Company seeks to expand plant oil production

By Kasey Worst

The Food Fix is giving snapshots of how five companies recently pitched their ideas for improving food systems at the Mid Michigan Innovation Center’s 2016 Agriculture Tech Forum in Bay City, Michigan.

Today: Local food processing

Bill Koucky, founder of Grand Traverse Culinary Oils and Flours, asked investors to help build a new refinery.

The Traverse City, Michigan, company produces cold-pressed canola and sunflower oils, stone ground flour and pasta. It sells them to local businesses and to larger Michigan chains like Meijer and Whole Foods.

The company was started to meet the demands of the growing local food movement  in Michigan, Koucky said.

“Traverse City imports, in two counties, 200,000 gallons of sunflower oil,” Koucky said. “That’s why I got in the business. We started cold-pressing the oils because that is what we could do. But we always knew that we needed to put in our own refinery.”

The oils are processed by machines that squeeze the seeds to force the oil out while keeping the temperature of the oils as low as possible to preserve the nutrition in the seeds.

The company’s oils are used for everything from cooking to potato chip processing.

While it sells locally, the company’s current processes cannot meet international standards, Koucky said.

“We need to be able to meet this standard to be able to sell to [larger] companies,” Koucky said. “They’re ready to buy the stuff, if we can produce it.”

Since their primary market is the area around Traverse City, producing the oils in large amounts in Traverse City will reduce the economic and environmental impacts of production, Koucky said.

“There’s no transportation cost to provide the oil for these local companies [compared to] bringing it in from out of Michigan.”

Koucky asked investors for about $323,000.

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