American Outdoor Products, Inc. (AOP) is a family owned and operated freeze-dried food manufacturer, proudly based out of Boulder, Colorado since 1992. From its start as a backpacking food company, and with a father and son leadership team, the company expanded to include the Backpacker’s Pantry, Astronaut Foods, Colorado Spice Blending Co. and Chef Soraya brands.
AOP has been owned by the Smith family since 1971, when Ronald Smith purchased one of the first backpacking food brands in the country. Over the years, the Smiths moved the company from California to Boulder. Ron’s son, Rodney, became president. As president, Rodney’s deep commitment to environmental sustainability and high-quality ingredients was always the cornerstone of his business philosophy. These passions motivated him to plan a major roof renovation and solar panel installation to improve energy efficiency at the company’s manufacturing facility in Boulder, CO.
On January 1, 2020, the Smith family and the American Outdoor Products family lost Rodney Smith in a catastrophic skiing accident. Though devastated by the sudden loss of his son, Ron returned to help guide the company and family onward and upward. One of his first actions was appointing Soraya Smith – Rodney’s wife of 27 years, and recipe development chef for Backpacker’s Pantry – as president of American Outdoor Products.
Keeping The Vision Alive
With an eye towards the future of the planet and an understanding of the impact that each individual leaves, the family decided to complete the roof renovation project. Support from a financial partner would be required. AOP had already been working with Sunflower Bank’s Boulder team for several years when Soraya reached out in July 2020. AOP wanted to refinance the existing loan on its building to fund the roof renovation, but also needed to purchase the new HVAC system and solar panels. Kurt Sava, Vice President and Commercial Banker, recognized that this was more than just another construction project. It would be a living memorial to Rodney and his vision.
The family and the bank kept up ongoing communications over the following weeks, including onsite visits with the bank’s executive management. The Sunflower Bank team thoroughly outlined the steps of how to fund new solar panels as part of the larger project, then structured a competitive loan that would make Rodney’s plans a reality.
“American Outdoor Products has always been a forward-looking company, concerned not only about our generation but for the wellbeing of future generations. We have been in business for 70 years and hope to be around in another 70,” said Soraya. “Sunflower Bank understands our vision and partnered with us to ensure we could finance this project that improves our operations and our environment.”
Construction began after the loan closed at the end of November 2020, and the project successfully completed in February 2021. As the first step, a new energy star cool roof was placed over the existing roof, which was not torn off. Instead, the new materials were secured to the existing platform so that no roof waste was added to a landfill. More efficient, updated insulation was added to improve heating and cooling efficiency. New HVAC units were installed, also substantially boosting energy efficiency, and the solar panel array purchased for the project is designed to generate more electricity than the facility requires.
Partnering to Make the World a Better Place
This impactful and meaningful project was made possible by the partnership and professional relationship between American Outdoor Products and Sunflower Bank. The food brands that so many people know and love – Backpacker’s Pantry, Astronaut Ice Cream, Colorado Spice Blending Company and Chef Soraya – are now proudly produced in a state-of-the-art facility that is solar powered, by a company that does the right thing … because it’s the right thing to do.
Since then, the relationship between AOP and Sunflower Bank has continued to grow with the addition of other banking services including an equipment line of credit that provides AOP the flexibility it needs to pursue the necessary tools for its ongoing success.
Sunflower Bank is honored to be AOP’s partner as the Smith family continues to lead and innovate through their commitment to uphold the values that have defined the company from the outset: Making the world a better place.