Organic snack-maker Gorilly Goods sells 51% stake

Gorilly Goods, an organic snack food manufacturer based in the Village of Jackson in Washington County, has sold a 51 percent stake in the business to Canadian company Nature’s Path.

Nature’s Path, founded in 1985, is the largest organic breakfast and snack food company in North America. It acquired majority ownership of Gorilly Goods on Sept. 16. Nature’s Path products, which are USDA certified organic and non-GMO project verified, are distributed in grocery and natural food stores in 50 countries under the Nature’s Path, Love Crunch, Qi’a, Que Pasa, Flax Plus and EnviroKidz brands. It has 600 employees.

Gorilly Goods, launched by Stephen and Chris McDiarmid in 2012, makes a line of raw, on-the-go snacks that come in both savory and sweet flavors. Among the non-GMO ingredients are fruits, nuts, seeds and greens.

The products are distributed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and in a few other stores nationally. Locally, they’re sold at Outpost Natural Foods, Sendik’s and Woodman’s stores. But they have a larger fan base outside of Wisconsin than in it, Stephen said.

“We started this company here because this is our home, we love being in Wisconsin,” he said. “As the company started to gain footholds in areas where our target market is much more concentrated, the West Coast, we do it in the land of all-you-can-eat buffets in a way here, so our product is not as visible yet.”

Gorilly Goods has nine employees at a 6,500-square-foot facility that is operating at about 25 percent of its capacity, said Stephen, the company’s chief financial officer. Chris serves as chief executive officer. With the investment from Nature’s Path, Gorilly Goods will be able to triple its capacity in its existing space early next year. That’s a step the company hadn’t planned to take until 2019.

“We were looking for funding, but we gained the operational assets that we never felt we would have been able to step into at this early age,” Stephen said. “Nature’s Path is looking to very quickly leverage their distribution network in a very strategic way to help accelerate us into more capacity than we currently have.”

The two companies met in March, when Gorilly Goods pitched its business at Natural Products Expo West 2016 in Anaheim, California, at a venture funding event called “Seed to Sprout.”

“The first taste I had of Gorilly Goods, I wanted more of it,” said Arran Stephens, Nature’s Path co-chief executive officer and co-founder in a statement. “It was simply delicious and there is nothing else like it.”

According to a statement from Nature’s Path, the investment will provide working capital for Gorilly Goods to expand production and stretch distribution internationally.

A Nature’s Path spokesperson said Gorilly Goods will continue to be headquartered in its current facility. It also said the transaction will not impact employees of either company at this time.

Previously, Gorilly Goods had a three-person board of directors. Now, it has a five-person board, on which both Chris and Stephen sit, along with three Nature’s Path representatives. The board will guide strategy and direction, but the management of the company day-to-day remains the same, Stephen said.

The sale of the ownership stake makes sense at this point in the McDiarmids’ lives, Stephen said, since they want the company to be profitable but also have strong beliefs about how they want to spend their time. Both are 61.

Gorilly Goods fits in well with Nature’s Path’s mission and culture, the companies said. Gorilly Goods’ industrial kitchen is fully powered by renewable energy, and it donates 2 percent of its profits to gorilla-saving nonprofit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International Inc.

“Our new partnership represents new opportunities for our employees, improved operations and continuing our commitment to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund,” Chris said. “We’re ecstatic to be part of such a well-respected, trusted and successful organization that has helped grow and shape the organic food industry.”

Gorilly Goods was one of 10 food and beverage companies selected last fall for FaB Wisconsin’s FaBCap accelerator program. The accelerator class capped its yearlong program at a capstone celebration last night at Discovery World.

The FaBCap program helped Gorilly Goods navigate the investor pitch process and guided it through the ownership stake sale, Stephen said.

“It put us on a timeline of learning the language and becoming familiar with how to navigate funding requirements and the pursuit of funding,” he said. “It was very timely in that sense.”

Molly Dill, BizTimes

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