A very inspiring look inside the innovative little granola company with a lot of heart – on a mission to make life more delicious, healthy and sustainable.
As a chef at a high-end lodge in Wanaka, Sarah Hedger created a granola recipe that developed such a devoted and passionate following – with people around the world asking to order some – that it inspired her to create Yum Granola.
We love the purpose and passion behind Yum. So we wanted to learn how they make the magic happen and better understand how Upstock can help them with their business and their mission.
How would you describe your business and your brand?
Yum is an innovative little granola company that looks after its people and the planet through sustainably producing the best damn granola around. Our products are unique in that one of the Yum owners/directors is a chef, so all the recipes are authentic and crafted around the best (organic, gluten-free) ingredients we can get our hands on.
How would you describe your customers?
Loyal! Yum customers are varied…the natural matches for Yum are the athletes, yogis, eco-conscious warriors that are looking out for their health, as well as that of their families and the planet. They also seem to have good taste:)
On the hospitality side, the Yum customer is the chef of the high quality accommodation or cafe who wants to make everything by hand, but appreciates that they might not always have the time or couldn’t make a similar quality product for less, so Yum is offering them not only a hand-crafted solution, but a sustainable solution that is good for their guests and the planet.
Tell us about your job
My official title is Director of Deliciousness. It was given to me when I started Yum and it was too good to turn down.
My responsibilities are ever-evolving…as they are in a smaller organization. I oversee procurement for ingredients and establishing those initial relationships with our suppliers. Quality control (tastings), overseeing and managing financials on a larger scale, and ultimately connecting Yum with more people who want it. Overseeing our stockists and the management around the relationships with them. Lately I’ve been doing more public relations and being the face of Yum, which I’m okay with because I’m super proud of it and how it continues to evolve to make a positive impact. I also copywrite our words for our newsletters and social media content (Mike creates all the visual content in-house as well which is pretty cool).
“Upstock is connecting us with new wholesale customers. I believe it has an unlimited potential when it comes to adding efficiencies to our systems.”
How would you describe your operation?
Lean! 😉 There are a handful of us that get the job done as efficiently as possible. We make Yum fresh each day and there is probably more logistics behind that than one might think. We are self-funded which means we are more limited on capital than most and while that can be uncomfortable at times and pretty stressful, it also means we have a solid foundation and a natural resilience. We seem to thrive when (sh)it gets hard and based on last year’s challenges, we are able to get back to our basic core values, which are impact based, and let that drive the company, which results in a thoughtful model and one that goes much further than the bottom line.
What do you love most about your business?
That it is giving us the ability to have a greater positive impact (for our community and the planet) than we might have otherwise been able to do as individuals. I also love seeing and hearing how much people appreciate Yum and all we are doing, as well as the flavour and how it makes them feel. Making people thrive and feel good in their bodies is another. At the end of the day I am still really proud of Yum and how it is growing as a thoughtful, sustainable company.
What do you love most about your job?
I actually love wearing the 31 (!) hats that I do with my job. I’m a starter so doing a number of things at one time is how I operate. I do love the challenges as well. I’ve always been someone who has some grit and gets better when things get..hard. I also love the freedom my job gives me to spend time with our daughter each day.
What do you love least?
Probably the stress around both Mike and I being in the business. All our eggs are in one basket in that respect so when it’s hard, it usually ends up being hard for both of us, even if it is only affecting one of us, if that makes sense? There is little separation when moods are down which is much different than if one of us had a 9-5 job.
Before Upstock how did you manage wholesale orders and keep track of orders?
So many ways! We receive wholesale orders via emails, website, Instagram, Facebook, texts…you name it. Trying to remember what order came from where was a serious challenge!
How much time savings has there been since using Upstock?
I’d say between 1- 2 hours a day right now.
What were some of the problems you experienced with wholesale orders?
Human error is always an issue no matter how good your systems are so anything that helps minimize those is a win, as it ultimately delivers a better result to the customer. That said, inconsistent pricing, or understanding of pricing is always an issue as we want to be as consistent (and as transparent) as possible with pricing. Any delays in orders being processed correctly always affect the bottom line.
