Lucy O'Donnell is on a mission. Her premium granola, Lovedean, may have a sweet name and come replete with smiling pictures of O'Donnell and family and, yes, it is served on the Getty yacht but the steely determination of its founder should not be underestimated.
In the same month that Kellogg's abandoned its foray into premium healthy cereal with Nature's Pleasure, claiming shoppers had been turned off premium cereals by the downturn, Lovedean has gone into Tesco in the wake of hitting Sainsbury's shelves last September. For a brand that started its journey in Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, independent delis and Waitrose, the move marks a step change.
With the price being cut from £3.99 to £2.99 for the big multiples, O'Donnell is confident of maintaining the rate of growth that in the past year has pushed sales up 30% to £1.2m, with volumes doubling every year since 2005, when she started baking batches in her own kitchen.
Despite its cosy image, O'Donnell insists her product is not servicing a niche. "It's for all ages, all groups I want everyone eating this stuff," says O'Donnell. "We've only just started. When we began we were only in Selfridges and 'top end' places, but my whole mission has been to get more volume and cut costs."
The brand's initial high price Lovedean started out in 425g pots priced £5.99 required "a leap of faith" on the part of customers. Now, only Waitrose stocks the pots (rsp: £4.99), while the price drop for Sainsbury's and Tesco has been achieved through increased volumes, economies of scale and cheaper doy packs.
O'Donnell's faith in her product is based in her belief that real granola should be made from only a few key ingredients. "Granola is oats, nuts, seeds and oils," she says. "A lot of people have been jumping on the bandwagon. There is not an official definition of granola, so a lot of products are called granola when I don't think they are because they may be full of sugar or puffed rice to pad them out."
But in the Wiltshire bakery company where the cereals are made, O'Donnell and her business partners, former Dormen's nuts owners Angus Cameron and Mark Cuddigan, are working on upcoming NPD and next to launch will be a Belgian chocolate granola. Granola blasphemy? O'Donnell admits it will deviate slightly from her no-sugar rule. And work has also begun on a granola-based snack product that isn't a bar.
"The cereal bar market is very crowded," she says. "For most bars you have to use syrups and things to bind them, which I don't want to do."
O'Donnell says she has already been approached by "yoghurty" companies keen to partner and doesn't rule out the idea that one day she could be open to a Green & Black's-style buyout. But O'Donnell insists the brand will stay true to its granola roots.
"Nothing's impossible. It would completely depend on them remaining true to our brand values." Those values may have made it through the door of the multiples, but now is the time to see how Lovedean fares in them.