NoCo’s Topoglow Granola uses flavor (and samples) to stand out in the granola crowd.
Travis Morrow and Diane Groebner have no intentions of creating a granola empire. Well, at least not yet. They actually started Topoglow Granola, which is based in Longmont and peddled at farmers markets statewide, with a “keep it fun, keep it about family” mindset.
That’s because, even before they were testing batches of granola in their kitchen, there was a fateful international flight.
Morrow tells the story as though it has become something of legend: He was jet setting to Singapore for his consulting job in the biotech industry. He was making great money, but as a single dad he worked and travelled a ton, and he missed his daughters. On this particular flight, he sat next to a man whose wife had just passed away. The conversation got deep, and the two talked intently about family and career. At one point, his seat mate stopped and asked, bluntly: “Are your priorities straight?”
“That has just kind of stuck with me,” Morrow says. “I went to Singapore, and I kept working because I felt like I had no choice. But I always remembered him asking if my priorities were straight.”
Eventually, he quit his job to spend more time with his kids and Groebner, his girlfriend. That’s when granola entered their world.
“We were eating tons of mediocre store-bought granola, and I just realized, ‘Oh my god, I probably just spent $50 or $60 on granola.’ Like, this is insane,” Morrow says.
Groebner, the cook and baker in the household, and Morrow decided they could make their own—but better. It started with a Google search, and it ended with lots of testing and tasting. They wanted more flavor, fewer clumps and fewer additives.
“We realized all the things we didn’t like about store-bought granola,” Groebner says. “It was full of refined sugar. It has a lot of different gross oils in there. It’s got preservatives in there. We tried to clean it up and actually give it flavor, so that it’s something you would want to eat alone as well as along with something else. We sweeten ours with maple syrup, which adds to the taste. We played around with different extracts and add-ins to make unique, interesting combinations.”
Eventually, they realized their granola was good enough to sell, focusing on the fact that it is handmade in small batches, 100 percent organic and deeply flavored. Take, for instance, Topoglow Aspen Orange, which is speckled with chocolate chips and bright orange zest. Lemonberry Lakes balances cranberry, fresh-tasting citrus and toasty oats and nuts. White Cherry Falls features plump white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. There are also traditional combinations, and all are clump free and served any way you like it.
Those lovely, lively flavors required a different sales approach for Topoglow. They didn’t want their granola sitting on a shelf fighting for attention amongst countless other brands.
“Because the market is so saturated with other granola companies, we knew we needed to get this in front of people and get them to try it,” Groebner says. “It does have a higher price point because it’s organic, and it’s small batch.”
From the beginning they knew the farmer’s market would be their sales strategy. It was a way for them to connect with their customers, spend time with their kids and help people understand what makes Topoglow different and worth the $11-plus per-bag price. To that end: They hand out a lot of samples. One bite of Lemonberry Lakes goodness can convert a curious shopper into an instant customer.
“We actually build relationships with people and say, ‘Yeah this is what we’re doing, this is how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it,’” Morrow says.
Since launching in May of 2018, they consider their first market season a success. But it hasn’t been easy. They’ve had to change their name (because of threats from Big Cereal). They’ve had several welcome-to-the-business world reality checks, and it’s actually taken more time away from the family than they expected.
But hope and more family hikes are in sight.
“We knew it would be hard, but it definitely took up a lot of time in the beginning,” Morrow says. “I feel like we’re just getting to the spot where we’re starting to get more balance back in our lives.”
While taking Topoglow beyond the farmers market is an option, they are keeping their priorities in focus.
“Right now it’s fun,” Morrow says. “Fun for us, the kids enjoy it, we know our customers. I think once we lose that, and once we start focusing on, ‘Oh, we have to ship pallets to North Carolina,’ or whatever, then it’s a whole different thing.”
To get a taste, visit glowyourgranola.com, where they offer granola flights, gift boxes, individual bags and subscription orders.