My granola story

Why does Granola, a ‘health’ product have sugar as it’s 2nd ingredient? This was my experience when buying Granola 10 years ago. Always one to have a go at making and baking, it was time to attempt Granola without added sugar.

Taste, cost and being nutritionally beneficial were my guidelines. Out came the cookery books and with friends on hand to taste, my journey had begun.

The main ingredient was obviously oats, but I noticed a lot of Granola had a huge oat/other ingredients ratio, and the other ingredients were usually chopped or in my opinion, when it came to the nutritional side, could be improved upon.

Nuts came next. The quality of these powerhouses can vary greatly and there was only one nut in my race – almonds, sweet and creamy and whole.

There are so many seeds out there, but sunflower and pumpkin were picked.

So many types of dried fruit have such a high sugar content it almost defeats the object of including them when you’re aiming for a health product. Apricots are high in fibre, Vitamin A, Iron and contain anti-oxidants.

As for the other ingredients cinnamon is such a comforting spice and coconut adds sweetness and texture.

My Granola was given a huge ‘thumbs up’

As a creative, recently divorced Mum of a 3 year old on a tight budget I knew I had a great product, but who was I to sell it or market it? So the school fete and gifts for friends it was…..or was it?

Fast track to November 2013 – a lovely walk around the Christmas Fayre at Erddig, North Wales, ended with me chatting to a stall holder selling South African Dunking Biscuits or ‘Rusks’ as they are called over there, I’m a hard person to sell to – Philippe sold me 3 packs, told me his life story and I had his email address.

From a Sales and Marketing background Philippe left South Africa 4 months previous for a safer life and to make a future for his 11 year old daughter, who he had left in South Africa with his ex-wife.

Philippe didn’t have a network in Britain, he didn’t know where places were and how the system worked – I did! In South Africa, Artisan food markets were unheard of, over here they were taking off, so Philippe did something he knew how to do so he could survive – cook. The South Africans I’ve met are tough, they work hard, very hard and they are survivors.

Cooking rusks in his Mum’s kitchen, he would bake all week, rusks take an hour to cook, then 8 hours to oven dry, and sell all weekend, in all weathers at markets. British people associate ‘rusks’ with baby teething biscuits, so not only was he trying to sell a product, he had to describe this unknown product as part of his selling pitch.

I put Philippe in contact with people and places I knew, so he now had outlets for his rusks as well as selling at markets.

The markets seemed fun, selling your own product and people have heard of granola, so that was one battle won. I asked him if he would sell my granola and he agreed to. With a young child and child care issues I couldn’t go in person. So now he was selling 2 products and added a fantastic herb sauce and then I added gingerbread.

I was soon able to help Philippe at markets, early mornings were tough, but I had to toughen up and Philippe would always find a good cappuccino to kickstart me.

A commercial kitchen was needed and needed fast. We were now a partnership both personally and working and so we rented a factory unit under the name of Cleopatra’s Foods on a local Industrial Estate. eBay was his best friend and we would drive all over the country to pick up cookers, fridges, packing boxes and other things we needed.

The Summer of ’14 was great fun, we cooked and cooked and cooked some more and we attended markets, festivals, fetes and fayres far and wide – some were fantastic some were dismal. We camped or slept in the back of our car, we met some great people who have done so well with their products and it fills us with joy to see their products on shop shelves or in magazines.

Repeat orders of granola were coming through and selling out at markets was becoming the norm. My Granola was to a certain degree selling itself.

Back at our little factory we decided to open a factory shop, we took on the unit next door and sold not only our products, but the products of some of our market buddies.

Earlier I mentioned how Philippe would always find me a good cappuccino, well behind a good cappuccino is good coffee, a good coffee machine and a trained barista and that’s what we did, open up a coffee shop and I was trained. Our little shop took off and soon our market days were over. Philippe found the perfect premises for opening a coffee shop/bistro, away from the Industrial Estate in the lovely border village of Holt.

We turned the new shop around in 11 days, working nearly through the night to get it up and running. Open 7 days a week and 2 evenings Philippe runs the kitchen with his team and cooks so much from scratch, many of the recipes are handed down and I am front of house with my team.

We’ve now been in Holt for just over 2 years, in that time we have been nominated ‘Best new business Wrexham’, and ‘Best Cafe/bistro North Wales’ twice. Philippe makes rusks to order and I am still making My Granola, but now my daughter sometimes lends a helping hand.

So that’s My Granola story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed My Granola journey.