Austin Lutz, Jamble Granola

Think of your favorite family recipe gone viral. Wildly popular among friends of friends of friends – all clamoring for more of what you grew up with. And willing to pay for it.

Sound like a winning business proposition? Austin Lutz of Jamble Granola certainly hopes so.

“My parents have always made granola, and gave it to friends and family,” says Lutz, 27, who is founder and CEO of Jamble Granola LLC. “They would always say that they loved it, but OK, they were friends and family, right?

“But then they started giving it to THEIR friends, and then those people were coming back asking for more and asking if we could sell it. It was then that I started realizing that this may be something that may sell and started working on the business plan.”

Lutz, who spent four years at Xavier University’s entrepreneurship program, has been studying the granola industry for the last five years. And he went live with the product about six months ago, renting space from the Mt. Lookout Bakery to produce about 200 pounds a week.

“This industry is still growing tremendously and gaining reputation,” says Lutz. “But while we are hoping to grow, we want manageable sustainable growth and just to get the name out there.”

Jamble granola is currently available in six different stories throughout the Greater Cincinnati area and sells for about $6-7 per 12 oz. bag. (Stores include Fuel Coffee in Columbia-Tusculum; the two Anderson Township locations of Luckman Coffee; Hyde Park Meats in Hyde Park, Carl’s Deli in Hyde Park, and Pipkin’s Market in Blue Ash).

Lutz only uses local or natural ingredients – the maple syrup he uses is sourced from near Cleveland, while his honey is also produced in Ohio. The granola itself comes in four flavors – traditional (the old family recipe); ginger/apricot; chocolate; and bourbon – yes, bourbon flavored granola!

“I was really inspired by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in coming up with different flavors, while staying true to the family tradition,” says Lutz, who is also developing a low-sugar vegan version that does not use honey with his father Mark, who lives in Philadelphia. “

Lutz is currently seeking funding so he can aggressively go after larger stores next spring, having already had preliminary conversations with Whole Foods, Fresh Market and local chain Rempke.

“Most stores already have their offerings planned through the winter, so we’re hoping to hit it hard in the spring about March,” Lutz says.

“I would love another partner/founder but I haven’t been able to convince my friends in high-paying jobs to quit and come make granola for next to nothing,” he says with a laugh.

Lutz would eventually also like to see his product on the shelves of another major locally-based chain, but says he can wait for downtown-based Kroger to come calling. He also envisions selling the granola directly online, but only after he has a strong foothold in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

“I want to be able to manage my growth and not just explode like that into thousands of stores,” says Lutz, who says he is paying the bills but is not taking a salary from his business yet. “Keeping the product and the brand real is very important to me and we want this to be scalable.”

One thing is clear, though – Lutz wants to maintain control of his company for as long as he can and does not envision selling out to a larger food company.

“I want good food and I want this to be my lifetime passion,” he says. “And if it goes well, perhaps I can help my parents retire a little bit early since it was their recipe after all.”

James Pilcher is a freelance journalist, consultant and technical writer from Northern Kentucky; father of three and husband to a beautiful wife; and yes, he brews his own beer and makes his own BBQ.