“It’s funny because I was not a granola eater, and I’d still love to know one day what possessed me to get off the couch and decided to make this batch of granola,” Stein told FoodNavigator-USA. Her mom tasted it and told Stein that it should be her next product to market (Purely Elizabeth started with gluten-free baking mixes, which have been discontinued).
At the time, innovation in the granola category was just budding, and Stein said her family thought no other granola on the market tasted quite like hers, with its combination of gluten-free oats, toasted quinoa, amaranth, chia seeds, baked with coconut oil and sweetened with coconut sugar.
Granola: A rising star in the stagnant breakfast category
According to Stein, Purely Elizabeth’s original granola is the number one SKU in the natural channel, according to data by SPINS. “We’ve been fortunate in the growth of the brand. Year-over-year for 2016 we’re on pace for 100% growth from last year,” Stein said.
“We had high double digit growth last year as well,” she added, reflecting a trend celebrated by the granola segment overall as the shining star in the breakfast category. According to IRI’s InfoScan Reviews published by Packaged Facts, granola is one of the two segments within the breakfast category seeing positive sales growth (the other one being breakfast bars).
And granola’s popularity is one factor that drove Stein’s decision to focus more on it over the original cookie mix she launched in 2009: “One of the biggest challenges we found was that extra step of having a baking mix you have to make, and it’s not offering the exact solution, at least I would want, for a convenient healthy alternative for a sweet tooth,” she said.
Probiotics for the gut
Stein was originally a holistic nutritionist, and ever since her time studying food ingredients, she always wanted to create a product with probiotics. “I’ve been interested in the strong connection of gut health and overall health,” she said.
She was sure launching kimchi or sauerkraut wouldn’t be the most 'on brand' product offering within the Purely Elizabeth product portfolio, but at a trade show she met representatives from Ganeden, which manufactures the BC30 probiotic strain.
“It was pretty simple for us to use, and it helped us continue to stay cutting edge with an innovative ingredient,” she added, saying that it helps differentiate her granola brand in a slowly saturating segment.
Widely spread: From Whole Foods to Target
“We are now in about 9,000 stores—to name a few we’re in Whole Foods nationally, Sprouts, Fresh Mart, and Target,” Stein said. Her company also recently announced that the products will be sold in Publix. Purely Granola’s core granola product is sold nationwide, while the oatmeal, oatmeal cups, and grab-and-go granola varieties are sold at select stores.
From the get-go, Stein said that visibility is a big part of spreading the word on the brand. “We haven’t spent a dollar on any ads, it’s all been really focused on social media and events,” she said. “For me the most important thing is getting products in people’s mouths—as we got into more stores it was about reaching a broader range of people and getting them to get our name out there.”
When Stein started the brand, she didn’t expect her ancient grain product would go quickly into the mainstream as it has today. “When I first came up with the concept and the ingredients, they were so obscure that I thought I was creating this for super health-conscious people I went to school with—never did I ever think it would be so accepted,” Stein said.
“Today, the majority of consumers now know about ancient grains. I think [Purely Elizabeth] started as a niche concept but now it has gone into a more mainstream audience.”