HENDERSON, Nev. – Sheri Price and Mandy Holborow describe the growth of their company – Umpqua Oats – as “sometimes overwhelming.”
The company now sells its oat, nut and berry products that come in usable cups in over 5,000 grocery stores nationwide and in Canada. Some sales are also made in the international market.
All those outlets are in addition to coffee shops, hospitals and universities, the outlets that were the first markets for the oatmeal cups.
Umpqua Oats has expanded well beyond the kitchen of Sheri and Norm Price’s house in the Garden Valley area where those ingredients were first handed blended in 2008 to provide fast, nutritious breakfast meals or snacks to young soccer kids.
“Our goal was to sell to Roseburg, Oregon,” Sheri Price said during an interview two weeks ago in the company’s home office in Henderson, Nevada, a bustling city a couple miles southeast of Las Vegas. “We had dreamt of selling to all of Oregon, but we never dreamt of selling to all of the U.S. We just originally wanted to sell to specialty coffee shops.”
Price and Holborow, the primary owners of Umpqua Oats, moved their company to Nevada in July 2014 and its growth since then has been steadily upward. The partners said their product is second in sales only to Quaker Oats, the long-time leader in the oatmeal industry.
In addition to more markets, Umpqua Oats launched two new lines this month: Organic and packets in a box. The box of packets will again be in competition with Quaker Oats.
“Our oats are custom milled and go through a sifting process to pull out all the fines,” Price said. “You won’t find that with other products in the market.
“Umpqua Oats blends everything in a cup for you,” she added. “They are the ingredients you should be putting into your body to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
The partners explained their move from their hometown of Roseburg was difficult, but necessary to be closer to Rancho Cucamonga, California, the location of the 18,000-square-foot manufacturing plant that now blends the ingredients and packages the product. They are now a three-hour drive from that plant that has a production line with light sensors, filters and other equipment that was too expensive for them to purchase, but was needed to provide the quality they wanted.
Umpqua Oats is now certified to promote itself as a 100 percent USA product.
“They can keep up with the demand,” Price said of the production plant. “We would have never been able to. Now we’re able to sell truck loads at a time.”
The partners also said shipping out of Oregon was expensive so they needed to move to a more commercial business hub such as the Las Vegas area. An added benefit of that area and nearby Southern California is that they attract numerous trade shows that Price and Holborow attend to promote Umpqua Oats. Their Henderson office, with a major airport practically within eyesight, made travel much easier.
“We’re on an airplane just about every week for trade shows and meetings with brokers,” Holborow said.
Price, 44, and Holborow, 38, have been the face of their company since getting it established and they’ve continued to be the lead salespersons.
“To see our customers is key,” Holborow said. “It’s important to maintain customer service.”
The company has about 200 distributors. The first one was Umpqua Dairy Products in Roseburg and it continues to deliver Umpqua Oats products to outlets along with its own.
While being settled in Henderson and having no regrets about the move, Sheri and Norm Price and Holborow have stayed well connected to Roseburg. All three were born and raised here. Norm Price is a 1989 Roseburg High School graduate, Sheri a 1990 grad and Holborow a 1997 graduate.
The company’s third sales person, Bryson Buck, also has ties to Roseburg. He lived in the town for several years, has family living here and both his parents are RHS graduates.
Umpqua Oats has maintained its connection to Roseburg soccer, the sport and its players who initially took a liking to the oatmeal-in-a-cup product. The business is the primary sponsor for club soccer in Roseburg.
Last November, for a month following the shooting at Umpqua Community College, Umpqua Oats partnered with Safeway and proceeds from the sale of the cups were donated to the Umpqua Strong fund to help victims and families impacted by the tragedy.
Umpqua Oats will also be a sponsor of the upcoming Umpqua Strong Run.
Price and Holborow said that while they are proud to maintain the Umpqua Oats name, it has created some interesting and funny conversations with many of their vendors who can’t pronounce “Umpqua” correctly or at all.
In their promotional material and on the business’ website, there is an explanation on how to properly pronounce “Umpqua.” The partners also said they’ve been told “Umpqua” is a Native American word that originally meant “satisfied stomach.”
They said that is fitting for Umpqua Oats.
“We’ve moved so fast,” Sheri Price said of the multi-million dollar company. “Our intention is to have a Mercedes product. Mandy and I are both competitive. We like the challenge to always be out there to win another account for Umpqua Oats and to move it forward.”