Granola Empire In Rural Maine Anticipates 33 Percent Growth In 2019

Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.
Aaron Anker (left) and Nat Peirce, owners of Grandyoats, stand in front of solar panels powering their granola company in Hiram, Maine.

Aaron Anker and Nat Peirce, co-owners of Grandyoats, are anticipating startup-like growth next year for their 40-year-old granola company, based in rural Maine.

Over the past two years the company has grown by 33 percent, according to Anker, but in 2019 alone, Grandyoats will grow another 33 percent, Anker says.

Grandyoats doesn’t share revenue numbers, but Anker says they produce 2 million pounds of organic granola trail mix annually in the converted elementary school in Hiram, Maine, where the company is located.

So that means if all goes according to plan, Grandyoats will produce 2.6 million pounds of granola in 2019, distributed nationwide to independent and chain natural food stores, conventional grocery stores and more than 80 universities, including the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. The company also sells online, direct to customers.

Driving this growth is a new granola called Coconola, a grain-free mixture featuring coconut. Anker says it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production
Coconola on the pan. Granola Maine Production

“People are wising up,” Anker said. “They want less sugar, more nutrients and 100 percent organic ingredients. We’re hitting those markers and consumers are rewarding us.”

Nat Peirce bought Grandyoats from the two women, Sarah Carpenter and Penny Hood, who founded the company in 1979 in Skowhegan, Maine, and ran it for 19 years.

“They purposely kept it small as a secondary source of income for themselves, and also as an opportunity to get together with a handful of their friends and make a great product, while also talking about politics, about their kids and what was going on in their lives,” Peirce said. “It was a social event.”

Peirce was running a small retail bakery and café in Bridgton, Maine, when he connected with Carpenter and Hood through a mutual friend, and agreed to buy Grandyoats. The timing was perfect. Peirce was looking for opportunities to get into wholesale sales, and the Grandyoats founders were looking to pass the torch.

“This sounds right, let’s do this,” Peirce remembers saying at the time. “We shook hands and that was the start of the transition.”

It was March 1997. Three years later, in 2000, Peirce connected with college friend Aaron Anker. He knew Anker had experience in sales and marketing, working for a juice company called Fresh Samantha that grew from $8 million in sales to $38 million in sales in two years, eventually merging with Odwalla and ultimately selling to Coca-Cola.

Based on his experience with Fresh Samantha, Anker was thinking about starting a consulting business, taking Maine brands national, and was interested in Grandyoats. Peirce suggested joining the company as co-owner instead.

The partners bought the vacant elementary school in Hiram, population 1,619, for $175,000 two and a half years ago. They got 420 feet of frontage on the Saco River as part of the deal.

“It’s real nice in the summer to have lunch and then jump in,” Peirce said.

They also got eight and a half acres of level playing fields where they installed 288 solar panels to provide the electricity they and their 30 employees need to crank out Coconola and the company’s other brands of granola. Grandyoats, by the way, is the largest employer in Hiram.

At first, the solar panels were providing all the power Grandyoats needed. But with their explosive growth, they fell a little short last year, generating about 90 percent of the power they needed. The partners bought wind credits to make up the difference so their company remained 100 percent powered by renewable energy.

“We’re not a massive company, but we’re big enough to make a difference,” Peirce said.

Forbes – [source]

Maine Lobstermen Forced To Diversify Their Work As Coastal Waters Warm

Maine’s coastal waters are warming quickly. Lobster may not be abundant forever so fishermen are finding new ways to make a living on the water.

Maine Lobster Festival Float - Rockland Maine.
Maine Lobster Festival Float – Rockland Maine.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The waters off the coast of Maine are some of the fastest warming saltwater seas in the world. That warmth is disrupting fisheries and livelihoods. Some fishermen in Maine are adapting to disruption, even capitalizing on it. Maine Public Radio’s Fred Bever reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

FRED BEVER, BYLINE: Jeff Putnam has lived on the island of Chebeague, not far from Portland, all his life. Like his father, he’s a lobsterman, and he recently bought a boat big and powerful enough to allow him to set lobster traps way offshore right through the winter.

