Portfolio: Terra Mills
A Business Takes Root
Millions of people consume their wide range of products everyday, but to the surprise of many who enjoy these drinks, snacks and meals, Terra Mills did not get its start in Terra at all. In fact, for the first century of its existence, Terra Mills was exclusively located in Bremen.
Though settlement began in the 25th century, it wasn’t until the outbreak of the Second Tevarin War in 2603 that Bremen, and more specifically Rytif, began to really take off. The Navy turned to the small agrarian planet to help feed their largest ever fighting force of starmen to date. As demand skyrocketed, farmers were eager for the influx of government credits but lacked the infrastructure needed to take full advantage of the subsidies, so they began to pool their resources. Under the leadership of de facto Governor Arcturus Koerner, the major landholders on Rytif banded together to form the Bremen Milling, Processing & Farming Association, more commonly and simply known as Bremen Mills. This collective of farms, processing centers and mills allowed its members to cut costs by sharing the overhead of expensive large-scale production, as well as providing them a united front through which they could set higher prices through collective bargaining.
In just a few short years, Bremen Mills become an economic powerhouse, and for the next several decades saw its shareholders becoming extremely wealthy. However, due to a lack of diversification, when the grain market crashed in 2640, Rytif, and with it Bremen Mills, fell on hard times.
Though profits were down, Bremen Mills managed to hang on. The Empire still needed grain, and though margins were slim, the established network of transport, milling and processing allowed Bremen Mills to succeed where other farmers were forced to close shop. During this period, many of the farms consolidated ownership and by the turn of the 28th century, Bremen Mills boasted the largest agricultural holding on Rytif and changed from an association into a corporate entity in its own right. Through further standardization and streamlining, it began to look like things could finally be turning around for the once-struggling group. Then disaster struck.
In 2716, the main Bremen Mills grain facilities just outside of Stalford exploded, killing hundreds, injuring hundreds more and sending a plume of fire into the sky that could be seen from orbit. Known today as the Great Stalford Disaster, official reports state that a broken filtration unit in a mixing area allowed airborne flour dust particles to accumulate to dangerous concentration levels. A single spark was all it took to ignite the air. The fire that raged afterwards burned tens of thousands of cultivated acres surrounding the facilities. It was days before it could be fully contained. As the people of Rytif sorted through the wreckage, very little hope remained that the struggling collective would be able to recover from such a crippling catastrophe.
Growing an Empire
Meanwhile, a few jumps away, another agricultural conglomerate was experiencing its own, if less grisly, difficulties.
Terragra, Inc., founded in 2665 on Terra, had made its mark on the system with its range of salty and sweet snacks. The most popular of these, Prallies (a wheat snack stick covered in a spicy caramel coating)n, was starting to gain notice across the Empire. As orders from stores and stations wishing to stock the snack grew, Terragra could not find a affordable source of wheat that they could use to reliably expand their production.
The solution to the company’s supply problems presented itself after the catastrophe at Stalford. Seeing an opportunity to guarantee their own secure source, Terragra offered to provide Bremen Mills with the capital needed to rebuild their destroyed facilities in exchange for controlling interest. The two companies were able to resolve terms for a mutually agreeable merger and, in the summer of 2717, they revealed their new corporate identity as Terra Mills, headquartering production on the more affordable Rytif.
Thanks to the combined resources of the two companies, Terra Mills was able to meet demand and launched Prallies across the Empire to soaring popularity. Within a decade the processing facilities on Rytif had surpassed their previous capacity and soon Terra Mills was making an ever expanding product line, from cereals like Dappers to the perennial holiday cookie favorite Maybelles, and even eventually expanding into the drink market.
Ready to Pop
Whereas the snacks Terra Mills introduced over the last two centuries usually met with positive reaction from the public (or at the very worst indifference), this was not the case with their initial beverage offerings. Today, everybody is familiar with Terra Mills’ assorted beverages — from Pips, to Fieldsbury, to Clash — but their first attempt, Braga Malt, a malted fruit drink created as a way to find a use for surplus barley, was universally despised. Terra Mills actually received hate comms after the launch of Braga. The complaints described a drink that tasted stale and bitter. The flavor scientists were stumped; everything they had tasted off the factory floor was delicious. It took a marketing director bringing back a case from Horus for them to get to the bottom of the issue.
Cracking open the can and tasting the drink that had been shipped out for themselves, they immediately saw what the complaining was about: it tasted terrible. Something was happening to the Braga from the time it left the factory to the time it arrived on store shelves. Careful research revealed that their bottling plant was using a grade of aluminum composite that wasn’t up to the rigors of space travel. At first, it seemed that the only solutions available were switching to more expensive containers, which would severely hamper their profit margin, or changing the drink formula to overcompensate for the effects of shipping. Unsatisfied with choosing between two lackluster options, the scientists in the Terra Mills lab managed to formulate a completely different solution. They devised a method to store carbonation inside nanobeads which would remain intact until the surrounding pressure was fully released. This process insured that a drink would never go flat and could survive decades in space without any adverse effects. Braga Malt was redesigned with this revised formula and repackaged under the new name Snazzle. The drink was a huge hit and continues to be so, with a dozen popular flavors to be found on store shelves throughout the Empire.
The most recent addition to the Terra Mills family may be their most audacious yet. After conquering snacks and drinks, they have decided to pursue a position in the fast meals sector. In 2943, they purchased a small restaurant franchise from Lo that, since its opening three years prior, had gone from a single location to over a hundred.
Benicio Lewis, Jr. had grown up on a fringe transfer station in Corel eating his father’s homemade kacho, a ramen-like combination of noodles and broth that was heavily spiced to combat the taste bud numbing that occurs with long exposure to pressurized environments. As Lewis quoted his father, “If I have to live in a tin can, I’m sure as hell not going to eat food that tastes like it came from one.” Years later when living on Lo, Little Benny himself made kacho for his friends, who began to rave to their friends. Their encouragement convinced him to open up a small stall at a commercial spaceport. He named his foodstall Big Benny’s in honor of his father. With its cheap and satisfying fare, the stand was crowded all the time.
From that humble beginning, Lewis quickly opened new franchises as the “kacho kraze” spread like wildfire. It wasn’t long before he was approached by Terra Mills with an offer to introduce his kacho from Lo to the rest of the universe. Despite protests from the franchise’s loyal fans, Lewis was happy to sell, explaining, “My dad would have loved to know that people across the ’verse can have something good to eat when they need it. Plus, he loved making money.” Today, Big Benny’s stalls and vending units can be found everywhere people are looking to stretch their credits and eat a warm meal.
To the surprise of no one, Terra Mills is not stopping there. With one successful ready meal launch under their belt, they recently revealed their newest brand, TipTop, at the 2946 Vendor Association Conference. Offering a variety of bite-sized tapioca-wrapped dumplings, TipTop is anticipated to soon be as ubiquitous as the Mills’ other creations.
As a result of these successes, Terra Mills continues to be the largest employer in the Bremen system and it shows no sign of slowing down. What started out as a collection of farms has grown into one of the biggest food manufacturers in the Empire, with products that can be found in every system where Humans live.