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Jessica’s Granola

17 January 2011 2,529 views One Comment

I’ve always loved the crunchy, sweet, healthy goodness of granola in cereal, as a topping for yogurt, or in bar form thrown into my purse or backpack for a snack. There’s something special about granola, and I’ve been thinking about that recently because two people from my past have started successful, granola-based businesses. I’ll be dedicating this post and tomorrow’s post to telling their story.

The first is Jessica — a dear friend from my days at the University of Michigan. Jessica is very smart — she majored in Engineering at U of M. She had always been interested in nutrition and cooking, but her focus deepened a few years ago when her husband, Jeff, learned he had high cholesterol and was gluten intolerant.

Jessicas Granola

Eating oats is great for lowering your cholesterol, but at the time, they couldn’t find gluten-free oat-based granola at any of their local Michigan grocery stores. Jessica’s natural curiosity was peaked and she resolved to create delicious gluten-free granola that Jeff, and others with gluten sensitivity, could enjoy.

One holiday season, Jessica worked at Zingerman’s bakehouse, to learn what it might be like to have a baking-focused business. She also did market research, and spent two years creating a business plan. Her background in engineering, accounting, and marketing, as well as working in the business world before starting her own, helped her pull together a realistic plan. She stresses that those who are thinking about starting a new business need to be aware of their costs, and that cash flow is very important. She also read From Kitchens to Market: Selling Your Gourmet Food Specialty by Stephen Hall and told me it was quite helpful as well.

One major challenge she overcame was finding a commercial kitchen to produce the gluten-free granola. She told me that gluten can stay in the air for 24 hours so you have to be really careful. She finally found a gluten-free bakery where she could make the granola in small batches.

And in May 2009, Jessica’s Natural Foods All Natural Gluten-Free Granola was launched!

launched in may 2009
was doing market research
5 years ago got interested in food and healthy eating
husband jeff was gluten intolerant
his cholesterol was high – they told him to eat oats
there was no gluten free oat based granola when she started
quit her job and then it took her two years to create a business plan
difficult to find a place to produce them
worked at zingermans bakehouse for a holiday season
michigan stores are so great about supporting local products
the granola has a 6 month shelf life – its all natural
michigan honey, michigan cherries, michigan maple syrup
couldn’t find gluten free granola
I eat a lot of it — I’m always quality controlling. I go through stages where I won’t eat the granola in a while. Jeff eats a lot of it.
As a child
It livens up your yogurt and I like it best that way.
I’d love to at some point make other foods but right now I want to focus on the granola.
In 55 stores – most of them are in Michigan. I’m starting to expand into Illinois.
Very little online business.
Jessica does a large percentage of deliveries herself and has a friend to help out with deliveries.
It’s made in a gluten free bakery outside of grand rapids – made in small batches.
gluten can stay in the air for 24 hours so you have to be really careful.
it was very important to me to have it made in a gluten free bakery
ship to warehouse
Engineering, accounting and marketing and working in business and learning how to do excel helped me pull together finances and costs.
Cash flow is important. It’s key to know what your costs are.
From Kitchens to Market by Stephen Hall

Jessica told me that the local movement is alive and well in Michigan and that local stores were very interested in offering the granola to their customers. When we chatted this fall, her granola was sold in 55 stores –mostly in Michigan — and she was expanding into Illinois. Jessica is really dedicated to buying local as well and uses Michigan honey, maple syrup, and cherries in her recipes.

Jessica offers Almond Cherry Granola, Chocolate Chip Granola, and Vanilla Maple Granola. She sent me and Adam a bag of each to try and we thought it was delicious. Jessica told me her favorite way to enjoy the granola is on top of yogurt and I agree that it’s a perfect sweetener and adds crunch to the plain yogurt I usually eat.

Ever since I’ve been learning more about granola and the gluten-free movement, I’ve been checking out the offerings at my local Whole Foods and Central Market. They each carry a few different types of oatmeal made locally as well as national brands. Do you have a favorite brand of gluten-free oatmeal? If so, please share in the comments!

Tomorrow, I’ll be blogging about Michele’s Granola, so stay tuned.

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