An established chef, baker and entertainer, Arizona’s own Laura Briscoe created a healthy alternative to sugary granola for her own pleasure. After sharing her granola with friends and family, requests for her rich recipe skyrocketed. Laura’s Gourmet Granola is now available locally at AJ’s Fine Foods, Fry’s Albertson’s/Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Queen Creek Olive Mill, Bashas’ and Tempe Framers Market. Briscoe’s interest in a delicious but healthy option has led to the creation of seven delicious flavors ranging from Vanilla Almond Crunch to CherryRific Crunch. We caught up with Briscoe to learn more about her product, goals and works in progress.
AFM: What inspired the start of Laura’s Gourmet Granola?
LB: After playing with a recipe multiple times to find the perfect balance of flavor, texture and nutritional value, what is now known as Vanilla Almond Crunch was born. Made specifically for my own enjoyment, there was always more than my family could consume, so it was shared with friends. Once people started requesting it for their gift baskets or as compensation for services (like personal training), my best friend Kathleena suggested I sell it – so I decided to go for AJ’s Fine Foods as my retailer. After many months of talking to the grocery managers at each store, I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet and share with Eddie Basha about my attempts to garner attention at the corporate level and he literally opened the door to our first retail shelf with AJ’s Fine Foods.
AFM: Tell us a little bit about your life before Laura’s Granola.
LB: Prior to Laura’s Gourmet Granola, I worked in high tech as a sales executive for almost 15 years. During this time, I moved from New York City to Arizona, married and started a family. Cooking, baking and entertaining were my way of relaxing and destressing after work and on weekends.
After the .com crisis of 2001 shut down the company I was working for, I had an epiphany to attend culinary school and pursue a culinary passion. That led to starting my first company in 2002, Celebrated Cuisine, offering private fine dining and culinary instruction. The recipe for Laura’s Gourmet Granola was initially created in 2003 and became a retail product in 2004.
AFM: How did you approach creating such a delicious, option-filled alternative to sugary granola.
LB: Always referred to as a happy accident, I knew I wouldn’t be the only one that would prefer a granola that had no dairy or white sugar. Each test batch was carefully documented by weight and time. When Vanilla Almond Crunch was finalized, I realized I had had the help of so many people – my family and friends and their tireless taste buds, my daughters’ sports teams who were given granola at half time instead of grapes and apples, my dad and his organic chemistry education, and seemingly everyone who had an opinion on what I should name it. The category was less crowded then as it is today, but there still seems to be a shortage of granola like mine – granola that tastes good and is also good for you. The flavors themselves were created based on a variety of reasons, both personal and business.
AFM: What is your business mission? Your own mission?
LB: Our mission statement: Our sole focus is to make unparalleled, classic granola using only all-natural ingredients and prove that healthy and delicious can coexist, in every artisan crafted, gluten free bite.
My mission is to grow the retail portion of our business with purpose – only in retailers that have consumers that appreciate a specialty granola with high end ingredients and understand the price point is commensurate with what’s inside our unique packaging. I am also focused on growing our food service business (selling to hospitality, education, corporate dining, professional sports, healthcare) which incorporates our products into menus. At some point, Laura’s Gourmet Granola will benefit from an investor or acquisition to grow our business further.
AFM: Where do you see yourself in the future?
LB: In the future, I can see myself doing consulting in the culinary field for everything from recipe creation, costing and execution for both product and menu development. Furthermore, given my nearly 18 years of being a chef for upscale events and also a food product developer, I have been working on a kitchen product that I would like to bring to the market in the next 4-6 months that will be a game changer in both the commercial and consumer kitchen. Stay tuned!
AFM: Laura’s Gourmet Granola has already found significant success. Where do you see your business in the future?
LB: Laura’s Gourmet Granola will definitely offer additional flavors in the future and we will refine our lineup to relate to the seasons, like our Pumpkin Pecan Crunch (could it be Fall without it?). Furthermore, enhancing current products without sacrificing the classic nature of what we do is on the horizon. Finally, it would be great to see our retail in more well selected regions of the country.
AFM: You offer seven tempting flavors. Which is the most popular and your personal favorite?
LB: Our most popular flavor is also our original – Vanilla Almond Crunch. As I always say, if I shared my favorite it would be like picking children. I will share that my youngest daughter and my dad are huge AppleLicious fans, my oldest daughter is LocoCoconut, my husband is Honey Roasted Peanut and every flavor has a story behind why it was created. Suffice to say that as for me, you never forget your first but the ability to love is boundless.
AFM: Is there anything else we should know about Laura’s Gourmet Granola?
LB: After spending some time traveling internationally the last 18 months and visiting artisans in a variety of fields from tequila to limoncello, ceramics to jewelry, it should be noted that Laura’s Gourmet Granola is truly an artisan crafted product. We do our own baking and packaging and while we have a limited amount of equipment to enable the process, we are most definitely not a mass-produced product. You can see the difference and more importantly, you can taste the difference. This began as a labor of love and we would like to think that comes through in the product. —Aubrey Martin