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Updated: March 18, 2024 / 2024 Business Leaders of the Year

Business Leaders: Grandy Organics owner Aaron Anker has big plans for the specialty food brand

Man holding food product in a factory. PHOTo / Tim Greenway Aaron Anker, chief granola officer for Grandy Organics, at the solar-powered baking operations in Hiram, in a former schoolhouse.

In 2022, Aaron Anker became the sole owner of Grandy Organics, a maker of small-batch organic granola, trail mixes, roasted nuts and cereals. A CEO whose official title is chief granola officer, Anker is overseeing a $2 million expansion at the company’s solar-powered facility in Hiram amid nationwide aspirations for the brand.

Mainebiz: How do you define sustainability?

Aaron Anker: Sustainability can be defined in so many ways. At Grandy, our major focus centers on environmental sustainability. It is a core tenet of who we are.

We source only organic ingredients, many of which use regenerative agriculture practices. In the last five years, we have leaned heavily into Fair Trade ingredients with Fair-Trade chocolate, coconut, cashews, and brown sugar delivering high quality taste and texture to our products while protecting our land and the farmers who cultivate it.

Beyond ingredients, we consider sustainability with every major decision we make, like installing onsite solar panels to power our bakery and refurbishing an old school to house our bakery instead of building something shiny and new. Of recent note, we’ve donated a percent of our profits to the Appalachian Mountain Club to support a program that provides access to the outdoors to under-privileged youth.

We have a firm belief that the more we get outside, the more we’ll cherish and protect our Earth.

MB: What if any impact is the changing climate having on your suppliers?

AA: Climate change is impacting all our suppliers in some shape or form. We’ve recently been in touch with our organic raisin supplier and the raisin crops in California underwent a very challenging time prior to 2022 with extreme drought throughout the state.

While growing conditions have improved over the last few seasons, the extreme heat during harvest continues to challenge the health of the vines and the quality of the crops. To mitigate the effects of climate change, we also have several suppliers leaning into regenerative agriculture. Our organic, Fair Trade coconut supplier, for example, has implemented sustainable land management practices for regenerative soil health and full farm ecosystem.

MB: What are some of the pluses and challenges of operating a bakery on solar power?

AA: In 2015, we installed 288 solar panels to generate power for our facility. We’re proud to have made this investment in sustainable energy and pursue every opportunity to offset our impact to the environment. When we did this, we needed to make a substantial investment in three-phase power, and we had CMP run new lines and add a large transformer.

We also spent a lot on the solar panels. In 2022, we paid the solar panel loan off and we now own them. One concern as we grow is we may need more electric capacity with an additional transformer. We also discussed adding solar but instead we are using solar farm power off-site for the times we use more than our panels.

MB: How much are you investing in your Hiram expansion, and what will you add?

AA: The entire expansion project will cost us a little over $2 million. We are building a $1.2 million warehouse with Patco, a local steel building contractor. We are upgrading our HVAC system, and we are undergoing internal improvements that cost another $400,000. We will also add another $400,000 worth of equipment over the next two years that will allow us to scale.

MB: What’s next for Grandy Organics?

AA: Our goal is to make Grandy a household name. We are focused on growing nationwide and meeting our consumers in every state. We are very well known in Maine and across New England and increasingly, the Northeast and we want to build our brand and our consumer base further. We are investing in marketing our brand and business and strengthening and growing our retail relationships.

We will also always work to raise the bar by improving on our production methods, our hiring practices and new product development, ultimately to expand Grandy into products that are eaten throughout the day at mealtimes and while on the go as a healthy indoor or outdoor snack.

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