Local Biz Toasted Oat Makes Gluten-Free Dieting Tastier

Jenny Rogers

When Toasted Oat founder Erika Boll was diagnosed with Celiac disease at 33, she realized she'd need to reimagine many of her favorite recipes for a gluten-free diet. One favorite in particular was her Grandma Margaret's granola, which-thanks to Boll's business savvy-granola-lovers and others on a restricted diet can enjoy, too.

Tomorrow, Boll will speak at the annual Ohio Chamber meeting, which honored her in 2014 with the Excellence in Entrepreneurship award. She received a $25,000 grant with her recognition, which she's put toward growing Toasted Oat. Here, she shares her story.

How was Toasted Oat born?

There was never a set plan; this wasn't something I left my job to do. Actually, I was between jobs. I had left Limited Brands and wanted to kind of reinvent myself. I was kind of bored, really, because I had been used to working those Limited hours.

I had this recipe I always made and brought to the different divisions I worked for, and everyone really loved it. I heard Whole Foods was really interested in working with local people, and I shopped there anyway because I'm celiac. So, on a whim-I didn't even tell my husband, I don't think-I called them and asked, "Who's in charge of purchasing gluten-free granola?"

And you met with him?

I brought him a big bag. He said, "This is the best stuff I've had in my four years here." He asked how soon he could have it in stores; I had a rough idea of wholesale ingredient costs but, looking back, I knew nothing! But the buyer eventually became my partner in developing this, and he told me who to contact at the FDA, how to package and label the product, how to get it certified. First we launched at local stores like The Hills Market, Celebrate Local and Raisin Rack. We launched at Whole Foods in August 2013.

What makes your granola so special?

Well, there's a secret ingredient. But what people love is that it's soft and chewy. It lends itself more to like a freshly baked cookie that you've crumbled up. I'm constantly surprised by who eats it. Moms thank me because their kids aren't asking for candy bars after school anymore; they're asking for White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut granola. It's not necessarily a gluten-free consumer, which I didn't plan on. It's been great.