Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
VALATIE – Tierra Farm, the Valatie-based organic food company, has signed a lease on an 11,000-square-foot distribution center on Sicker Road, about two miles from Albany International Airport.
The new facility will handle the growing company’s East Coast distribution, and eight to 12 employees will staff the site. The company currently employs 60 people and will be hiring new employees to adjust to the expansion, though an exact number is not set, Tierra CEO Todd Kletter said.
Mr. Kletter said the new facility will be an upgrade over Tierra’s Valatie distribution center, which he said wasn’t designed to handle the company’s current levels of production. The center will be the company’s third, after Tierra opened an Aurora, Colorado facility to serve the West Coast market.
“The current situation at the (Valatie) farm is that the buildings were not designed necessarily for large-scale distribution and shipping,” Mr. Kletter, who was named CEO in 2017, said. “In order to scale the facility and the production teams and efficiencies, we had to be able to do a third location.”
Tierra, which sells a variety of organic nuts, granola, dried fruits, coffee and chocolate products, serves 1,100 co-ops and independent grocery stores nationwide.
Around 20 years ago, Tierra employees might have hand-packaged 10 to 20 cases of products a day. But as the company’s annual sales have climbed north of $30 million, its new facility will be “semi-automated” and allow production to triple from 500 cases of product a day to 1,500, Mr. Kletter said.
“At some point, (hand-packaging) doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “There’s still a lot of human involvement, we still have quality control, but the filling is done biometrically.”
He said the technological component will allow employees to more accurately weigh packaging and reduce over-packing.
The distribution center is expected to begin shipping and packing products in June, and it’s opening comes amid Tierra’s further growth.
In February, Tierra acquired seed blend company Power of 3 Nutrition, of Tenants Harbor, Maine, which could provide a pathway into the billion dollar protein powder industry, according to the Albany Business Review.
Also, the organic food producer opened the Skyline coffee shop on Madison Avenue in late February.
Mr. Kletter said he’s been satisfied with the store’s sales after its opening nearly three months ago, and it’s been well-received in the Pine Hills neighborhood, he added.
“We had great success last year,” Mr. Kletter said, adding that the company is now aiming to reach $50 million in annual sales. “We’re in a growth model again this year.”