When they were seniors at DU, Maddy D’Amato (BA sociology ’08) and Alex Hasulak (BSBA ’08) called on their fellow students to help them perfect their granola recipe, bringing samples to campus for their classmates to taste and evaluate.
Three years later, the pair’s Love Grown Foods granola is on the shelves at more than 1,300 Kroger and Vitamin Cottage locations around the country, with the promise of more stores to come. In November 2009, foodie website Chowhound.com named Love Grown’s Sweet Cranberry Pecan flavor No. 1 in a granola taste test that included well-known brands such as Udi’s, Back to Nature and Bear Naked. Love Grown’s Apple Walnut Delight came in at No. 6.
It’s been a nutty ride for the couple who met at DU and moved to Aspen — Maddy’s hometown — after graduation. In January 2010 they returned to Denver. They started off in 80 Kroger stores in Colorado and Wyoming, but in 2011 they went nationwide.
“It’s important to us to be in Kroger because there are so many people who shop there who don’t think twice about what they put in their cart, let alone what they’re putting in their body,” D’Amato says. “Even though Whole Foods is the epitome of what healthy eating is, so many people who shop there already know they’re going to be eating healthy and they’re already geared into it. Being in Kroger means we really have the opportunity to educate people and reach the people who really need foods like this.”
To that end, the couple bought an RV they dubbed the “love bus,” and their goal is to spend 90 percent of each year on the road, educating consumers on the wonders of naturally sweetened granola made with no chemicals, hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup.
“We love interacting with the customer; we think that’s the most important thing,” D’Amato says. “Our goal as a company is not just to make food that’s delicious and healthy, but also to tell people why they should be eating these foods and explain to them in person the benefits of whole grain oats and omega-3s and why they’re so important in their diets. They’re more likely to understand it and apply it to their lives, which at the end of the day means that we did our job.”