How did these problems cost the business money, directly or indirectly?
Getting pricing wrong results in additional time and costs in correcting the problem, as well as credit notes which are an admin disaster (pain in the arse). Getting orders wrong costs the business by delaying the correct product getting where it’s supposed to be. We pride ourselves in making an insanely good product that depends on freshness so expediting orders is something that helps maintain the integrity of our product, as well as our business.
What are some ways Upstock has improved things for your business?
Upstock is connecting us with new wholesale customers. I believe it has an unlimited potential when it comes to adding efficiencies to our systems. We are excited to see the possibilities of Upstock in full swing, especially when paired with some amazing NZ artisan brands.
It helps minimize the steps which in turn can help minimize human error on our end, which is always a good thing. Less entering details and numbers and addresses results in more accuracy. And of course, it gets rid of messy paperwork.
Knowing if a customer has received an order has always been an issue as our courier doesn’t have the best accuracy so Upstock can eliminate this concern with proof of delivery in the app.
In general, what are you most happy about, what’s really running well?
We have a great product and a genuine story that is naturally resonating with more and more customers, especially as they become more conscious and support NZ grown products more.
What are some things you’d like to improve?
Lots! Our systems are continually being looked at as far as how we can be more efficient and sustainable in every way. We operate quite lean so we look forward to soon being able to have more stock on hand (of raw ingredients as well as finished product) to both relieve stress as well as supplier shortages and manage growth better (sales can often fluctuate 30% either way which is a bit painful if you aren’t prepared for it)
How do you manage stress?
I breathe/meditate for at least 10 minutes a day and either do yoga or go for a mountain bike ride. I also pick up our little one at 3pm each day which means I have to stop working. There is a line in the sand and at least a few hours where I am in the moment with her and that is bliss because I am not thinking about anything else (Yum related), which helps me be fresh/er each day. Mike is on a new programme where he rides (mountain bikes) or goes to the gym every day. Looking after ourselves better has helped morale heaps and bring a more positive outlook to our business.
Are you planning on adding any new services or offerings?
Yes, we are working on a couple new products we are super excited about..A Yum Pancake/Waffle mix which is high in protein and healthy fats, unlike anything on the market. We are also in the process of putting our Mighty Fig Granola in retail packs as it has been a big seller for wholesale and bulk. We’ve just switched this one over to being vegan (no honey) as well which is resonating with a lot of people. We are also working on our plans to switch our entire retail line over to home compostable (zero plastic) packaging as we have done with our bulk/1kg bags. We now also are reusing our ingredient pails to offer 8kg pails of Yum for wholesale, which is a circular solution that has been well received.
One of our major goals with Upstock is to decrease food waste and improve the food supply chain so that more sustainable, local, healthier products are more widely available. We’d love your view on how important this is to your business and how we can help you achieve these goals with your business.
While we are continually working to improve any food waste, we have very minimal, which is great. We have been looking to switch more of our packaging over to not only NZ companies, but NZ products as it offers more flexibility with minimum order runs however still quite costly so looking forward to finding a sweet spot where it doesn’t take from the product’s margin or become so much that we have to charge more for the end product. Last year, we were actually quite inspired over lockdown to find ways to support local producers more and in that we came out with our No.8 Granola, which is the country’s first (and only) 100% NZ Grown Granola. This product is sustainable in so many ways, as well as the packaging being NZ produced. We are super proud as it gives real provenance to NZ and its beautiful ingredients.
What do you find inspiring that’s happening in food & hospo at the moment?
A shift away from single-use plastics and toward reusing more while being more resourceful, and toward home compostable solutions. Recycling as we knew it no longer exists so we need to move beyond that and be more resourceful and responsible in our solutions.
Any advice for your younger self?
Understand your financials and what problem you are solving. Aside from that, follow your heart! Knowing what you are passionate about and having that ability to tap into what fires you up is where the good stuff is, which is how we all are able to contribute to the world in the best way possible.