Kids Corner


Sikh-American Food Enterprise Expands Further



This summer, shoppers will be able to find Golden Temple Foods' "Yogi" brand in the cereal aisle, as well as the tea section, at many natural food stores.

The Eugene (Oregon, U.S.A.) maker of tea and cereal is extending the brand, which made its public debut in Golden Temple Restaurants in the 1970s, to a new line of cereal. Like Yogi teas, the new cereals "balance interesting, complex flavours with some kind of purposeful or healthy formula," said Bob Ziehl, Golden Temple's marketing director.

Golden Temple introduced retailers to its latest products last week at a major natural foods industry trade show in Anaheim, California. Yogi cereal is set to debut on store shelves in August, Ziehl said.

Yogi tea is the No. 1 natural tea brand in the United States and Europe, company officials said. They're hoping to build on that brand by spreading it to the cereal category - another Golden Temple Foods specialty.

"We think it's a great opportunity," Ziehl said. "We looked at the cereal category and saw there were cereals that focused on being healthy and other cereals that focused on tasting good, and there weren't a lot of cereals that did both well."

Lynn Kahle, a marketing professor at the University of Oregon, said focusing on building one brand can make sense for a smaller company that's trying to build its reputation.

"As long as the image you're projecting is still consistent with the brand, it will probably work well," he said.

The big downside, Kahle said, is if something goes wrong with one product, it can rub off on all the products with that brand.

On the other hand, he said, if something good happens, it can give a boost to all the products with that brand.

Golden Temple's costs to launch the new line have been "fairly minimal," Ziehl said. "It's a major initiative for our company," he said, and isn't expected to generate great profits this year. But, "long-term, we think it's going to be an important profit contributor to the company," he said.

A recent expansion, including new equipment, at Golden Temple Foods' cereal plant in Eugene positions the company well to add these products, company spokeswoman Elissa Brown said.

Golden Temple Foods' roots date back to the 1970s to a group of Sikh-Americans in Eugene who baked their own bread and granola.

The company still has a thriving business selling its bulk granola. It also produces Sweet Home granola, its Peace line of cereals, and private-label brand cereals for a variety of customers.

Golden Temple Foods is a division of KIIT Co., a Sikh-owned Nevada-based company, which owns other businesses, including Akal Security, a contract security firm based in Espanola, New Mexico.

Golden Temple Foods' research and development team in Eugene has been working on the Yogi cereal formulations for the past 12 months, Brown said. Three of the new products are traditional-style cereals, but with unusual taste combinations and purported health benefits: goji berry for essential antioxidants; cherry almond for natural energy; and walnut spice for digestive health. The other three products, which Golden Temple Foods calls "granola crisps," come in thicker, crunchy, oversized flakes - some as big as a quarter - "that work as well as a snack, as a cereal," Ziehl said.

"We get feedback (from retailers) who say they haven't seen anything like them," he said.

The crisps come in a variety of flavours: mountain blueberry flax, which also contains huckleberries; fresh strawberry crunch; and baked cinnamon raisin, which contains spices similar to those in chai tea.

All of the new cereals contain five grains, including some not typically found in the American diet: oats, barley, spelt, quinoa and amaranth.

"A lot of Americans eat a lot of wheat and corn," Brown said. These cereals "add healthy variety to the diet."

The cereals will come in boxes and the granola crisps in sealed pouches. Prices will be competitive with other products on the market, Ziehl said.

The new Yogi cereals are not certified organic, and company officials said they have no plans to seek organic certification.

"What we've learned through some (consumer) research is that organic is not necessarily the end-all be-all," Brown said. "All natural is also something (consumers) respond to really well."

Yogi cereals do not contain preservatives, synthetic additives, high fructose corn syrup or GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the company said.

"As a whole we feel confident that the majority of our consumers will be really pleased with our cereal being all natural and staying at a price point that people can afford," Brown said.

Price spikes in organic cereal ingredients, and a desire to keep its products affordable, led Golden Temple Foods in early September to retreat from using organic ingredients in its bulk granola and Peace cereals, company officials said. It still uses organic ingredients in its Yogi teas.

