BY LINDA BAKER
Dan Klock, CEO of Bridgetown Natural Foods
// Photo courtesy Bridgetown Natural Foods
Eighty percent of young adults eat one snack bar per day, the gluten-free category is growing at about 30% a year, and growth in the organic and natural foods market outpaces the food market as a whole. Collectively, these developments are driving rapid growth at Bridgetown Natural Foods, a Southeast Portland contract manufacturer of organic and gluten-free snacks, including fruit bars, baked goods, granola and cookies.
“The fundamentals are very strong,” says Dan Klock, chief executive of the 3-year-old, privately held company.
In 2012 Bridgetown doubled its revenues and is expected to do the same in 2013, Klock says. The company landed a $7 million line of credit from NewStar Business Credit in November to finance working capital and is planning further expansion, including installing two new processing lines at the company’s manufacturing plant in the Lents neighborhood. That project will allow Bridgetown to hire 50 additional employees, bringing the total number of workers to about 250.
A one-stop shopping center for emerging brands, Bridgetown does more than make and package products under different labels. The company also offers a variety of services ranging from research and development to purchasing ideas to helping entrepreneurs raise capital.
“We focus on people who are developing their business,” says Klock, adding that Bridgetown’s typical customer is someone working out of their kitchen, looking to sell value-added products to grocers such as New Seasons or Whole Foods.
“If you wanted to sell a fiber bar to a large brand such as General Mills, you wouldn’t come to us, because there are bigger plants,” Klock says. “But if you wanted to make an artisan granola with fruits and nuts and berries, we would be someone who understands the supply chain.”
The company’s innovation strategy focuses on ingredients and delivery method. For example, Bridgetown focuses on how to incorporate popular fresh ingredients such as kale or chia seeds into a bar or other portable snack format. The company is one of the few gluten-free-certified plants in the country. It also adheres to a triple-bottom-line business philosophy, from selling all its waste as hog feed to hiring more than 80% of its employees from the neighborhood.
“People are continuing to shift to natural foods, and millennials are prioritizing innovation and choice,” Klock says. “The demographic trends are favoring us.”