By Shay Castle
Daily Camera Staff Writer
Peter Vegas doesn’t care for food trends. He bypassed kale. Quinoa never impressed him. And Paleo? Please.
The Harvard Business grad has made his… livelihood on a dietary staple for millions: Rice, the grain so ubiquitous it has its own Wikipedia-style website, ricepedia.org.
“People have been eating it for thousands of years,” Vegas said. “I promise you, 30 years from now, people will still be eating rice and beans.”
His company, Sage V Foods (pronounced Sage Five), is quite possibly one of the biggest names in food you’ve never heard of, and that’s by design. By contractual agreement, none of the businesses it sells processed rice to can be named.
Flour and other products go to makers of cereal and granola bars; frozen rice is packaged up for major grocery store chains. Together with Sage’s own brands, they bring in more than $100 million in annual revenue for the Boulder-based operation.
Sage is about to start making moves and, in the process, a name for itself. The company recently purchased two buildings in downtown Boulder for $3.2 million as it prepares to grow its workforce.
Its roughly 15 employees will occupy one-and-a-half floors of 1728 16th St., after renovations wrap in next spring. The rest of the building will be leased out, as will the entire 6,000-square-feet of 1600 Canyon, which Sage also purchased.
Sage was represented by Steve Sims of Gibbons-White in the early-August deal. Danny Lindau and Jason Kruse of The Colorado Group represented the sellers, Taggart-Schone, LLC, according to a release.
Vegas has an exact timeline for when he will need more space: two years. By that time, he predicts, the company’s two house brands will be taking off and he will be ready to begin looking at local companies for investment opportunities, rice-related or not.
Sage has a minority stake in Rollin’ Greens, a food truck-turned-packaged foods brand, and an unnamed home brew business which, true to Vegas form, is being kept quiet for the time being. He avoids industry gatherings so as to not be pestered for money.
His own company has never taken outside cash, and it will never sell — at least not while Vegas is around. He intends to hand the reins over to his sons, who have vowed to keep it in the family.
“I’ll have to be dead” for them to sell, he said, “because until I die, I have the last vote.”
The Louisiana native first got into rice 30-some years ago on a farm and milling operation in Puerto Rico for Comet Rice, a gig that followed a stint on a Panamanian banana plantation and a soybean farm in the south. His career with Comet took him across the globe; he once built and ran a plant in Iraq, one of the world’s biggest importers of rice.
He founded Comet Rice Ingredients as a subsidiary of Comet Rice in 1992 and purchased it in ’98. It buys from farmers in Arkansas and California, the two biggest states for rice production.
Sage moved to Boulder three years ago to focus on its own branded products, Ryze Gluten Free flour and Grain Trust frozen, microwavable rice. Both are doing well, helped along by the growing number of consumers foregoing gluten.
It’s one trend Vegas is happy to capitalize one, though he insists his focus is on those with celiac disease and legitimate food allergies.