Gluten Free is Sooo Granola

By: Jessica Carr

A Lubbock granola business has been able to rapidly expand with the help and support from a local superfood café.

Looking back, Meradyth Vestal, co-owner of Sooo Granola, would have never imagined her ailing digestive issues and the adventure to healing those stomach problems would have started her on the path she is now.

Photo by: Jessica Carr

Vestal started having digestive issues in high school, but it worsened when she was attending Abilene Christian University. With advice from a friend, Vestal decided to try a gluten-free diet.

“I didn’t know what gluten was,” Vestal said. “That is when I kind of did some research and stopped eating gluten.”

Going gluten-free is more than just staying away from wheat products. Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale—a cross between wheat and rye, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

https://soundcloud.com/jessica-carr-363458309/gluten-free-a-dieticians-perspective

Vestal still continued to have digestive issues and was later diagnosed with over 60 different food allergies. After cutting out the problematic foods, Vestal had to get creative with her recipes, which eventually led her to create her own gluten-free granola.

During this time, Vestal was working at Vitality Bowls, a superfood café in Lubbock, and decided to approach the local owner Joty Brar to see if she would consider implementing her gluten-free granola into the menu.

“The gluten-free option of granola we were offering was great,” Brar said. “But, I knew it could be better.”

Brar said it is an important quality for her employees at Vitality Bowls to have a knowledge about superfoods and how they relate to different peoples’ diets. Since Vestal has to be careful with her diet because of food allergies, Brar knew she could trust her knowledge on making a good gluten-free granola.

Photo by: Jessica Carr

“I’m a big supporter of local young entrepreneurs,” Brar said. “I think they should be given a chance.”

While becoming a young entrepreneur, Vestal needed a business plan and a name for the granola. Her husband, Jordan, helped her with the business plan, but Vestal still needed a name for the new business.

Vestal said she had no idea what to name a granola business until she thought about what people called her in college.

“People would say I was so granola because I wore Chacos and I was outdoorsy,” Vestal said.

So, she decided to go with the playful name. She said that’s when her and her husband went into co-ownership of the company and officially started Sooo Granola.

Vestal then began experimenting in the kitchen to make enough granola to meet the demand for Vitality Bowls. It was a challenge since she had only been making enough for herself, and now she was faced with the dilemma of converting a recipe for a single batch to meet the demand for 26 pounds of granola.

Photo by: Jessica Carr

“The first time I made the granola it was really salty and gross,” Vestal said.

She continued to adjust the ingredients until she got the batch down. The final product was a gluten-free, nut free, organic and refined sugar free granola to meet the needs of many customers with food allergies.

Making a product that is gluten-free can be costly, which makes it hard to price for consumers.

A 2008 study by Canada’s Dalhousie Medical School compared 56 ordinary grocery items to their gluten-free counterparts and found that there was a 242 percent increase in gluten-free products.

“It does make it more expensive, but I’ve realized eating organic and gluten-free is worth paying more because it’s going to bring nutrients to my body and not make me sick,” Vestal said.

When Vestal began pricing her items, she researched what other brands of granola were charging and factored in her labor and ingredients into the price. She charges $7 for seven ounces and $15 for 15 ounces of granola.

When it comes to selling the granola, Vestal has done well in the Lubbock market.

Photo by: Jessica Carr

She currently sells 26 pounds of granola a month to Vitality Bowls in Lubbock. Then, Healthy Essentials, a gluten-free restaurant, buys a few of her three-pound bags to use and also carries Sooo Granola’s retail bags. Vestal also sells her product online and at the local farmer’s market.

Sooo Granola will soon be expanding into the Dallas market after another Vitality Bowls owner has offered to use Vestal’s product in three of his locations.

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