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UMaine Today Magazine

Caviar and munchies
Back to Pleasing Palates-]

Rosemary and Craig Gladstone of Maine Munchies
Rosemary and Craig Gladstone of Maine Munchies

Rosemary and Craig Gladstone have a sixth sense about what people like.

Nutritious fruit and nuts. Romantically dark, organic lavender chocolate. The Maine mystic.

The ingredients combine to make nearly 20 combinations of Maine Munchies, sold under the Gladstone's Under the Sun label.

"Eighty percent of people buy our product after they sample it," says Craig. "We offer healthy snacks with the call of Maine."

The Gladstones moved to Maine from the Washington, D.C. area for a "change of life." Craig had been hired by Jackson Laboratory in 1999 to oversee marketing and outside sales.

Two years later, the couple opened a farm market in Otter Creek featuring fresh produce and Maine-made foods. It was there that the Gladstones discovered that many of their patrons hikers and bicyclists were not only looking for healthful snacks for the trail, but for the best area treks to take.

Their first commercial snack mix created for test marketing combined whole, roasted Virginia peanuts with raspberry yogurt-covered raisins called Cadillac Mountain Mix. Inside the colorful label affixed to the resealable cellophane bag: a map highlighting trails in Acadia National Park.

The now trademarked Maine Munchies began in the Gladstone's kitchen. The snack bags were hand-packed. The bright labels were run off an inkjet printer.

By the end of their second year, Gladstone's Under the Sun products were being carried by Eastern Mountain Sports and L.L. Bean.

In 2005, the company with its five employees outgrew its Bar Harbor production site and relocated to a facility in Ellsworth. For the past three years, Gladstone's Under the Sun has garnered international attention at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

Down East Maine isn't the easiest place to run a business, the Gladstones admit, but it is "an incredible environment" in which to raise their son. For that reason, they say, they want to give back to the state, starting with the promotion and increased use of Maine's natural products.

For Rosemary, a former chief financial officer with an undergraduate degree in child development and nutrition, Maine wild blueberries quickly became a passion. Because of their health value, she looked for snack mix combinations in which to use the dried fruit.

It was while packaging Yankee Doodle Dandy mix dried wild blueberries and cranberries with vanilla chips that the Gladstones "discovered" Maine caviar, the name they trademarked for their dried and canned wild blueberries.

Since 2003, Gladstone's Under the Sun have received two seed grants from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI), first to explore a healthier, more nutritious preservation method for Maine blueberries and other fruit, and then to develop a manufacturing process to satisfy commercial need.

Last October, Gladstone's also received one of MTI's four development awards for its process to dry wild blueberries and cranberries without the use of high-fructose corn syrup. The nearly $250,000 award will fund test production and development of commercialization plans.

The Gladstones worked with University of Maine food scientist Al Bushway to find ways to reduce the use of high-fructose corn syrup in the drying process. Related product development research has been undertaken by UMaine graduate students.

Similar expertise has been offered by engineers and scientists in UMaine's Advanced Manufacturing Center.

"We feel passionate about what we're doing, but it's hard to fulfill a passion without the support and expertise there (at UMaine)," Rosemary says.

With the innovative drying techniques, the Gladstones hope to become blueberry processors, providing the most nutritious Maine fruits as ingredients for their products and those of other food manufacturers.

"That backward integration for us is so important," Rosemary says. "The plant we currently use in Machias is closed from Nov. 1-May. We're hoping to be scaled in such a way as to manufacture and employ people year round. We envision in the next five years to process other people's fruit of high quality."

It is a process, says Craig, with the potential to make Gladstone's Under the Sun a leader in high-end natural snack foods that "honor their special origins and a simpler, more natural way of life."


UMaine Today Magazine
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The University of Maine
, Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System