When Brian Tetrud ’11 explored the boundaries of his hobby, he had two main tools: a homemade recipe and a huge spreadsheet.
A family granola recipe gave Tetrud the main ingredient for Ladera Foods. As an Ithaca College student, he used to make it for himself and his friends, but he didn’t sell it. Once he decided to put it out for public consumption, he embarked on a year’s worth of homework. “When we started, it was a pretty nascent space,” Tetrud said. “Overall, premium granola was not very common. There were some local premium granola brands, but no national premium granola brands.”
Walking the aisles at local markets in the San Francisco Bay Area gave Tetrud an avenue to compare his infant company to products already established on shelves. His ever-growing spreadsheet contained brand names, corresponding shelf prices, sugar content, protein content and product amounts per container. “Every granola had so much sugar,” Tetrud said. “For people trying to stay away from sugar, that is a key differentiation for us. My mom is a Stanford-trained medical doctor. That (low sugar) became our niche. Taking a broad sweep of the industry and finding our position — we had the lowest sugar content at three grams per serving.”
Verbal guidance from a local bakery owner gave Tetrud some pointers regarding packaging, vendor contact information, flavor varieties and an efficient use of rack ovens fit for hundreds of pounds of granola. “We got some good help from people who were not necessarily competitors with our business,” Tetrud said. “Once you are solidified as a brand, it’s much easier to talk with competitors. They know you aren’t going to try to steal their customers or a recipe.”