A granola brand created by Downers Grove’s Kiley Fields tastes good and does good

By Valerie Hardy 

According to food historians, granola was initially created in the early 1860s by James Caleb Jackson, a nutritionist from New York. Originally called “Granula,” Jackson’s invention is often considered the first dry, whole grain breakfast cereal.
About 15 years after Jackson’s Granula debut, physician and health food pioneer John Harvey Kellogg – widely credited as the founding father of cereal – began serving a twice-baked sheet of unleavened bread broken down into chunks to patients in the sanitarium he ran in Battle Creek, Michigan, itself fittingly nicknamed Cereal City.

Kellogg also referred to his recipe as “Granula.” The only issue? Jackson had already trademarked the name, and Kellogg was threatened by a lawsuit. So, he swapped out the “u” for an “o,” and – voilá – Granola!

Though the product languished for years after its creation, it picked up in popularity in the 1960s with no looking back. No longer under patent protection, granola – a mixture typically made of rolled oats and various other ingredients to add flavor and texture – can be found in loose form on the shelves of nearly any grocery store or in bar form in the lunchboxes of children across the nation and beyond.

Downers Grove has its own resident expert when it comes to granola. Kiley Fields, a Downers Grove resident for almost two decades, is the chef and founder of For Good Granola, a WBENC certified women-owned business committed to nutrition, flavor, and philanthropy.

For Good Granola comes in five flavors and can elevate any dish.
Photo by Belen Aquino

The Product

For Good Granola offers five uniquely delectable flavors: Original Blend, Cranberry Spice, Smoky Pineapple, Chocolate Chile, and, most recently added, Sweet Curry. All five varieties are gluten free, made with organic buckwheat rather than with oats. Fields said of her decision to use buckwheat in her granola recipes, “As a chef, flavor and texture are a huge priority. When slowly toasted, buckwheat adds crunch…that you just can’t achieve with oats.”

Fields shared that buckwheat was recently named a Whole Foods Market top 10 anticipated food trend for 2024. “It’s buckwheat’s year!” Fields said, celebrating that the ancient grain-like seed, a relative of rhubarb, is getting some well-deserved attention. “It’s loaded in vitamins and minerals, low on the glycemic scale so you won’t crash, and awesome for athletes or anyone who needs to sustain energy.”

Other notable qualities of For Good Granola are that it is self-produced by Fields out of a commercial kitchen, it is naturally sweetened with honey or maple syrup (the only sugars come from dried fruits), and two of the brand’s flavors – Smoky Pineapple and Sweet Curry – are vegan.

For Good Granola blends are the perfect addition to any parfait but can add flavor and texture to many other dishes as well.
Photo by Belen Aquino

An Award-Winning Recipe

Though it has only been a few years since its inception (Fields said she “hit the live button on the website in Feb. 2021”), For Good Granola is very much on the map in the food world. In 2022, the small business’s Original Blend was honored with a Shelfie Award for Best New Breakfast Food by Startup CPG, an organization that connects emerging brands to resources, industry partners, and other supports. The Original Blend granola also received The Specialty Food Association’s sofiTM Gold Product Award in 2023, the top recognition offered by this “industry forward” entity, Fields explained.

The Specialty Food Association also awarded the Chocolate Chile granola with a 2023 sofiTM New Product Award. Fields submitted for the cereal and granola category and swept that category. “Family and friends’ support means a lot, but when you have an outside organization that’s giving you that confirmation, it’s super cool,” Fields said of having received such significant recognition within the industry.

When she first started her company, Fields said in her head, “If I ever win a sofiTM Award, I’m done.” After doing so, and so quickly, “the end game changed. It pushed us from a trajectory perspective,” she said. “You get that recognition, and you don’t want to let it go.”

As a sofiTM winner, Fields traveled to New York to exhibit her products in the Association’s food show. “Again, it pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said, “and exposed me to some really cool retailers.”

Kiley Fields has proven that granola belongs at every meal. For one of her signature recipes, Kale Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad with Blueberries and Feta, click on the QR Code. This fantastic make-ahead salad INCORPORATES FOR GOOD GRANOLA’S Original Blend and is perfect for weekday menu planning or entertaining.
Photo by Belen Aquino

How For Good Granola Got Going

Fields had spent most of her career as a chef working with testing and development, flavor profiles, and the impact of heat and technique, so when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the hospitality industry to virtually shut down, she needed something to reignite her professional engagement.

Fields said she is “all about flavor and texture” and began experimenting with granolas in her home kitchen. She appreciated how “granola is the greatest blank canvas,” and she recognized that “the granola aisle was missing a lot of things…products that scream functional health benefits are often created at the expense of taste.”

A Granola with a Giving Spirit

Not only did starting up a granola business allow Fields to fill the void she saw in the market, she also unexpectedly “had the opportunity to take two really important elements – being a chef and the mother of two daughters with significant special needs – of [her] life and bring them together.”

Fields and her husband, Jim, are parents to Huck (20), a sophomore in college, in addition to Langley (17) and Boelyn (14), who were born with a rare genetic disorder. Both girls “are nonverbal and non-ambulatory, and they require assistance with daily living skills and will for life,” Fields explained.

As Fields reflected on “the village” that helped support their daughters over the years, she realized that building a mission into her business was going to be “the most important thing.” For Good Granola’s goal is “to support the village that supports so many kids, adults, and families that need it.”

To date, For Good Granola has donated 10 percent of their proceeds to seven different organizations that “engage and elevate individuals with disabilities and strive for inclusion for them within their community,” Fields said.

A few such beneficiaries are Clearbrook, Marklund, Ray Graham Association, and Earn with a Purpose. From general financial sponsorship, to purchasing specific resources, to taking out time to distribute free granola while bringing awareness to her brand’s and the partner organization’s shared mission, philanthropy is at the heart of what Fields does.

Where to Find For Good Granola

Seeking to support the brand’s mission and try one (or all five) of the flavors? For Good Granola is carried locally at Fresh Thyme Market, Kramer Foods, and Standard Market, or visit forgoodgranola.com to place an online order. Products are delivered free anywhere in Downers Grove.

While on the website, be sure to subscribe to For Good Granola’s biweekly newsletter for updates and a selection of recipes. You may be surprised to learn how versatile granola can be. In fact, in January, Fields and a variety of her granola-forward recipes were featured on NBC’s “Chicago Today,” and she recently created a granola pairing guide, similar to a wine pairing guide, that lays out a breakfast application, sweet application, savory application, beer pairing, and cocktail pairing for each of the brand’s five flavors. Granola is indisputably not just for breakfast anymore!

Chef Kiley Fields’ daughters, Langley and Boelyn,
were the inspiration behind For Good Granola.
Photo by Amy Goray