“We launched our meat based protein bars in June after roughly a year and a half of development, and when we were doing the final review of the competition prior to the launch we were all surprised to see how the category had grown quite, quite large in the matter of just a year-and-a-half,” acknowledged Eugene Kang, who co-founded Country Archer in 2011 with Susan Kang.
But he said there is still plenty of space because most of the players in the category play to different demographics or cater to people with different nutrient needs than who Country Archer targets.
“A lot of other meat based protein bars are going after that Whole Foods type crowd,” including health conscious consumers who want a portable, better-for-you snack that tastes good, Kang said.
And while Kang says Country Archer’s meat bars check those boxes, he explained it is more targeted to the fitness consumer and athletes who are focused on filling macronutrient needs and a high-protein to carb and sugar ratio.
As a result, Country Archer’s meat bars pack 20 grams of protein in a serving, whereas many competitors come in around 10 grams or the mid-teens, Kang said.
The company was able to reach such a high concentration of protein by skipping the mix-ins that many competitors in the meat bar space add for flavor and texture, such as nuts, grains and dried fruit.
“We really latched on to the meat … and we joke about taking a protein bar back to is primitive state,” without any high-tech powdered proteins or grains, Kang said. As such, he added, the bars appeal to consumers who follow the paleo diet, as well as those who want products with simple, clean ingredient decks, he said.
Country Archer’s meat based protein bars also are unique from most protein bars – as well as snack and nutrition bars – in that they are low in sugar and have savory profiles, Kang noted.
As someone who is “big into macro-nutrients,” the idea for savory meat-based protein bars came to Kang when he was traveling through the airport and needed “something to fulfill my protein need” without also delivering a heavy dose of sugar, he explained.
“There are so many variances throughout the protein category, but one common denominator is that they are all sweet based, whether that be chocolate-chip or cookies-and-cream,” he said. As a result, “some bars have a ton of sugar – sometimes the same amount as the protein, or they have a lot of fake sugar or sugar alcohols to bring down the sugar content and preserve the sweet profile.”
Neither option is one that Kang wanted to put into his body on a regular basis, he said.
With that in mind, the foundation of Country Archer’s meat-based protein bars became finding a way to cram in 20 grams of protein with no artificial sweeteners and very little sugar, but still have it taste good.
The end product was the company’s line up of three bars, including the Herb and Citrus Turkey Bar with rosemary; Cayenne Beef With Pork Bar that has fennel, celery and pepper; and the Sweet BBQ Pork Bar made with mustard and liquid smoke.
The bars also differ from the competition in their texture, which is like a sausage without the casing, and the high quality ingredients, including grass-fed meat and organic ingredients, Kang added.
Education still needed
While the meat bar category is growing quickly, the concept is still new to most consumers, which means education is must for Country Archer’s bars, and its competition, Kang said.
He explained that one of the reasons the company is targeting the fitness community first for its meat bars is that this demographic is “very savvy about nutrients and they are constantly studying, compared to your average user.”
He hopes that the learning curve will be shorter for them about the value of high protein and low sugar – and once they are hooked they can “be our evangelists, so to speak, to the average person who eats nutrition bars as snacks but does not really look at what the ingredients are or how many nutrients are in the product.”
The company also will push heavily on social media and sampling to help spread the word in the coming year, Kang said.
While he expects education and outreach about the bars will dominate the next year, he emphasized Country Archer is a meat snack company and is always innovating new ways to deliver protein and make meat portable and snackable.