How a beloved family recipe inspired Ladera Foods | January 9, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - January 9, 2019

How a beloved family recipe inspired Ladera Foods

by Kate Bradshaw

The roots for one of the area's most popular granola brands and a growing local business can be traced back to when Brian Tetrud, the CEO of Ladera Foods, was a kid growing up in the community of Ladera.

He was one of three children in his family and the son of two doctors. His health-conscious mother, Dr. Karen Butterfield, an internist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, decided to create her own granola recipe after a local brand raised its prices. After some experimentation, Butterfield arrived at a concoction that quickly became popular with family and friends, as Tetrud explains. "It was clear we had a winner."

Tetrud left home to attend Ithaca College after graduating from Menlo-Atherton High School, and began working in the field of renewable energy. In the summer of 2010, he was working in Washington, D.C., when his mom came to visit and she, in passing, suggested starting a business with their family granola recipe.

So he decided to give it a shot. He spent about a year gathering feedback and learning the process to build a food business. He talked to Kevin Bianchini, owner of Bianchini's Market in Ladera, to figure out how to package the product and learned what needed to be on the packaging. He talked to founders of other granola companies, like at "Bear Naked."

Slowly, the path forward became more clear, and he was on his way. He obtained the necessary permits and approvals, and with the help of a lawyer incorporated the business.

From his previous work, he had about $100,000 to invest in the company. His mother provided a loan to start, and he took out other loans. He also raised money from friends and family.

Finally, in July 2011, he launched the granola product at Bianchini's Market. Manufacturing started in Redwood City, at the site of Angel Heart Cakes Bakery. Later, the company moved to San Mateo. Now, its operations are back in Redwood City, off of Seaport Boulevard.

"It started out as a one-man show," said Tetrud, now 30. He he started doing just about everything himself — demonstrations, food production, deliveries, sales and accounting. "It helped me understand every aspect of the business."

However, to expand the business, he had to enlist the help of people in the community, he said. He's kept things local, hiring fellow M-A High School grads Dylan Torres as director of sales and John Eberli as marketing manager and social media guru. Now, about a dozen people are involved in the operation — the equivalent of about seven full-time employees.

The business has evolved and now generates revenue from three sources: retail, catering and co-packing. On the retail front, the granola Ladera produces is sold in 1,500 stores and Amazon. The company also supplies local corporate catering entities that feed employees at Stanford, Twitter and Paypal, among others. The third piece of their business, "co-packing," involves packaging other companies' products.

Tetrud's family has lived in Ladera since 1991. As Tetrud has launched his business, he drew inspiration for its name from the Ladera community, which has rallied to support him — Bianchini's Market in the Ladera shopping center was the first business to sell Tetrud's granola, and Ladera-based family and friends were some of the business' first investors. Today, a number of the business' employees are also from Ladera.

Setting up shop in Silicon Valley brings with it pros and cons — on the positive side, Tetrud said, there have been a number of investors and supporters who have provided helpful business advice, including Roy Johnson of Ladera, who, Tetrud said, has been an active investor.

On the negative side, retaining talent has been a challenge, due to competition in the job market.

The granola

Over the years, the company has expanded to sell three types of granola: the original nine-ingredient recipe, which contains cinnamon and cardamom; cocoa almond, which Tetrud describes as a healthful version of "Cocoa Puffs"; and the nut-free vanilla-quinoa granola, which contains seeds instead of nuts for protein.

"It's the same product we grew up with," Tetrud said.

The recipes, he said, are simple, and the granola contains less sugar than other brands.

"It's just made of stuff you'd find in your pantry," he said. "That is something we've stuck to our guns about."

Eberli, 28, says that granola is surprisingly versatile. Tasked with marketing a crunchy snack most people associate with breakfast or camping, he says he tries to attract customers who don't already eat it. "Don't think about it as a cereal," he said. Instead, he suggests, think about it as a topping — add it to yogurt, salads, fruit or oatmeal, or as a supplement for a baking project.

"It is a premium granola, but we like it that way," Tetrud said. "We want it to be the best."

For recipes and serving suggestions, see Ladera Foods' Instagram at @laderafoods. Photos come from customers and people who use their products in different ways.


Like this comment
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2019 at 10:40 am

So happy to see this history here. My family has enjoyed this granola for years and are proud to support these amazing people!
-Barb, Atherton

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