-Dyer photos, for Business Edge
In Camrose, the Schroeder family (from left, Randy, Jim, Elmer and Larry) are mixing up a new future for once-famous Sunny Boy.

“My older brothers went to school with the previous owner,” adds CEO Jim Schroeder of Schroeder Milling, the company’s new name. “He’s still part of our consultancy group.” The Schroeders have retained many of the former Sunny Boy employees, some of whom, like the two millers, have 20 years of service.

The wheat pool eventually merged with Manitoba Pool Elevators and changed its name to Agricore, which sold both the Sunny Boy brand and the product to Maloney in 2000. Prairie Sun Grains, as the company was subsequently called, went into receivership in June 2003 and the Schroeders bought out the company for an undisclosed price in December.

The Schroeders still have connections to Camrose. Their mother lives there, Elmer lives in nearby Buffalo Lake, Larry in nearby Rosalind, and Jim of Onoway is moving back to Camrose in the spring.

Jim, who has a background in nutraceuticals and functional foods, was working on a project with Prairie Sun Foods about a year and a half ago to produce the first certified non-GMO (genetically modified organism) product.

Jim Schroeder checks out the grain to be used in the revived Sunny Boy cereal.

While the name Sunny Boy evokes images of the hot cereal made with wheat, rye and flax, that’s not its only product. Sunny Boy also makes a pancake mix and Jim Schroeder hopes to expand into muffin and cake mixes, as well as cold cereals.

The company is certified organic, kosher and non-GMO. It produces both conventional and organic products. It doesn’t cost more to produce certified non-GMO products, but organic products are traditionally priced higher and people are willing to pay the extra price.

“Organics is a growing market. Every major grocery store that is taking Sunny Boy is taking both the conventional product and the organic,” says Jim Schroeder.

The Schroeder family has complementary skills. Jim has a background in formulating nutraceutical and functional foods, while his son Randy has run a manufacturing plant; brother Elmer used to own the Bashaw Star and is knowledgeable about advertising and marketing; and Larry has a background in human resources.

For Jim Schroeder, taking over the company is nostalgic. “It’s home,” he says of Camrose. “It’s always been home.”

Camrose used to have two signs boasting it was the “home of Sunny Boy.”

Those signs were taken down long ago, says Schroeder, “but we’re going to bring them back.”