Category Archives: Maine Economy

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]

Growth scorecard reveals that Maine shined last summer

Maine must open doors to immigration.
Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr/Creative Commons license 2.0 |

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which released its report Wednesday, Maine’s increase ranked 16th in the U.S. Nationally, the GDP rose 1.9 percent in the third quarter – a sharp drop from the 3.8 percent growth in the second quarter of 2015 – and New England’s GDP as a whole rose 2.0 percent.

The state’s economic output grew from $54.6 billion in the third quarter of 2014 to $55.8 billion a year later. That’s less than the 2.5 percent increase cited by the bureau, but is based on annualized rates and other factors that affect the formulation.

Nationally, the bureau said retail trade and the combination of health care and social assistance accounted for much of the economic growth in the quarter, which held true in Maine as well.

Retail trade contributed 0.54 percentage points to the state’s overall growth, and health care and social assistance contributed 0.58 percentage points. Construction also picked up in the quarter, along with manufacturing of non-durable goods – products expected to last three years or less.

The Irving in Medway is set to lower its prices again before Christmas.
The Irving in Medway is set to lower its prices again before Christmas.

Higher retail spending last summer was likely a result of falling gas prices, said Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine. Picard said the decline in gas prices picked up steam last summer and gave Mainers more money to spend on other things. The average price of a gallon of gasoline in July 2014 was $3.61, and by July 2015 it was $2.75 and continuing to fall.

Picard also said he attended a conference recently in which a speaker said to expect increased purchasing by young adults. As the economy has picked up and unemployment has fallen, he said, more recent college graduates have been able to move out of their parents’ homes. That means increases in the sales of furniture and household goods.

Maine retailers may have benefited from the start of that trend last summer, Picard said, and he expects it will carry over into this year.

Amanda Rector, Maine’s state economist, concurs with Picard about the economic boost in Maine from falling oil and gas prices.

Rector said she expects the numbers to show solid growth in the fourth quarter of 2015, although she said holiday sales were up only slightly from 2014.

“But it’s nice to see growth on growth,” she said.

Rector noted that Mainers continue to benefit from sharply lower heating oil costs and mild weather, which provided many households with even more disposable income this winter.

Maine’s GDP increase for the third quarter of 2015 was tops in New England. Massachusetts had the second-strongest growth, with its GDP increasing 2.2 percent. Rhode Island and Vermont followed with increases of 2.1 percent. New Hampshire was fifth, at 1.7 percent, and Connecticut lagged at 1.6 percent growth.

The only sector that contracted in Maine during the quarter was the wholesale trade, which subtracted 0.34 percentage points from the overall increase in the state.

South Dakota posted the biggest increase in GDP during the quarter, rising 9.2 percent. The slowest growth was in its neighboring state, North Dakota, where the economy contracted by 3.4 percent.