Alex Crosier's latest Granola Lab product was inspired by a difficult-to-find street-cart snow cone flavor. "The carts always have a few standard flavors: lemon, coconut, cherry," she says, "but sometimes, if you're really lucky, they'll have tamarind." Well, she thought, why not tamarind granola? The pulp of the sour fruit lends a hint of tropical tartness to her Tamarind Fusion that's positively addictive.
A self-described "oats-centric person" Crosier got into making granola after seeing a friend's girlfriend had made some for her coffeeshop. "I took it up as a challenge," Crosier says, and started "tinkering, playing around with it." Then she moved from Inwood to Brooklyn and acquired a roommate who not only ate all of her experiments, but encouraged her to start selling them.
Granola Lab was the result. The 'lab' concept grew out of Crosier's background as a neuroscience major. "I had the intention of being a scientist, but left it behind and got into the book business," she says (when she's not in the kitchen, Crosier works as a university librarian). Her science background led her to recognize the similarities between cooking and lab work, the way that "experimenting with individual elements" and combining them in new ways can have unexpected results.
She started the company with an Etsy site—an online flea-market of sorts—which she says is "great, because the bar for success is so low: there's no risk!" She warns that users "do end up paying two fees on each sale" (to Etsy and to Paypal), but since setting up your own e-commerce site is a much bigger investment of time and money, Etsy can be an easy way for fledgling companies to test the waters.
These days, the majority of her business is wholesale to retailers, but the Etsy site remains active and she says "it's truly satisfying when a complete stranger in Michigan or Colorado or wherever orders my granola and then writes a glowing comment in response."
The company remains a one-woman show, with Crosier sourcing "as many organic ingredients as I can get and afford," actually making the granola, and packaging it for sale. At the same time, she's working on a line of granola bars, including a very tasty-sounding spicy peanut butter and pretzel flavor, that she hopes to have available in time for summer.
See the full line of products and a list of vendors at GranolaLab.com.