From Kitchen to Market:
An Inspiring Story of Granolust CPG Brand
Julie Wiener is the founder of Granolust, a seductive granola brand for every appetite. Read about how Julie went from a career in Fashion as the brand manager for a Parisian company to operating a company of her own.
When I started Granolust back in 2017, starting a business was LITERALLY the last thing on my mind. After a 20+ year career in the fashion industry I was burnt out. I needed a break and resigned from my position as the international sales and brand manager for a Parisian company being distributed into North America. Suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands…I called it “my year of yes” – I went back to school at night to see if the journalism degree I’d graduated with was something I wanted to pursue (it wasn’t), chair charity events, and generally feed my soul.
A friend of a friend in Montreal who owned a local juice bar called Rejuice, happened to mention one day that she was looking for a new granola supplier. Friends of mine who’d tried the granola that I used to make at home, in very small batches, told her that she had to try mine. She started quizzing me on the ingredients that I used and she was excited because it was so clean. She wanted to move away from the supplier she was using because their values weren’t in line with those of her organic juice bar. So I made her a batch and dropped it off and promptly forgot about it. Two days later she called me and told me that and her staff loved it and that she wanted me to produce 12 kilos a week for her! I laughed because I thought it was impossible for me to produce 25 pounds of granola a week in my house! That whole first summer I just doubled and tripled and quadrupled the recipe and was getting up to 4-6 kilos at a time. She was using it in bulk to go on top of her smoothies, smoothie and açai bowls. After a few months I decided to package them in individual bags to sell them because she told me that people loved it so much but wanted to take it home.
The first iteration of our packaging was a very “DIY” Kraft brown coffee bag with handmade stickers on them! She put it on social media, I put it on social media and the whole thing just kind of exploded. Within two weeks I was in another 15 stores and I just never stopped selling and hustling! After a few months when I realized that people genuinely liked the product I invested in branding and packaging which are the signature black bags we sell now.
Today we’re sold in over 350 gourmet and health food stores, restaurants, hotels, gyms, juice bars, monthly subscription boxes, gift basket companies, websites etc etc. We work with distributors in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes
I think Instagram has been the most effective marketing channel for us. Our upscale branding and sexy “personality” really separate us from all the other brands out there. Influencers love our products and post about them all the time. We’re very generous and donate often when asked for different events so that also gets us some nice visibility too. We never pay for posts or stories choosing instead to really focus on authenticity – if someone genuinely loves our products and wants to talk about them we encourage it obviously!
It’s hard for me to give advice to people wanting to start businesses since I started mine completely by accident and without ever realizing that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Obviously I had no plan and I still beat myself up a lot about trying to catch up to the business that has exploded but I think over time I’ve come to realize that sometimes having no plan turns out to the best plan. I’ve been fortunate to follow the interest where it’s coming from – when the first monthly subscription box company reached out to me and I realized that it was a success, I found multiple other businesses like that who did the same thing. It never would have occurred to me to seek out that type of business model but having the flexibility to explore many options worked out for me. (As opposed to just trying to break into mass market grocery store chains which really wouldn’t have worked for Granolust since it’s a niche, high end product for people who understand that an all-natural product with super clean ingredients, hand made in small batches will cost a little more).
When Covid began I thought that would naturally be the end of my business but to my surprise premium granola became somewhat of a pandemic necessity. While my corporate sales and business from hotels and restaurants basically stopped, online became huge.
The past year has definitely been a challenge and quite recently macro economic realities like inflation, the astronomical rise in ingredient prices, fuel charges etc etc have hit hard. Every week I see more and more small businesses like mine closing and it’s hard not to be discouraged. We are hanging in there and I hope next year at this time I can tell you that we exploded into the US!