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USDA Highlights Brownville, Maine Company on National Biobased Products Day

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Gorilla Lube in Piscataquis County Manufactures
Biobased Lubricants for Ski Resorts and Other Recreational Sites

The National Biobased Products Day logo shows a stylized sheaf of wheat, field, and wave.

Bangor, March 6, 2024 March 8th is National Biobased Products Day, and a unique Maine product is drawing attention as a result. Brownville, Maine is the home base for Gorilla Lube™, a biobased product designed specifically for industrial applications associated with the ski industry, amusement parks, zip-lines, and other outdoor attractions. Some heavy-hitting customers rely on the unique, nontoxic product. Gorilla Lube is used at nationally recognized sites such as Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Six Flaggs, Silver Dollar City, Snowbasin Resort, the Space Needle, and Maine’s own Sunday River Resort. It is also one of just a handful of products made in Maine that is certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “BioPreferred.”

A bearded man poses in front of a backdrop that says "GORiLLA LUBE" with industrial products on a table in front of him with orange labels.

National Biobased Products Day is an annual celebration of the benefits that come from increasing our use of products derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials. “The expanding market for biobased products creates jobs and helps support rural economic growth in America,” said USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson. “We’re proud to have an innovative company like Gorilla Lube certified USDA BioPreferred. This company is based in a small town in the Maine Highlands, employing Mainers and using American components. They manufacture a product that is in demand by equipment operators for its technical specifications while benefitting everyone by being nontoxic and biodegradable. Mainers love our pristine mountains, valleys, waterways, and beaches, so it’s exciting that a product that helps protect the natural environment around the country is made right here.”

Maine is over 90% forested and boasts a wealth of agricultural and other renewable resources. Not surprisingly, the state is actively engaged in the so-called “bioeconomy,” with institutions and businesses in all sectors developing sustainable products made from components harvested from the woods, fields, and sea. "Gorilla Lube is an example of how Maine companies are leaders in finding solutions to global challenges," said Charlotte Mace, Director of Business Development for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. "We applaud their efforts to reduce environmental impacts through innovative manufacturing." 

The photo shows three containers of Gorilla Lube, an industrial lubricant. The labels are bright orange, and the bucket, spray can, and jug are set on granite outdoors.

Gorilla Lube has worked with USDA’s nationally recognized BioPreferred Program since 2010. The program certifies products as biobased through an application process and lab testing. It is one way that customers, whether homeowners, amusement park operators, or federal agency procurement offices, can determine whether a product is truly made from plants and other renewable materials exclusively. Just seven Maine businesses that have secured the certification. (See a map of all USDA BioPreferred manufacturers at this link: https://tinyurl.com/2nxen983.)

Biobased certification was a natural fit for Gorilla Lube from the start. Scott and Kathie Lee founded their company, S&K Unlimited LLC, in 2006. They intended to manufacture nontoxic industrial lubricants using all-natural, USA-sourced, biobased, biodegradable, and sustainable raw ingredients. Conservation was always at the heart of the company’s mission, along with a unique penchant for working with outdoor industries.

A man and woman pose for a portrait wearing baseball caps and outdoor apparel.

While still in college, Scott Lee had worked for the Connecticut Department of Health inspecting public water supplies and tracing the source of pollutants. He realized hydrocarbons were a major pollutant, often leaking into natural waterways from industrial sources. Years later, this experience motivated him to develop an industrial lubricant that would not harm the environment even when used in and around water. He also wanted to ensure the new product could be used safely in environments designed for families, children, and animals.

Based on years of experience in the manufacturing sector, Lee believed that products made from renewable ingredients could outperform those made from petroleum. Having pursued a marketing career that included many years in the ski industry, he knew that resorts, amusement parks, zoos, and similar sites are regularly exposed to harsh weather and hard use that can increase pollution risks. Moreover, these sites are frequented by children, inquisitive animals, and others who could be harmed. Therefore, he tailored his new product to meet the needs of this sector and Gorilla Lube was born.

The Lees sought BioPreferred certification for Gorilla Lube in 2010 and have maintained the rating ever since. Initially, they pursued the rating as one way to help market their new product. Perhaps more importantly, creating a certified, biobased product that is not harmful to the environment is at the heart of the Gorilla Lube business ethos. “As a USDA program, BioPreferred is a relevant and meaningful certification that made sense for our company,” says Scott Lee. “Our products speak for themselves in terms of efficacy. But it is just as important to our company that we do our best for the planet and the people on it.”

Background: USDA BioPreferred Program

Each year, Americans become more aware of the importance of using renewable agricultural resources rather than petroleum-based products. However, it can be hard to evaluate whether products are made from renewable, sustainable materials. USDA created the BioPreferred Program in 2002 to address this problem.

The two major parts of the BioPreferred Program are:

  • mandatory purchasing requirements for federal agencies and their contractors; and,
  • a voluntary labeling initiative for biobased products.

Through the voluntary program, companies submit their products to a testing laboratory for evaluation. When consumers see the USDA Certified Biobased Product label on a product, they know that it has been independently tested and proven to be biobased. Federal agencies and contractors also rely on the BioPreferred Program to help them select products that meet federal purchasing requirements.

Business owners like Scott and Kathie Lee report that it is not difficult to enroll in the USDA BioPreferred Program. The application, initial screening, and lab testing take approximately ninety days to process. To learn more about participating in the program, read more at this link: https://tinyurl.com/bdarabsf.

The increased development, purchase, and use of biobased products reduces reliance on petroleum, increases the use of renewable agricultural resources, and helps reduce environmental damage and health impacts. National Biobased Products Day is a collective effort and opportunity for everyone within the bioeconomy to bring attention to the great work being done to improve sustainability, grow U.S. manufacturing, jobs and the bioeconomy, and benefit rural communities.

Read comments from the business owners and others at this link: https://www.rd.usda.gov/media/file/download/me-stakeholder-comments-biobased-products-day-3-5-24-0.pdf

The image shows an aerial view of a ski lift with snow on the ground and a blue sky. It is the Jordan 8 lift at the Sunday River Resort in Maine.
The Sunday River Resort in Newry, ME uses Gorilla Lube's biobased products on its lifts. Brian Stack, Director of Lift Management at the resort, says “I appreciate that the product is made of natural materials and locally manufactured. It effectively cleans the rails in our lift terminals, ensuring proper lubrication and ultimately extending the lifespan of our equipment.” (Pictured is the Jordan 8 lift, courtesy of Sunday River.)


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