Category Archives: Maine Food

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]