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What to Watch: Great Lakes Potato Chip Co.

What to Watch: Great Lakes Potato Chip Co.

Amid continuing sales growth, Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. is looking at next steps.

And in 2017, some significant decisions could start to unfold. The six-year-old company is mapping future distribution growth and space needs and weighing possibilities – whether that’s financing growth on its own or bringing in investors or partners that could help the company expand its both physical footprint and its executive base.

President Ed Girrbach, who owns the company with his son, Chris, said Great Lakes Potato Chip is “brainstorming” through a broad range of options. He said the company had 40 percent sales growth in each of the last two years, reaching sales of about $3 million in 2016, and expects sales of $3.5 million to $4 million in 2017.

Participation in a Crain’s Detroit Business food summit competition last summer enabled the company to make a pitch to food industry judges and potential investors. Great Lakes Potato Chip was selected the winner in the competition’s “growth” category and is eligible to receive professional business services like consulting and marketing. The company also made contact with interested investors and “will probably have some more conversations” in 2017, Girrbach said.

“We have people that would invest in us right now, if we wanted them to. But we’re not exactly sure how we want to proceed,” he said.

The company plans to continue to expand distribution in the Great Lakes region and now reaches into other states around the country and Canada. It also does private-label production of its chips – “a niche market that we’ve been able to fill really well,” Girrbach said.

He said the company in 2017 will be evaluating whether to further expand its current location in the coming years to accommodate growth, or to locate elsewhere in Traverse City. By late in the year, he said, the company will likely “be making some significant decisions on how and where we’re going to grow.”