That move led some natural food stores to drop Golden Temple Foods' products.

"We made the decision to not carry their granola and Peace cereal line because they replaced organic with commercial oats," said Ron Leppert, grocery manager at Sundance Natural Foods in south Eugene.

"We have a high standard for clean, green and organic, sustainable products, which incorporates the whole of organic farming practices," he said. "That always has been - and will be - Sundance's policy." Sundance asked Eugene baker Bread Stop to make the bulk granola the store now carries, Leppert said.

"They make a high-quality, whole-grain granola that uses organic oats as its main ingredient," he said.

Dan Beilock, owner of Red Barn Natural Grocery in the Whiteaker neighborhood, said he continues to carry Golden Temple Foods' bulk granolas, several flavours of Peace Cereal and that he plans to carry Yogi cereal because "I like to support local businesses."

"We try to be as organic as possible in the store, but we do make exceptions for some local products, just to support the local economy as best we can," he said.

Beilock said Yogi tea "does wonderful" at his store and he thinks Golden Temple Foods' decision to extend the Yogi brand to cereal "should be good for them."

Yogi tea also is "one of the better sellers" at Market of Choice, a local grocery chain that offers conventional, natural and organic products, said Duran Taylor, natural foods buyer.

Market of Choice probably will stock Yogi cereals, "unless it's downright horrible, which I doubt," because Golden Temple Foods has a good track record with cereal, he said. "It's made locally, and we usually try to stock local products," Taylor said.



More than 35 years ago, a group of Sikh-Americans in Eugene baked their own bread and granola, which grew into a multinational tea and cereal business.

Facilities: 130,000 square-foot cereal plant at 2545 Prairie Road in Eugene; 35,000 square-foot tea plant at 950 International Way in Springfield

Employees: 340 in the United States, 320 of them in Eugene-Springfield; 100 in Europe

Latest development: Release six Yogi brand cereals in August. The "Yogi" refers to Bhai Harbhajan Singh Yogi - popularly known as "Yogi Bhajan," a Sikh spiritual leader whose arrival in the United States in the late 1960s gave birth to Eugene's Sikh community. Yogi Bhajan taught Kundalini yoga in the United States, and after class, he served a spicy tea to his students, which they called "Yogi tea."


[Courtesy: The Register-Guard]

March 11, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Nimritjit Singh (Toronto, Canada), March 11, 2009, 1:21 PM.

Use of pictures of Gurus (even though they are imaginary) and the Khanda for commercial products is not a good idea. Yogi tea is clearly using the picture of the Golden Temple and Guru Tegh Bahadar. If you remember, a similar picture was used in the Golf Digest; they probably got the idea from these tea pictures.

2: Jai Singh (Edmonton, Canada), March 13, 2009, 12:51 PM.

Agreed, it is actually quite disrespectful to do so. These boxes are often thrown away into the garbage. Although idol and picture worship is wrong, depictions of our Gurus should only be in paintings on walls for us to admire and fill our imaginations, but not to worship.

3: Parmjit Singh (Canada), March 15, 2009, 3:23 PM.

I don't see the use of Khanda and I do see a resemblance in the meditating pose to Guru Tegh Bahadar paintings but the face may not necessarily be a depiction. I would not be so quick to jump to conclusions. I give Golden Temple the benefit of the doubt and hope they take constructive feedback into account. I think overall, they have taken care to incorporate their passion for Sikhi into their business. I could see someone saying long ago, "you know, if we change the brand name to Grand Canyon, we'd be far more profitable". I may cringe slightly at some practices of various Sikhs as they will at mine, however, the community behind the product here has a far more respectful understanding of the public portrayal and private living of the faith than the general Punjabi Sikh population.

4: Tejwant (U.S.A.), March 15, 2009, 5:43 PM.

One wonders if any percentage of the profits go to help the Sikh widows and orphans of 1984! If not, then this is one more exploitation of Sikhi by the 3HO, all in the name of Maya, disguised in a Sikhi image. And they should be made to realize that.

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