Hello Granola lovers! We wanted to share our latest NJG motto with you - "Community Before Profit" to start our conversation on why we don't bargain shop for our granola ingredients.
First, let me start by saying that we greatly appreciate, and are deeply thankful for all of the support over the last 7 years, and we realize as consumers, you make a commitment every single time you pick up a bag of our granola and head to the check out stand.
So why $9? The first reason, is the fact that we employ people not machines. We are almost at livable wages (in San Francisco it is $16.78 and rising) with every employee and working extremely hard to get there for everyone. This is a large reason why everything we make is by hand. We spend 15 minutes to flatten, hours to cut and bag every single bar by hand. We have no automated equipment that mixes each batch of granola, we still do that by hand. For starters, we don't want to break up the nuts or the oats. Doing it this way ensures that you don't purchase a bag of granola with a bunch of powder on the bottom. Second, we want you to feel like it was made in your kitchen by hand - that very week! Which brings me to my other point, we make fresh granola every single week! We genuinely want you to experience that fresh out-of-the-oven flavor, texture and crunch. Most granola companies make large batches and pack it all up in hopes to sell it all by the expire date. In most cases, they are forced to reduce prices in order to sell it all when it is close to being out of date. We deliver to the stores every single week, which provides them with fresh product on their shelves. We could make adjustments to increase our profit (which for a food company is anywhere from 2-10%) by cutting our staff in half or co-packing but that doesn't go with our mission statement.
We source Fair Trade, making sure we know exactly where our ingredients come from. Almost all our ingredients are farm direct. There are several reasons for this. First, we know exactly where our ingredients have been. Have they been in stores next to wheat flour? Have they been sitting in the sun for an hour inside trucks with non-food items? Have the ingredients been exposed to chemicals? Have the ingredients been stored for months, or sometimes years, in cold storage because the distribution company was able to get a better price deal without concern of the product integrity? Most food companies will buy a large amount of ingredients and use them in their packaged food years later to lock in a certain cheaper price point and to make sure they have stock, using less people to control inventory. We rotate all of our ingredients frequently, to ensure you get the best quality and also that the ingredients still have optimal nutritional benefits, which can be lost after they age.
Yes, this is extremely difficult and at times I have to admit cutting corners seems so much easier. Yes, I have wanted to pack my bags and run as far away as I could, but I continue to stay. I built something not even my dreams could have concocted. I made one statement to my friends "I think I want to start a granola company". Which was met with blank stares and with timid encouragement with the undertone of what did Michelle just say? My father who had a wicked sense of humor even on his death bead said to me "Chel Chel you know when you told us that you wanted to start a granola company, we all laughed and thought nothing of it, but we can't believe how you have grown it. I don't want your granola company to die just because I am". These words and his belief in me resonated so much, and this conversation was revisited in my mind at a very pivotal point in my life. I have had several investors over the years come to me and ask to buy into our business but no one could comprehend why I didn't want to co-pack - reducing labor and making it easier to mass produce. Those last words form my father also made me work even harder to make him and myself proud.
Why don't I want to cut corners? The most memorable was when I was on a panel and standing in front of investors who could have changed the course of my business and my life. Standing there with my heart pounding all I could think about was "What the heck am I doing here?" From that point I had to decide why I created a granola company. For my ego or my community? Which is a very difficult question because, sure my ego wanted to say to all the skeptics, "Look I made it and I am in all grocery stores across the world. I can do it with farm direct ingredients!" But, in that split second, my community won and I turned down the deal and walked away. Granted I had several moments where I was in sheer panic mode and questioning everything I have ever been taught and felt guilty for not taking the chance of a lifetime. But one thing sits so heavy on my heart, and that one thing was my fathers funeral. My father, Tony, never did anything he didn't believe in or anything that would negatively affect or hurt other people. He affected a great community and helped foster programs to help us with renters rights. He was a good man, who gave his heart away - all day long, sometimes coming home with nothing left to give. Over 800 people showed up for his funeral. 800 people whose lives were affected by my father. 800 people who grew as human beings because my father made a difference in their lives. 800 people who flew from all over the world to say goodbye and to hug his family they had never meant. Nobody cared or talked about how many apartments he sold or rented they talked about his character and his ability to light up a room with one big smile and the twinkle in his eyes. They talked about how he changed the course of their lives in a positive, impactful way. Recently, I had that same feeling again when Gus, who started Haight Street Market, Noriega Produce and Gus's Market, was killed in a hit and run accident. Gus would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and fostered communities all around San Francisco, through his three local grocery stores. My husband, Pete and I went to the memorial service and I knew exactly how his family Georgia, Bobby and Dimitri felt. The line to pay condolences and respect to the family and to Gus was over a mile long. In my mind there were over 1000 people there. Dimitri said it best when he called his father a legend. Because he was, and so was my father.
So, getting back to why you pay $9.00 for a bag of granola. You are purchasing whole food ingredients - that are now organic and Non-GMO Verified that took us years to be able to afford without raising the price of our granola. We have only raised the price twice in 7 years. When you spend that $9.00, you are supporting small local farms who foster communities. You support families who have to feed their children and themselves. You support the hearts and souls who dare to stay in the family-owned business lane, and to do it the absolute hardest way. Because in the end, you only have one thing and that is how did you help grow a community and how did you affect peoples lives. Because you should never bargain shop for food and if you do, know what and who you are supporting. Make sure the ingredients are what they say they are, and that people are earning fare wages and treated humanely. Most importantly, taking care of your body and mind in this fast paced world is becoming more and more important. Processed foods take your body longer to break down but whole food ingredients feed your body and your mind - fueling you.
For now (this is where I want to say "With A Perspective") I will continue to run Nana Joes Granola as a business that stands for "Community Before Profit". A company that helps nurture a stronger community. We actually take the time to make a difference in our employees lives by providing them with the tools they need, so they never have to work another entry level job again. We will continue to buy almonds from local farms at the farmers market at $1.00 plus more per pound, supporting and fostering our relationships. I have not said I would never find investors, but if I do, they would have to be the right fit for us and for the NJG family and community.
With Love and Respect,
Michelle and the Nana Joes Granola Family