Besides being a breakfast food and snack food, granola is often eaten when hiking or camping or backpacking or ultralight backpacking because it is lightweight, high in calories, and easy to store; these properties are similar to trail mix and muesli.
Granula was invented in Dansville, New York, by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at the Jackson Sanitarium in 1863. The Jackson Sanitarium was a prominent health spa that operated into the early twentieth century on the hillside overlooking Dansville. It was also known as Our Home on the Hillside and so the company formed to sell his cereal was known as the Our Home Granula Company. Granula was made of Graham flour and similar to oversized Grape-Nuts.
A similar cereal was developed by John Harvey Kellogg. It too was initially known as Granula, but the name was changed to Granola to avoid legal problems with Jackson.
A major promoter was Layton Gentry, profiled in Time as "Johnny Granola-Seed. In 1964, Gentry sold the rights to a granola recipe using oats, which he claimed to have invented himself, to Sovex Natural Foods for $3,000. The company was founded in 1953 in Holly, Michigan by the Hurlinger family to make a concentrated paste of brewers yeast and soy sauce named Sovex. Earlier in 1964, it had been bought by John Goodbrad and moved to Collegedale, Tennessee. In 1967, Gentry bought back the rights for west of the Rockies for $1,500 and then sold the West Coast rights to Wayne Schlotthauer of Lassen Foods in Chico, California for $18,000. Lassen was founded from a health food bakery run by Schlotthauer's father-in-law. The Hurlingers, Goodbrads, and Schlotthauers were all Adventists and it is possible that Gentry was a lapsed Adventist who was familiar with the earlier granola.
Granola made a major appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival..
In 1972, Jim Matson, an executive at Pet Milk (later Pet Incorporated) of Saint Louis, Missouri, introduced Heartland Natural Cereal, the first major commercial granola. At almost the same time, Quaker introduced Quaker 100% Natural Granola. Within a year, Kellogg's introduced Country Morning and General Mills Nature Valley.
In 1974, McKee Baking (later McKee Foods), makers of Little Debbie snack cakes, purchased Sovex. In 1998, they also acquired the Heartland brand and moved its manufacturing to Collegedale. In 2004, Sovex's name was changed to Blue Planet Foods.
After nearly 30 years of being characterized as a 'hippie' product, the granola category was revived in large part due to Bear Naked, now a subsidiary of Kellogg's.
"Granola bars" were invented by Stanley Mason and have become popular as a snack. The granola bars are identical to normal granola except in their shape. Instead of a loose, breakfast cereal consistency, granola bars are pressed into a bar shape and baked into that shape. The result was a more convenient snack.
Another variety is the chewy granola bar. In this variety, the oats are not baked as long (or at all) for a chewy texture. Some question whether such a snack should be called granola at all; in fact, some manufacturers prefer cereal bar or snack bar.
Granola can also refer to a style of dress which is independent of an individual's political or philosophical ideology. A Health Food store is sometimes referred to as a "Granola Factory".
Granola is also a variety of potato cultivated in Europe and some parts of Asia.