Maple Hill president on grass-fed potential, those USDA grants, and why the ultra-filtered zero-sugar line could come back

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“As a privately held company, we don’t share detailed financials, but the business will probably grow about 10% this year,” ​said Hau a former Danone and Unilever exec who joined as chief financial officer in May 2021, and assumed the role of president (on top of his duties as CFO) in August this year.

“The grass-fed segment will be relatively flat on volume this year, although we will do a little bit better than that because we’re gaining share, but a chunk of growth is coming from pricing, which is going to slow volume growth. But we think that’s a temporary situation; we continue to grow at a faster clip than the industry with more distribution coming, so we’re excited.”

Weathering the inflationary storm

And while there are risks to having a premium positioning at a time when consumers’ budgets are tight, Maple Hill​ consumers tend to be a little more affluent and better able to weather inflationary pressures, he said.

For some of its loyal fans, he said, the calculation is: “I’ve got so much money that I’m willing to spend and I tend not to be willing to compromise on things like dairy, fruits and vegetables, and some meats, but maybe I’ll spend a bit less on that jar of spaghetti sauce or I’ll buy the bigger pack of lunch meat. So I’ll spend money on grass-fed organic milk because that’s really important to me, and I’ll cut back somewhere else.”

COGS: ‘One advantage we have on the grass-fed side is the critical shortages that we’ve seen in fertilizers and even in commodity grains aren’t issues’

As for cost of goods, he said, ​Maple Hill is still facing rising costs, but at least bypasses the resources used to produce the corn, soybeans, or grains​​ fed to conventionally-raised dairy cows, as grass-fed cows produce manure, which feeds the soil that grows the grass they eat.

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