Gone are the days when natural foods were relegated to small co-ops and grocery stores. Today, three out of four grocery stores contain organic food, and that sector consistently shows double-digit growth, according to the USDA.
Gaia Herbs, a Brevard- and Mills River-based supplement manufacturer, is growing, too. Wednesday the company announced an expansion that will bring about $5 million in capital investment and dozens of new jobs. It’s already hiring for 25 of those positions.
King said the expansion could be complete within six months, although that figure is an estimate.
“Over the last four years, our company has grown double digits, so it’s been a much-needed expansion to meet demand for our product,” said Todd King, vice president of marketing. “I think the whole natural products industry has grown, but we’ve outpaced the natural products industry.”
King is being modest. The increase in employees actually constitutes triple-digit growth.
In 2012, Gaia Herbs employed 91 people. Today, it boasts 240 jobs and counting. That’s an increase of about 164 percent.
The company stocks its products nationwide in specialty grocers like Earthfare and Whole Foods, and it does a fast trade through online retailers, King said. A professional division stocks health practitioners’ offices.
“We’re by far the No. 1 herbal brand in the United States with a significant – I think we have a 10 point market share lead over our closest competitor,” King said.
The company is headquartered at a 350-acre farm and manufacturing site in Brevard, where the expansion will take place. It has a 60,000-square-foot greenhouse in Mills River. Its creative services are based out of that location, as well.
“We located there to attract more of the arts and creative mentality from Asheville,” King said. “We’re close to Sierra Nevada, and we’re close to I-26. In Brevard, it’s more the farm and manufacturing, and our creative hub is closer to Asheville.”
King said about 30 percent of the herbs the company uses are grown in the Mills River greenhouse or the Brevard farm.
The company will continue to grow as it meets demand for the supplements it makes and creates new products. King said “functional foods” are the next frontier for the business. Functional foods include products like smoothie add-ins and golden milk mix, a turmeric beverage, King said.
The expansion and the equipment that comes with it should allow Gaia Herbs to grow over the next five years, King said.
“There’s going to be consistent solid growth for Transylvania County and the surrounding area for employees based on our current growth trend,” he said
Source: Emily Patrick, Citizen Times