Every overnight success has so much hard work with Maddy Hasulak, Love Grown Foods

Maddy Haslack is the co-founder of Love Grown. Everyday is different but one thing stays the same her passion and enthusiasm to make healthy food available to as many people as possible. Love Grown believes in making health less of a privilege and more of a right. In the last seven years, Love Grown has gone from one store to over 11,500 stores and growing.

In this podcast you’ll hear:

    • How Maddy started Love Grown Foods
    • When they decided to move on beyond their first products.
    • Where she found inspiration for a new product.
    • What the best marketing technique is on a shoe string budget!

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Maddy Hasulak on the Blissful Bites Podcast

Tell me a little bit about you and Love Grown Foods.

My background is in nutrition and I love to cook. My husband is really the mastermind behind Love Grown and had the vision for Love Grown foods. We met and started dating while we were in college and Alex was the one who was like, “We should take your cooking and we should sell it,” And that’s how Love Grown got started. That was over seven years ago, it was in the summer of 2009 when we got our first products, an oat clustered granola, on the shelves in our local city market. We went from one store to 1300 stores in a year and a half and today we are in 11,500 stores throughout the U.S.

Tell us how did you get the idea for your product?

Alex and I started with oat clusters. It was actually my mom’s granola recipe which he loved. We started bringing samples to our classmates friends and professors and as we launched Love Grown we really stayed focused on one product for the first three and a half years. I think that was some of the best advice that we were given, to really focusing and not spreading ourselves too thin too quickly.

Then as we started branching out into more products we really leveraged economies of scale and that meant using more oats because we were already buying them. We launched into hot oats, instant oatmeal cups and we launched our super oats hot cereal blends with gluten free oats, quinoa flakes, amaranth flakes and chia seeds.

A few years ago we knew it really made sense for the brand to grow beyond granola and hot cereal,  into the box cereal segment. We really want to bring innovation and excitement to a category that really has been stagnant for the last 10-15 years. We got a lot of inspiration from the chip aisle and actually saw how Benito’s revolutionized chips. They said, “We don’t have to make chips out of wheat or corn, we can make them out of beans,” and we took the same idea and said, “We don’t have to make cereal out of wheat, corn or oats we can make them out of beans.”

It was such a crazy process. It was a combination of my background in nutrition and understanding ingredients and Alex’s understanding of supply chain. We worked really closely with the manufacturer for the first time outsourcing essentially our research and development because we weren’t able to do it in house. We didn’t have these multi-million dollar pieces of cereal equipment and we came up with a three-bean blend of navy, lentil and garbanzo beans and launched power oats in 2014 and it was a wild success.

I think so much of that stems from the need for cereal which is such a convenient comfort food. It’s an easy breakfast and often not necessarily the healthiest option. We made it more healthy by adding more protein from the beans, more fiber from the beans but also naturally gluten-free. Plus it didn’t contain corn like so many cereals do. It was so successful that we continued and we launched Mighty Flakes a year ago and then this year we just launched our new kids cereals that come in fun shapes and flavors. They have lower sugar and are all made from navy, lentil and garbanzo beans and all of them are wheat free and corn free.

What has been your most proud moment in the 7 years of doing this business?

Most recently in January we were named one of Forbes thirty under thirty for really revolutionizing cereal by food and the food industry. It was a huge recognition by an amazing publication. We were among really phenomenal individuals and I think that, I mean, it just really is a huge honor and a huge validation of how far we’ve come.

And the last thing I think I would add to just proud moments that really continue to this day to really shock me is the fact that walking into a different grocery store all the time and seeing Love Grown on the shelves.

Can you tell a specific flop or disappointing moment?

When we were first starting out we just moved to Denver to expand our production. The commercial kitchen we were baking at, the ovens weren’t producing the same texture and consistency of our granola. We had just gotten a massive order from King Super’s and we panicked. We had to drive all of our ingredients which was hundreds of pounds of ingredients making sure we didn’t forget anything. We drove it back actually up to Aspen where we had launched the company initially; the commercial kitchen was 4 hours away. We had 2 cars that we drove all this product up in. We baked for 24 hours straight. We had a little cot set up in the kitchen where we took little 20 minute naps. It was probably one of the biggest unexpected moments, but in order to fulfill it we just had to do it. We had to make it work and make it happen. We called in my parents and my brothers over the holidays for them to come in and help us bag all of the products so that we could take it back to Denver and ship it out in time.

Was there a specific unexpected moment that you’ve had in the past 7 years something that either caught you off guard whether it was in a good or not so good way?

