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March 13, 2019 1 COMMENTS

N.Y. organic foods firm acquires Tenants Harbor nutritional supplement maker

Courtesy / Catherine Brainard
Courtesy / Catherine Brainard
Professional pilot Anne-Elise Stern of Tenants Harbor founded Power of 3 Nutrition in 2011 and recently sold it to Tierra Farm, headquartered in Valatie, N.Y., due to demand for the product. She's seen here marketing the product at the Specialty Food Association's Fancy Food Show in New York City in 2017.
Courtesy / Tierra Farm
Professional pilot Anne-Elise Stern of Tenants Harbor founded Power of 3 Nutrition in 2011 and recently sold it to Tierra Farm, headquartered in Valatie, N.Y., due to demand for the product. Todd Kletter, CEO of Tierra Farm, headquartered in Valatie, N.Y., sees the acquisition of Power of 3 Nutrition as a strategic move to build the company’s protein products segment.

Power of 3 Nutrition, a Tenants Harbor startup, has been acquired by certified organic manufacturer and distributor Tierra Farm, headquartered in Valatie, N.Y., south of Albany.

The acquisition, finalized on Jan. 1, was announced this week. Terms were not disclosed.

Founded in 2011 by professional pilot Anne-Elise Stern, Power of 3 blends organic, gluten-free seeds to add to smoothies, granola, yogurt, salads and the like. Stern will continue with Tierra Farm as director of blended products, overseeing the development of new protein-based products.

Tierra Farm, a $30 million business founded in 1999, distributes and manufactures certified organic, non-GMO, kosher nuts, dried fruits and chocolate products; they dry-roast on premises organic coffees as well as the nuts, in a peanut-free facility.

Pilot with side gig

Stern has been a professional pilot for more than 30 years. She's flown for United Airlines. Her current long-time job is piloting a corporate jet for a private owner, out of Owls Head.

She is also certified as a holistic health coach and yoga instructor.

Her company stemmed from her experience as a pilot. Spending half her time traveling, she found she needed nutritionally dense food to carry her through the fatigue of flying from one side of the country to the other on a demanding schedule. Food available at restaurants and airports lacked dense nutritional value.

"Because of the fact that I had a crazy schedule, I was not eating right," she told Mainebiz. As a vegetarian, she said, she had assumed her diet was fine, but she started having a lot of aches and pains.

"I was in my early 30s and felt like I was in my 70s," she said. "I was tired all the time."

A friend urged her to take a nutrition class. That led to receiving holistic health coach certification at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City.

"Going through that, I realize I wasn't getting the nutrients I needed," she said. "As soon as I started eating right, things turned around. I felt young and vibrant, no pain, slept great."

Lightbulb moment

Courtesy / Catherine Brainard
Courtesy / Catherine Brainard
Power of 3 Nutrition product lines combine seeds for their nutritional value.

The biggest difference in her diet was the addition of seeds, she said. She consulted with a naturopath and discovered seeds "have amazing vital nutrients in them," she said.

As a personal endeavor, she started studying their nutrient values and experimenting with blends. After a year, she came up with a combination of hemp, chia, pumpkin, flax and spices. She recalled the lightbulb moment when she realized it was the right blend.

"One morning I was eating breakfast with the blend and I said, 'This is it,'" she recalled. "I was thinking clearly and had energy. I tried not having it to see if that made a difference, and it did. I was my own human trial."

She decided to try making it a business. Tierra Farm became her top seed supplier, due to the excellent quality of their ingredients, she said.

"That was super important to me," she said.

She created a signature product, PowerBlend. The product is meant to be sprinkled into dishes and drinks; she uses it, for example, in oatmeal, smoothies and salads.

She had kitchen certified for food manufacture, performed the blending and packaging herself, and started selling at farmers markets.

"But then it was too much for me, because it caught on really quickly," she said. "I started selling at places like Whole Foods and nutrition coops around Maine and the Carolinas."

Realizing she couldn't fulfill demand on her own, she engaged a co-packer. Business continued to grow as demand came in from the West Coast. The product is now sold in over 500 stores nationwide, including Sprouts and Fresh Market gourmet supermarkets.

Realizing she needed to focus on her career as a pilot, she reached out to Tierra Farm to see if they would be interested in continuing the brand.

They were.

Protein product demand

Tierra Farm has sales of $30 million and 60 employees; revenues grew $3 million in each of 2017 and 2018. The firm has more than 200 products. 70% of products go out in bulk; 30% is prepackaged. Its largest market is the Northeast, including 12 stores in Maine. Its largest seller is cashews, which sells about a million pounds per year, CEO Todd Kletter told Mainebiz.

Kletter said the acquisition is a strategic move. While Power of 3 sales are expected to represent 2% of Tierra Farm's revenue in 2019, he said he sees protein products as the "next wave."

"The nutraceutical supplement market is very big," he said, citing products like protein shakes for workouts. "The market is shifting to people using natural and organic ingredients."

He plans to build the segment in the craft-organic market through new branding and packaging, and better educating consumers to its benefits.

Kletter said he was impressed by Stern's energy, research and product.

"There was nothing all that proprietary about the product," he said. "But I really liked her. She's the story. We made a deal that we would look at her business and, if there was an opportunity to make an acquisition, we would. But the key was that she needed to be part of it moving forward."

For now, he said, the Power of 3 line is temporarily shut down while he pursues organic certification, rebranding and package redesign. He expects to relaunch this summer.

"My desire is to have a look and feel that really pays respect to the roots of the product," he said. "It's not going to be called Power of 3 but will be something about how the product started. Her story will be on back of the bag, and upon launch she'll be out demo-ing the product."

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Pauls Lobster

Boston
03/20/19 AT 01:13 PM
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