By Robin Mather
For Marshall Rader, a 2009 diagnosis of celiac disease meant more than the usual headaches as he tried to eat gluten-free while on the road.
“I could be going anywhere from two days to two weeks abroad,” he says. “The gluten-free market was in the Stone Age in that time. Finally, I found an acceptable gluten-free bar and used them to subsist while I was on the road. I was eating about four bars a day, and one day, I thought, ‘I can do better than this.’ I was wanting to use better ingredients.”
So Marshall, now the CEO of The GFB: The Gluten-Free Bar, persuaded his brother, Elliott, to join him as the Vice-President of Marketing in the company, founded about seven years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of its newest products is the Power Breakfast bar, a higher protein oatmeal product “in a cool new package,” Marshall says. Its suggested retail price is $2.19 to $2.79.
The company’s other bars have suggested retail prices ranging from $1.99 to $2.49, and its Bites line, in larger packaging, has suggested retail prices of $4.99 to $5.49.
“My dad, when I got home and told him about the diagnosis, said, ‘that’s not real.’ Finally, after several years, he was tested and he has celiac disease, too. He’d been medicating for 40 years for skin issues, and once he stopped eating gluten, his skin issues cleared immediately. So there are four of us in the family, and only one of us can eat gluten.”
Elliott himself also was subsequently diagnosed with celiac disease, Marshall says, so the brothers have a special commitment to making a superior product.
“Our ingredients are super simple,” Marshall says. “You could go to the local grocery store and buy all the ingredients to make something very similar. We have all the goodness of homemade, and save you the trouble of making them yourself.”
Marshall is proud of the quality ingredients used in the GFB, he says. “We use vegan proteins, and high quality ingredients. Our almond butter is only almonds, for example. Our chocolate chips are premium, dairy-free dark chocolate.”
He’s also proud of “some great sourcing stories,” he says. “We work with Caro Nuts to source cashews from Africa, where they’re picked and processed on-site by disadvantaged women. We feel really good about using them.”
Caro Nuts, a division of Candor Ag, works with small farmers around the world to help them market their crops. The company also markets small farmers’ artichoke hearts under its Cynara division and small growers’ olive oil under its Bellucci division.
The GFB is a certified B Corporation, too, Marshall says, so “we’re around to make great products and do some good in the world. Even if it costs a bit more, we’re doing good.”
The GFB’s products are manufactured in Grand Rapids, Marshall says, and employs about 45 people. “We’re also a little bit unusual in that we don’t outsource the manufacturing of our products,” he says. “We own our own manufacturing facility.”
The future looks bright for The GFB, Marshall says.
“We have big goals — we’re an emerging national brand,” he says. “We’re already in about 9,000 stores in the United States and Canada, so we’re planning to continue to grow our customer base by making the best gluten-free snacks. We have a lot of innovation coming — exciting new flavors coming down the line for our bar line, and expanding our breakfast line this year.”
Turning a health liability into a positive asset, both as a business and as a positive force in the world, seems to be Marshall’s strong suit.
Stores are becoming awash in a sea of gluten-free products, and the competition just keeps multiplying. Your company works hard to get your products into distribution and onto store shelves, but the work doesn’t end there. You must work just as hard to get your products off of the shelf and into the hands of the gluten-free consumer.
Ever wonder what else you could be doing to market your products directly to your target customers? The Gluten Free Media Group (GFMG) offers three ways to connect your brand to millions of free-from consumers.
1. Reach a niche crowd through a GFMG Custom Email Blast and get your message in front of gluten-free consumers and bloggers. E-blasts are great for new product launches, special discounts or promotions and new retail distribution announcements. With higher open and click-through rates than the industry average and the ability to pick the number and type of consumers reached, you can create a successful online campaign tailored to your budget and needs.
2. Sample and sell products at the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expos. Consumers like to sample products before buying them in the store. At these shows, consumers get the chance to try your products while you get the opportunity to interact with potential customers, bloggers, buyers and retailers.
3. Advertise on the Find Me Gluten Free mobile app. Find Me Gluten Free is a category leader for finding gluten-free friendly businesses wherever you are. Reach more than three million local and regional gluten-free consumers and remind them about your products or business at the perfect time – when they’re hungry!
Enjoy Life Foods is relaunching its ProBurst Bites as Protein Bites with new flavors added to the line. Protein Bites boast an elevated taste and texture profile, but with the same great plant-based protein in each poppable bite that fans know and love. Debuting two new flavors, including Dark Raspberry and Dipped Banana, Protein Bites will also be available in familiar options like Sunseed™ Butter and Cinnamon Spice. The company is also expanding its range of free-from foods with new Grain & Seed Bars, the first bars to combine three types of the ancient grain sorghum in four enticing flavors: Chocolate Marshmallow, Banana Caramel, Maple Sweet Potato and Cranberry Orange.
“Part of what makes Enjoy Life special is our open line of communication with our community,” said Joel Warady, General Manager and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Enjoy Life Foods. “We knew from consumer feedback that there was an undeniable love for our original bites, but because we know how important flavor and texture are, we made the choice to give them the boost our consumers deserve. As a result, we’ve landed on four incredibly delicious recipes that raise the bar for protein bites everywhere.”
Enjoy Life’s chocolately, truffle-like Protein Bites are packed with six grams of plant-based protein and offer a burst to power through the day. Enclosed in a rich chocolate shell, each flavor is free from palm oil and 14 allergens, including wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, casein, soy, egg, sesame, sulfites, lupin, mustard, fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. Protein Bites are also certified gluten free, Non-GMO Project verified, vegan, halal and kosher. Available in spring 2018, Protein Bites will retail for $6.99 for
each resealable six-ounce bag. Like all Enjoy Life products, each bag carries a bright teal color designed to shed a positive spotlight on food allergies while creating a cohesive brand block on shelf.