Blaine Iler and Ben Hurt, the local entrepreneurs behind Impact Granola, planned to stage two tastings of their charitable cereal at Eatzi's last weekend. But samplers were so enthusiastic on Saturday that the pair didn't have any bags to bring back the next day.
"Half of the people who tried it picked up a bag," reports Iler. "I was absolutely shocked."
Iler and Hurt starting selling Impact Granola online about six months ago, and their recent demo at Eatzi's marked their bricks-and-mortar debut. Iler attributes the product's immediate success both to its flavor and the company's philosophy: For each bag of granola sold, Impact Foods feeds one hungry child for one day.
Iler says he and Hurt, who met at Southern Methodist University, were attracted to the "conscious capitalism" practiced by companies like TOMS Shoes, which helped pioneer the "one to one" charitable model by pledging to buy a pair of shoes for a needy child for every pair of shoes sold.
"None of those companies seemed to be addressing hunger," says Iler, explaining why he and Hurt decided to partner with Feed the Children, a global hunger relief network.
Future plans call for Impact Foods, which is launching its own charitable foundation, to localize its giving: Iler and Hurt are collaborating with Eatzi's to develop a special blend to benefit the Dallas-based Hunger Busters program.
But will the prospect of doing good persuade enough people to regularly shell out $8 for a 12-ounce bag of granola made from organic rolled oats and toasted coconut? Iler thinks the product's quality helps make the price more palatable:
"It's sweet, but not too sweet," Iler says. "And it's made with extra virgin olive oil -- not many granolas, if any, use that -- so that brings out the deep flavors."
Iler readily admits he and Hurt aren't the typical granola salesmen set on changing the world: In a website photo, the beefy recent grads are wearing closely-cropped haircuts and matching Ralph Lauren polo shirts. Their unabashed zeal for sales shines through Hurt's standard e-mail valediction: "Peace and Profits."
"We're definitely not the crunchy, hippie type of crowd," concedes Iler, adding that he and Hurt aren't the least bit contemptuous of their hemp-wearing, jam-band-loving brethren in granola fandom since, "that's the kind of crowd that likes this stuff."
Iler and Hurt's interest in granola stemmed from basic business concerns: "The loose granola is fairly easy to produce, and we can make small batches," Iler says. Plus, Hurt's old friend Nekisia Davis, a lauded New York City granola-meister who has a faithful following at the weekly Brooklyn Flea, had a killer recipe she was willing to share.
"It's just delicious," Iler says. "It's similar to a few other granolas, but I think it's better."
Iler says Impact Granola's back in stock at Eatzi's, and the company's now working on a granola bar.
"We want to do huge things," Iler says. "But it's important to have a local focus first. We want to use Dallas as a launching pad."