Her granola started out as fuel for a run. Then, it took off. Angela Gustafson was a stay-at-home mom who needed a quick breakfast — something easy and delicious to power her morning lap around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, and help her get four kids up and ready for school.
Inspired by the granola at Birchwood Cafe, Gustafson began tinkering with oats and nuts in her Linden Hills kitchen in 2008. It took her three years to land on the perfect recipe, which she called Gustola Granola.
Besides munching it to get through her mornings, Gustafson packed it up and gave it to friends, family, teachers and coaches. Word spread, and with her new fans’ encouragement, she applied for a spot at her neighborhood farmers market in 2013.
It was a “fun summer business adventure” with her kids, she says. She thought it would end there. Instead, she got an invitation to sell Gustola at her local co-op, and “the competitive side of me kicked in,” Gustafson says.
Gustola Granola is now on 200 supermarket shelves, and its reach is expanding. Find the $7.99 bags, in four flavors, at local co-ops, Kowalski’s, Lunds & Byerly’s, Hy-Vee, Coborn’s, Cub and more.
It’s still a homegrown operation; the phone number on the back of the bag goes to her sunroom office. And Gustafson, 51, still makes at least a batch a week for her family. But as demand grew, she needed to move the baking from a shared Minneapolis commercial kitchen to a co-packer with cereal expertise. She’s just as busy as before; the only difference is the granola now comes in slickly designed bags. “My kids were so sick of labeling,” Gustafson says with a laugh.
The recipe remains the same shockingly simple one she discovered in her kitchen: organic oats, maple syrup, egg whites, olive oil, brown sugar, nuts and salt. That’s it.
Sugar is low and protein and fiber are high. “Dietitians are all over it,” Gustafson says.
Though the family has always helped out — her husband, Brian, does investment management — “it’s mom’s thing,” Gustafson says. “They’re supportive and proud, but nobody’s dying to take over the family business.”
Before granola, “mom’s thing” was running a cycling club, writing a children’s book (“Imagine a House”), and volunteering in the Peace Corps. Gustafson has never had any problem putting her mind to something and watching it take off. “I’m pretty Type-A, just go, go go,” Gustafson says. It’s what keeps her running.