Caviar and munchies
to Pleasing Palates-]
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
"Eighty percent of people buy our product after they
sample it," says Craig. "We offer healthy snacks with the call of
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.
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
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