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Sarah Lanphier: Homework bears fruit … or nuts

Owner of York's Nuts About Granola has grown business from college fundraising project

Research was key to Sarah Lanphier's success in York's Nuts About Granola. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Sarah Lanphier said doing her homework has always been important.

She did that as a student a decade ago at Elizabethtown College, where as a triathlete she parlayed a recipe she had for granola into a winning fundraiser for the triathlon team.

And she still does that today, as co-owner of York-based granola manufacturer and retail store Nuts About Granola, which is at 46 W. Philadelphia St., adjoining York Central Market.

Lanphier estimates she put in hundreds of hours researching subjects like production, healthy eating and the lack of granola or natural-foods stores in York County and the midstate before incorporating the business, with her mother Gayle Lanphier, in 2008.

“The biggest thing is just researching, either on your own or by getting advice or seeking out mentors, working in the trade or in the field to get as much information as possible, and to just showcase your skills or your knowledge,” Lanphier said recently during an interview in her store.

“That way, you’re able to give yourself credibility, and it helps you to hold your own in your field,” she said.

Putting in the preparation time is good advice for either gender, she said, “but I think it’s even more important for women, because I think sometimes there is a bias, whether it’s intentional or unintentional” against women in some businesses, she said.

“I don’t run into it all the time,” she said. “But … it’s out there, so combating that with the skills and the knowledge is really the best way to do it.”

Lanphier, who’s now 29 and lives in Lancaster with her husband, Evan Himes, relied the same work ethic as a triathlete in college.

She also saw how “people were giving me a lot of positive feedback” on her granola recipe, “and I could tell that they really liked it, and it was more than just a case of them supporting the triathlon team.”

She used that success to develop a business plan, said Lanphier, whose mom is a registered dietitian.

“Healthy food has always been a part of my life. So as we thought about turning it into a business, it was something where I said, ‘Hey, let’s just see what happens,’” she said.

Nuts About Granola recently scored its biggest success yet, landing its first national contract, with Costco. The big-box retailer has started selling Lanphier’s “Forager Original Nut & Seed” granola at its stores in the Northeast.

The initial order was for three truckloads of product, or about 140,000 pounds, to supply 89 stores, Lanphier said when the contract was announced in August.

Lanphier, who has a business degree from Elizabethtown (in 2009) and is on the college’s board of trustees, remembered starting Nuts About Granola slowly, as a stand at York’s market.

The business then quickly got into private labeling, which involves making products to be sold under another company’s brand name.

“Last year we decided to do a complete brand overhaul and really focus on getting more branded distribution,” she said.

The Costco contract was the first fruit or nut of that effort, and she is busy making presentations on behalf of Nuts About Granola for other major retailers, hoping for more.

Nuts About Granola has done a lot in private-label and co-manufacturing work and relies on “a ton” of contractors to assist with manufacturing, marketing and other operations.

“It is one of our long-term goals, to bring the manufacturing back in-house, but that’s something that’s maybe four or five years down the road,” she said.

She is in a business that touches on a much-discussed national topic, healthy eating and obesity.

“It’s a really complicated issue that doesn’t have one solution, and there’s no one cause of the problem,” Lanphier said.

One good step is increasing the “affordability and accessibility of healthy food in general to any area that’s impoverished,” Lanphier said. And she feels that government mandates “that help companies and consumers make better, more informed decisions, and cut down on the products that have a clear link to fueling the epidemic” will go a long way to help.

People are realizing more and more that “this issue is costing society an enormous amount of money,” so there seems to be more work being done to reach a solution, she added.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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