The idea was dreamed up five years ago when Bright Foods CEO and founder, Brenden Schaefer, found a gap in the bar space. Schaefer also brought his brand expertise having led marketing for Naked Juice and Izze.
“Over the years, I ate tons and tons of bars but I always found that they were really high in sugar, really processed – I was trying to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but it just wasn’t practical,” Schaefer told FoodNavigator-USA.
Schaefer and his co-founder and COO, Adam Razik (former CFO and general manager at KeVita) spent several years in research and development to find a way to bring a fresh bar with whole fruits and vegetables to the market.
"Our product is like the love child of a cold pressed juice and a bar. At the end of the day, your standard [shelf-stable] bar is emergency food for a lot of people. You can throw it in your gym bag, you can forget about it for six months, you can come back to it and eat it."
“I saw what was happening from a trend perspective; veggies moving to the center of the plate, sugar is public enemy #1, people were snacking but wanted real food, and more and more people wanted organic,” Schaefer said.
A lot of boxes to fill to check off for a new brand, but Schaefer also saw that high pressure processing (HPP) could help Bright Foods meet those consumer expectations.
Already sealed in their final packaging, the bars are introduced to HPP transmitted by cold water, delivering food preservation advantages. Depending on the flavor, bars will keep 30 to 60 days in the refrigerator and two months in the freezer. Once taken on the go, they’ll last 24 hours out of the refrigerator, according to Bright Foods.
Bright Bars start with pieces of whole fruit and vegetables including organic carrots, kale, and pineapple, and other 'superfoods' such as chia, Maca, whole turmeric root, and baobab.
“We add in our binders and get it to stick together in a dough, then we HPP it,” Schaefer explained.
“When you’re biting into one of our bars, you’re biting into chunks of carrot, chunks of pineapple, whole cashews that we’ve chopped.”
Bright Foods' first three whole food bar flavors priced at $3.99 include beet (red beets, golden raisins, crunchy walnuts, and Maca), carrot (carrots, crisp pineapple, creamy cashews, whole turmeric root, probiotics, and ginger), and kale (whole kale, crisp pineapple, organic almonds, and baobab).
Market research at the farmers market
Bright Foods first gained a listing at Whole Foods in April 2016, but Schaefer felt like the company still needed to solidify its brand identity, marketing, and formulations.
“I made an unusual request, I said I’d like to go sell these at a farmers market for six months because I know the value of consumer research,” he said.
At the farmers market, the team was able to test pricing, packaging, and its market messaging.
“We sold out halfway through. Then we started having people come back,” Schaefer remembers.
Consumers visiting them at the farmers market helped the brand understand what ingredient formulations worked best as well as what imagery and packaging worked best.
Now back in Whole Foods stores, Schaefer added that the health and wellness shopper is a much more diverse audience and the brand has noticed parents of young children, women over the age of 50, and the “food curious” purchasing Bright Bars.
“The Whole Foods shopper is not a monolith and whole foods stores are not monolithic,” he said. “You have different tribes that shop in different stores.”
Bright Foods is aiming to grow in its own backyard of Southern California with national distribution as its longer-term goal, expanded distribution to more stores on the West Coast is expected by September.
“Our goal is national distribution but we also want to be smart about how we expand,” Schaefer said.