People often ask why we started a granola company. Even though Pete and Sarah had experience in the food world, my work history doesn’t scream cuisine (or business in general). Ultimately, the answer can be found in our mission statement: to connect and uplift people through food.
My first job out of college was as a teacher in a New Orleans alternative school. Most of our students had been expelled from previous schools and/or were returning from youth prison.
It was there that I witnessed the consequences of what I consider to be some of our society’s greatest systemic failures: mass incarceration, divestment from poor (often minority) communities, inadequate healthcare, and so on.
Seeing many lives derailed by these forces was painful. Knowing that it happens on an unfathomably large scale is enough to sour even the brightest of optimists. Amidst this sea of suffering, I tried to reflect on the best use of my time and energy.
The aforementioned issues, while essential to address, seemed far removed from my locus of control. Inevitably, I kept returning to the food system as a critical space with lots of low hanging fruit (this and other puns intended).
Despite food’s universal importance, there exist titanic disparities in access to nutritious and affordable types. As with other disparities, these play out along socioeconomic, racial, gender, sexual orientation, and geographic lines.
Nearly all of my students happened to be minorities living in poverty, often in food deserts. This meant that they frequently arrived at school hungry. When they did eat, it was usually highly-processed, nutritionally weak food.
As their teacher, I often felt frustrated that my time was spent on largely irrelevant curriculum standards when they were struggling to meet much more foundational needs. I brought in extra healthy snacks as often as I could and my students rewarded me with great appreciation. Perhaps those little moments of joy planted a seed.
Unlike many other large-scale issues, food insecurity has a pretty straightforward and agreed upon solution: get more food to the people who need it. The mechanics are complicated, but it seemed more like a problem of priorities than technical expertise.
After all, nearly 40% of food in America is wasted, with two-thirds still being edible. This fact alone gave me enough confidence that we could help move the needle.
While teaching, I began to experience health challenges that forced me to reevaluate my food choices. Granola was a classroom staple - tasty, convenient, and healthy. Or so I thought.
It turned out that most granola was full of added sugar and the others tasted mediocre at best. I suspected there was a way to make a truly healthy and delicious granola, but wouldn’t revisit the idea for a few years.
I began testing recipes with my brother Peter in the summer of 2018. After many iterations, we arrived at three flavors we felt great about - the same three flavors we sell today: Cherry Almond Vanilla, Oatmeal Raisin, and Peanut Chocolate Chip.
The key differentiator is that we use dates and raisins instead of added sugar to deliver a smooth and nutritious sweetness. All flavors have 7 ingredients or less and no more than 1 gram of added sugar per serving. They’re also vegan, gluten free, soy free, and incorporate organic and fair trade ingredients.
Since launching, we’ve received a lot of incredible feedback. Many people are shocked to learn how much sugar is added to most granolas. They’re equally surprised at how delicious ours is without it. Others tell us they gave up on granola long ago because it’s a dessert masquerading as healthy and are thrilled to have an option like OT.
These interactions have been deeply rewarding and validating to Pete, Sarah, and me.
Tying it together
I hope I’ve provided some clarity and context around our why. We’re using delicious, healthy granola as a vessel for connecting and uplifting people from all walks of life.
In the realm of food security, we donate time, money, and product to hunger relief organizations that serve Greater Philadelphia and plan to do the same in new geographies where our granola is sold. We also intend to continue raising awareness about this critical yet often overlooked issue.
As far as our granola itself, we’re confident that you won’t find a better combination of tasty and nutritious.
Food connects us all. It’s difficult to imagine reaching our potential as a species if people are not adequately fed and nourished. Join us in helping spread good food to everyone!