Foodspring: gateway to food adventure
March 15, 2011
Owner, Granola Gourmet
As a type 2 diabetic, Jeff Cohen was frustrated by a lack of snacks that wouldn’t cause a blood sugar spike but also tasted good. To fill the void, he started Granola Gourmet with his family, creating a line of energy bars that would meet the needs of diabetics, as well as athletes and health-conscious consumers. He made each bar with 100 percent natural and wholesome ingredients, all with low glycemic impact so they convert to sugar more slowly
What began in his kitchen at home quickly turned into a hit. His teenagers started getting requests for new flavors from their friends; soon after, he began selling to caterers on television show and movie sets. Designed to satisfy a sweet tooth, the bars have no refined sugar nor the fat and sodium content of other popular protein and energy bars. They are available in flavors like Ultimate Berry, Mocha Fudge, Chocolate Espresso and Spiced Orange Cranberry. They provide such an energy boost that a group of 18 climbers brought Granola Gourmet energy bars to eat for their meals and snacks during an eight-day climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. To learn more about his business, look for Cohen on ABC’s Shark Tank, which will air later this year.
Cohen shared more of his story with us:
How did you get involved with supporting the Mt. Kilimanjaro trek?
I think we all have an athlete within, and when I went on my journey to make a great-tasting low-glycemic snack I knew it would appeal to all types of athletes, from casual walkers to marathon runners and those adventurous enough to climb the 19,298 feet of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In our humble beginnings making bars for customers at local farmers markets and selling to caterers, I had no idea people would rely on our product for sustenance and energy to make the huge climb. We were approached by a local group out of Santa Clarita, Calif., made up of committed hikers that knew they needed our product for the journey. We were excited to be able to participate in the effort that took place more than 10,000 miles away.
Did the hikers eat your granola bars at the summit?
They ate the bars all the way up the mountain and commented that the guides loved the bars as well. They took pictures of our sign at the top. Definitely one of the high points in our company!
What is the most challenging or satisfying part of your job?
The most satisfying part of our job is when we attend the American Diabetes Expo every year in Los Angeles. Diabetics and their families swarm our booth and find our healthy diabetic-friendly bars taste great. It’s particularly rewarding to see my two teenage sons talking to the attendees about how their diabetic father came up with a product that they love. We can never stock enough product for the show and sell out every year.
Do you have a favorite flavor from your line?
I love the fruit flavors but can finally enjoy the chocolate ones without blood sugar concerns. My favorite is the Chocolate Espresso in our original recipe line and Ultimate Mocha Fudge from our new line of individually wrapped bars. They’re great in the morning when I need to rush out of the house without my cup of coffee.
If someone could shadow you for one day at your job, what would surprise that person most?
How much time I spend talking with people. I’m sharing my experiences for hours every day. Thank goodness I have an unlimited cell phone plan!
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My dad was a corporate guy who was very successful. He taught us that no matter what you did, do it for others. Today I know that the more people I can help, the more successful I will be. I guess I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, whether that was working for others or myself, as I do today.
Aside from your products, what three food items can you always find in your kitchen?
You can always find apples, lemons from our tree, and although it’s not technically food, we make some great meals in our wok.