Anthem Oats will serve oatmeal options from Frederick fields

Trent Abrego
Tabrego@gannett.com

FREDERICK — Local residents will soon be able to sit down for breakfast and enjoy oatmeal from a fifth-generation family farm near Frederick.

Anthem Oats will be available on shelves across the Midwest, including in the Chicago area, and for sale online, according to the five brothers behind the operation.

The company is co-owned by Warren, Taylor, Christopher, Eric and Mark Sumption. They are hoping to both feed folks and to stay true to their family ties.

“My great-grandfather started farming not far from here (Frederick) in 1882, and the evolution from when they came to now, I think this idea fits really well with what their intentions were when they first came here,” Anthem Oats CEO Taylor Sumption said.

Anthem Oats has been an idea that he has had since 2013. He had worked on it in his spare time, but that changed about three years ago.

In 2018, Sumption had a meeting scheduled with a consultant to move the project forward. But the day before that meeting, he suffered life-threatening injuries after he struck an approach near Frederick. That put a hold on potential business operations.

“It was a pretty significant auto accident. So that put everything on hold for about nine months. After that happened, that really kind of spurred me to (start). … It kind of left me unable to do a lot of the physical work of farming,” he said.

Now, Anthem Oats is nearing the day when its products will hit the shelves, including at local stores. The initial release date was in March, but that didn’t happen because of supply chain issues. Now, it’s set for mid-June.

“I don’t know if you could’ve picked a worse time in the last 100 years to start a company than right now,” Sumption said. “One good thing is cereal consumption and people eating at home is way up, which should help us. But, COVID is just throwing a monkey wrench in that supply chain.”

In November, Sumption ordered cups for Anthem Oats and the expected delivery time was four to six weeks. But he just received the shipment this week. The cups are for instant oatmeal, similar to those used by other oatmeal brands found in stores.

“COVID has just made what used to be somewhat reliable very unreliable shipping times and it’s all over the place,” he said.

The process of making Anthem Oats products starts with harvesting and cleaning the oats at the farm. Then, they are sent to Altona, Manitoba, where they get de-hulled. After that, they are shipped to Fargo, N.D., where they are made into flakes. Lastly, they are packaged in Battle Creek, Mich., in conjunction with a company called Snack Works.

Once production ramps up, Snack Works will likely be replaced in the process since it works primarily with startup businesses.

“Ninety percent of companies like this, to start, they hire one of these big multinational companies to package it for them that package for all the other competitors. And you don’t know where the oats are coming from ... ” Sumption said.

“There are several companies that would do this for us, and we can put our brand on it, but none of them would guarantee it’s our oats. Well, that’s our whole identity, to provide a product that’s come off our farm.”

Anthem Oats oatmeal varieties will include dark chocolate brownie, super fruit, vanilla chai, peach and cranberry, pumpkin spice and maple pecan.

“We tried to be a little more cutting edge and trendy than your typical maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon like every (other) brand,” he said.

The business will also offer oats with no flavoring — old-fashioned, one-minute oats and steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are groats of whole oats that have been chopped into pieces.

When possible, Anthem Oats taps other family-owned businesses for the flavorings. For instance, the peach and cranberry flavor comes from a family-owned cranberry farm.

“We tried to find companies that have a lot in common with us. It may not necessarily be the cheapest ingredients, but if we’re going to sell that story, we want to stay to it as much as we can,” Sumption said.

Some flavors like vanilla chai are sourced from Europe because they can be hard to come by in the U.S.

“There’s one kind of multinational company for the vanilla and chai. That’s just a hard product to find. They’re a very reputable company. They probably supply vanilla and chai to almost anybody who sells the products. So, there’s a few of those (where) you just don’t have a lot of options for those domestically.”

Anthem Oats is proud of what will be a “non-GMO” label. It uses a special type of sugar that contains no genetically modified organisms. It’s something Sumption calls “trendy.”

Another thing he sees is people wanting to know where their food comes from.

“I’ve seen this trend kind of slowly moving the way it has been for a couple decades, really, but I think it’s gaining traction,” he said.

“I think we’re seeing a little bit of a shift back to that mindset, a little bit less materialistic and a little more experience of life. I think COVID ramped that up.”

Anthem Oats has a facility in Frederick that is set up as a warehouse and production space. The warehouse will take two-thirds of the building, and the plan is for the production side to eventually fill the remainder.

“All the oats in our oatmeal are taken from our farm. Hopefully, within the next few years, we will be able to mill and package it ourselves in Frederick,” said Cassandra Sumption, Taylor’s wife. “The rate at which the company grows will depend on how quickly that can happen.”

The Sumptions’ hope that in two years they are able to employ 15 people.

“Our dream in our whole thing is to help our town, more jobs here, more people here,” Taylor Sumption said.

Taylor Sumption, CEO of Anthem Oats, measures oats. Anthem Oats is a family-owned business that operates out of Frederick. Courtesy photo
The Anthem Oats warehouse facility in Frederick. American News photo by Trent Abrego
A bowl of vanilla chai Anthem Oats. Courtesy photo
A combine moves through an Anthem Oats field near Frederick.
Brothers Warren, Taylor, Christopher, Eric and Mark Sumption own Anthem Oats.

Learn more about Anthem Oats online at anthemoats.com.