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Aurora opens new facility as part of calculated growth track
Thursday, September 19, 2013 By Lora Abcarian, The Produce News
Aurora Products is now headquartered in Orange, CT, and has realized the next step in its corporate growth following the opening of its new facility this past August.

“We needed more space and wanted to create a state-of-the-art building,” said Owner Stephanie Blackwell. “We have a new computer system, a quality control lab, new equipment and are building a new road for the trucks to enter our loading docks.” Square footage has increased significantly, going from 77,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet. “We also have more land for future expansion,” Blackwell added.

Aurora, which opened its doors in 1998, offers a full line of natural and Organic dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes, salad toppings and granolas. “We are a leader in offering only the best top-quality products to stores throughout the nation. We make our own trail mixes, roast our own nuts and package products in a variety of sizes,” the company’s website stated. None of Aurora’s products contain preservatives, artificial colors or additives.

This is the fifth move the company has made in its 15-year history. Aurora also has a second 40,000-square-foot operation.

Blackwell said Aurora’s continued growth is a reflection of increased consumer demand for natural and Organic items. “This market is growing leaps and bounds. Aurora is one of the leaders in high-quality Organic snack items,” she told The Produce News.

Paul Bellacero, director of sales development, provides some additional insights about marketplace dynamics. “Our growth is an indication of the overall trend,” he stated. “Aurora’s sales have increased every year since our inception, and we have not stopped. Last year’s sales were up 10 percent, and we are up 20 percent this year. With the addition of new accounts, online sales and new markets, we don’t see a slowdown for many years.”

Blackwell said the company’s facilities feature two large state-of-the-art roasting machines. “One of them is an oil roaster in which we roast Organic nuts, as well as All Natural nuts,” she said. “The other roaster is a dry roaster. This huge piece of equipment gently roasts nuts in an oven without the use of oil.”

A seasoning machine is attached to the dry roaster, giving Aurora the ability to coat nuts with a variety of seasonings. “Options include curry, barbeque, hickory seasoning, tamari, salt, etc. This helps us keep up with the current flavor trends and start trends of our own,” added.

Aurora also utilizes two form-fill-seal machines to keep up with packing trends. “We can pack any size bag from a small single serve to a large club size,” Bellacero noted. “This, along with our plastic containers, allows us to custom package for our customers in both tubs and bags.”

In the beginning, Aurora marketed product to specialty gourmet stores and small chains, eventually entering retail produce departments. Susan Hartnett, also a director of sales development, said the company’s vision is expanding as Aurora eyes potential customers at colleges and hospitals. “Now that we have bag capacity, we are also targeting sporting goods stores,” she said. With grab-and-go packaging that fits easily into backpacks, Hartnett said, “That’s a match made in heaven.”

Business at military commissaries has also been good, and Hartnett said Aurora plans to increase sales to this sector. Similarly, she said the vast array of bagging options is boosting sales to club stores.

The company works toward an eco-friendly and environmentally-driven business model. Packaging is made from 100 percent recyclable polyethylene terephthalate. “Plastic made from RPET is considered to be one of the best commodity materials as a barrier to oxygen. Its clarity, inertness, barrier properties and recyclability make it a premium choice for Aurora’s quality product line,” the company’s website stated. Not only is the plastic recyclable; it is also made from 51 percent post-consumer used plastic.

Aurora also recycles cooking oil from its nut roasters as bio energy. After nuts are roasted, used sunflower oil is re-used by converting it to fuel for transportation purposes.

On the energy conservation side, Aurora participates in a voluntary shutdown during peak production periods in the community.

Aurora is a supporter of Produce for Kids and other worthy causes. “We sponsor and donate funds or free samples to several functions that promote wellness and education,” Blackwell noted. “These functions include marathons, fairs and educational seminars for breast cancer, healthy eating, heart disease and MLS.”