I think some of it, even just the response to the Power Oats and bean cereal. We knew we were taking a really big leap with something that was so different and such a new concept. There was nothing on it on the shelves and it totally shocked us how positive the response was. We kind of went into the launch saying, “This can be an epic success or an epic failure,” and it was totally really exciting to see the response that we got.

How did you grow your team?

When Alex and I started it was the two of us baking from 4 o’clock at night to 4 o’clock in the morning and then everyday we were doing Farmer’s Markets, races, demos and events. It was when we went from 80 King Supers which within 6 months we went from one store to 80 stores. A year after that we went into 1300 Kroger stores which is unheard of in this industry. I joked if we even tried to repeat the same steps it would be nearly impossible. It was just being in the right place at the right time, with great products and a lot of hard work. When we went from 80 stores to 1300 stores we raised capital, we hired employees, we got our own commercial baking facility and we start ramping up production just in order to fill the 1300 stores alone. We really knew that this is no longer Alex and Maddy. It’s going to require a team of employees who can bake and package the product. From the sales marketing side being able to then support it once it’s gets on the shelves and get the word out. It happened really quickly in the scheme of businesses especially in this industry we definitely went in this lightning speed.

Is there something that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

How much capital is required if you really want to grow a brand in this industry. I think that it’s something that continues to be an area I don’t think that you can be prepared enough for. I mean we didn’t have any business experience prior to this. It really takes a lot of capital to support not just the raw materials and the production, but really the growth aspect and the promotional aspect. You have to make sure that you can be in some of these larger retailers that require slotting fees or that require ads and promotions in order just to be on their shelves.

Do you have any specific tips on raising money?

A couple of tips that I would have is finding the right partners is so critical. So many of those investors in early stage businesses, they are investing in you as a person. That’s what it takes to get those initial investments and then the business takes off.

You recently underwent a rebrand, what sparked it and how has it gone?

It’s gone so well. It’s really fun. We went through a very big process in this rebrand for the first time in the history of Love Grown. Over the course of the last seven years the brand really didn’t capture the excitement, the energy, the enthusiasm that Love Grown is. We had great clean packaging but it was a bit square. We wanted to bring this aspect of loving and energy to it that the packaging didn’t have. So we hired a great consultant who helped us with the work and we interviewed our consumers and our retailers. We got a ton of information and what we concluded was 5 characteristics of Love Grown that we wanted to embrace in this rebrand : real, strong, active, loving and inspiring. It was these 5 characteristics that drove us to really design the packaging and the new look and feel of Love Grown.

What has been a successful marketing technique?

I really think it’s word of mouth. Our bloggers have been such a great part of that when we started a Love Blogger program three and a half years ago.

grow your food business

What would be your biggest piece of advice to someone who is just starting out?

I think you have to be passionate and really love what you do because there are so many ups and downs that we’ve talked about. You have to believe in it and you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else will. It takes sacrifice and I think that it takes the willingness to endure through those hard times. It doesn’t come easy. Every overnight success has so much hard work behind it and so many years likely behind it, even though people kind of see it as this quick overnight success.

Where do you see you and Love Grown 5 years from now?

I really get excited thinking about branching out beyond just breakfast and beyond just cereal but into multiple aisles and categories of the grocery store. I think that we’ve really laid the foundation in Love Grown to be able to do that and to be able to be a brand that people know and trust. We’ve done our research as a company to use ingredients and make sure that they are just clean and simple. Being able to bring this platform into other categories, that gets me so excited, thinking about where can we take Love Grown and how can we meet this need for the growing demand for high quality yet affordable products that are natural and clean and simple but that taste good but that there families will eat, enjoy and love.

Can you share one thing you want to share to our listeners that you think they don’t know already?

One of the things is that I truly eat Love Grown every single day in one way shape or form.

Listen to Maddy from Love Grown Foods on the Blissful Bites Podcast in iTunes

Maddy Hasulak, Love Grown Foods

Follow Maddy and Love Grown!

Maddy Hasulak is always spreading the Love. From managing domestic and international sales to new product development, each day is different from the last. But one thing remains constant – her passion and enthusiasm to make healthy food available to as many people as possible. Love Grown believes in making health less of a privilege and more of a right.

Enter the podcast giveaway! This months giveaway is HUGE. Granola from Blissful Eats, A Love Drop from Love Grown Foods, a smoothie box from Green Blender,  one bag of Otto’s Cassava Flour and bagels from Sweet Note Bakery by filling out the form below AND/OR writing an iTunes review and sending a screen shot of it in an email to me!

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About Nicole

I’m on a mission to help as many women as possible step into their power so they can have a positive ripple effect on the world.

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