JEFF PUTNAM: I invested more in my boat than I invested into my house (laughter).

BEVER: But over the years, Putnam’s witnessed change in the seas around him – the closure of cod and shrimp fisheries, the decimation of lobster populations to the south. He’s worried that as the waters continue to warm, Maine’s lobster population could crash, too, ending a way of life for him and his three young children.

PUTNAM: Hopefully, the lobster resource will still be strong when they grow up, but there’s certainly no guarantee that’s the case. So I wanted to show them that there is another way to make a living, to stay on this island that I love.

Maine Lobstermen Diversify into Oysters

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

Maine oysters - Maine Lobstermen Forced To Diversify Their Work As Coastal Waters Warm.
Maine oysters – Maine Lobstermen Forced To Diversify Their Work As Coastal Waters Warm.

BEVER: That’s why in this little island estuary, he’s anchored dozens of wire cages in the waterway and filled them with oysters.

PUTNAM: This one here is probably 2 years old, I would guess. Looking at the shell, you can see the first year growth, and then all this fingernail-looking growth on the end is from this year.

BEVER: This winter, Putnam’s lobster boat will take on a new duty – hauling mature oysters to the mainland, where they should fetch 70 cents or so apiece.

PUTNAM: And with the water being warm and the oyster stuff seeming to do well with these warmer waters, that seemed a natural fit.

BEVER: Lobstermen up and down Maine’s coast are trying out sidelines in aquaculture – oysters, scallops, even seaweed. Yet, these crops, too, may be at risk from the effects of climate change.

BILL MOOK: There is real money at stake, and it’s already costing us.

BEVER: Bill Mook runs one of several booming oyster farms located in a fertile estuary of Maine’s MidCoast. He says a costly challenge is emerging – increasingly intense rain events that send polluted runoff into the estuary and shut down the harvest for days.

MOOK: We did have three in a row over a period of, like, two months. So you know, cumulatively, that is probably almost $30,000 of lost sales.

BEVER: Climate change brings other problems – ocean acidification, which affects shell developments, and potential outbreaks of toxic bacteria that thrive in warmer temperatures.

(SOUNDBITE OF HAMMER HITTING)

BEVER: But Mook has a solution.

MOOK: So this room will hold half a million oysters when it’s up fully running.

BEVER: In a cavernous room, thousands of oysters are piled into big, bubbling tanks stacked high in the air. Mook designed this facility expressly to defend the crop against climate change.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAINFALL)

BEVER: When severe rains threatened recently, his team hustled tens of thousands of oysters out of the estuary and into these tanks. And when runoff, indeed, put the river harvest off limits, these guys had a fresh supply of oysters to keep buyers happy and competitors envious. And Mook says when toxins emerge in the river, he’ll be able to decontaminate the animals right here.

MOOK: Climate change is costing us. And yet, it also offers some opportunities that we hope will allow us to be resilient and sustain this business and the people I’ve begun to employ, you know, into the future.

BEVER: People like Jeff Auger the farm’s river foreman. He’s one of 20 young workers Mook’s taken on in the last few years. Auger trained to be a lawyer, but he says growth in coastal aquaculture promises a life on the water for him and other young Mainers.

JEFF AUGER: You know, at the end of the day, you go out to a bar and you see other young professionals that are on oyster farms. And for communities in areas like this that are kind of struggling, I think it’s the answer.

BEVER: If, that is, the industry stays ahead of the climate change curve. Company founder Bill Mook can imagine a day when Maine oysters might have to be hatched and grown entirely indoors, never touching the Wild River.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIVER RUSHING)

BEVER: But, he adds, that would be a very sad day. For NPR News, I’m Fred Bever, in Portland, Maine.

NPR – [source]

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