The Irrewarra Granola story

Flower Power

At the world famous 1969 Woodstock Music Festival in USA, a newly invented cereal sensation, “crunchy granola” was handed out to hungry hippys. It was a real, all natural cereal, a mixture of oats, wheat germ, sesame seeds, coconut, oil, salt and brown sugar with nuts and fruit added baked to form crunchy, tasty clumps. Crunchy granola was a reaction to the mass produced, highly processed, excessively sweetened “empty” breakfast cereals produced by the large cereal manufacturers since they were invented in the late 1800s. You ate it like standard breakfast cereals – with milk or yoghurt – or by handful as a snack. In the early 1970s Neil Diamond declared in his song “Crunchy Granola Suite” that granola was “neat” and millions of Americans agreed. By 1973 crunchy granola represented 10% of the American Breakfast cereal market and was well entrenched as America’s most popular all natural breakfast cereal.

Dr Kellogg’s Granola

The word “granola”, though, was not new. Nearly a century earlier when breakfast cereals were first being invented in the USA, (forms of instant porridge, needing no cooking) to offer people a healthier, more vegetarian diet, Dr. John Kellogg made his own version of an instant (uncooked) granulated, grain-based breakfast cereal Granula (from the word granular). He was then sued for trademark infringement by the maker of the original Granula, so he renamed the cereal Granola. This first Granola was a flour and grain biscuit that was crumbled into small pieces. It was hard and tasteless – a far cry from granola of the 1960s. Later Dr Kellogg and his brother invented the corn flake and Kellogg’s Granola fell out of favour. The trademark “Granola” eventually lapsed in the U.S. and Granola literally disappeared from US stores only to be revived in the 1960’s when the name was used for the new cereal “Crunchy Granola”.

Irrewarra’s all natural handmade granola

It was about 2003 that Irrewarra bakery discovered granola and instantly loved it! It was a real natural cereal, and it was slowly baked which meant it was more nutritious and digestible than raw muesli – and tasted so much better. Irrewarra had been baking all natural 100% authentic sourdough bread for over 3 years when it started baking granola at the Irrewarra Store & Cafe in Geelong in 2003. Our customers loved it and soon we were packaging it in brown paper bags for sale through the café then beyond to stores throughout Victoria. In 2008 Woolworths contacted us wanting to stock Irrewarra granola in its Sydney Thomas Dux stores. It became one of their top selling products and still is! From there, we have increased production and now supply stores all over Australia. We still use the best natural ingredients, and make and pack our granola by hand.

Sanitarium v Irrewarra, trademark infringement legal action

Unfortunately for Irrewarra, and many other small Australian granola producers, Irrewarra granola came to the attention of Sanitarium Ltd, the massive breakfast cereal producer owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. In around 1900, a baker employed by Dr John Kellogg who had come to Australia to teach Australian Seventh Day Adventists how to bake cereals, brought the recipe for (old) granola with him. The Adventists of Australia started baking it, as well as other cereals like Granose (wheat flakes). Then in 1924, the same year the Kellogg’s Corn Flake Company came to Australia to start the manufacture of breakfast cereals, the Seventh Day Adventist Church trademarked the word granola in Australia. Determined to retain the word for themselves in Australia and despite the emergence of the new crunchy granola in the 1960s, and the commercial decline of their old granola cereal, Sanitarium, from the late 1970s, threatened importers and manufacturers of the “1960s crunchy granola” cereal with legal action if they did not cease using the word granola to describe granola. Everyone threatened stopped using the word – many reluctantly – understandably, as the cost of defending legal action would require the production of a lot of granola to cover costs … That is, until Irrewarra.

Having been lawyers before establishing Irrewarra Sourdough bakery, Irrewarra’s owners decided they were not going to be bullied by a church-owned big cereal business that didn’t pay company tax, when the word “granola” was clearly being used as a description of the 1960s crunchy granola cereal. We were sure the word granola was now generic, given it had been a hundred years since it was coined as a trademark and the original trademark owner had allowed it to lapse in the USA. Irrewarra refused to back down and ironically “granola” produced another trademark case!

In June 2012, 5 years after first being threatened, and after trying desperately to settle the case, Justice Jane Jajot of the Federal Court of Australia agreed with Irrewarra and dismissed the case. Justice Jagot agreed with Irrewarra that granola was a cereal product and the word was being used to describe that product. It was a very sweet victory!
Irrewarra is now the biggest manufacturer of granola in Australia and growing … thanks to all our wonderful customers and supporters!