Have you heard of the Perfect Bar before?
There’s a good chance! It’s sold nation wide in Whole Foods, Costco, and is rolling out to grocery stores and Targets all over the US.
If not, I suggest you give it a try. If you’re a peanut butter freak like me you’re sure to find love at first bite. It’s creamy, a tad bit sweet, and all around a perfect bar. It’s easy to take on the go while traveling or during a busy day too.
So, I was pretty excited when I got the chance to interview COO of Perfect Bar, Leigh Keith. I couldn’t help but want to share the story of this amazing family business. I found the Keith family’s story to be inspiring and all around quite interesting.
This is the story of how a nutrition bar, once used as a means to get the children to take supplements, has transformed into a bar that is now sold nation wide.
So keep on reading for my interview with Leigh, and the amazing story of the Perfect Bar! To learn more about the Perfect Bar, and to check out the goods, click here.
Also, stay tuned for my review of the Perfect Bar and your chance to win a variety pack coming this Thursday!
Note: This interview was transcribed from an audio recording.
Now for the interview…
How did the Perfect Bar get started?
My dad was a nutritionist back in the 60’s and 70’s, and worked for Jack LaLanne. So when we came around in the 80’s and 90’s he had a line of whole food supplements that he sold private label to his clients. These were, for example, eight different whole foods rich in calcium, or eight foods rich in vitamin c, dried into a powder and pressed into a tablet. So really just whole foods giving you all of your vitamins and minerals. Obviously it’s a more realistic amount of vitamins and minerals, because it’s just coming from concentrated dried foods.
He would want each of us to take our multipack, and as little kids you would spit out your supplement. You didn’t know how to swallow supplements, and so it gave him the idea to grind the tablets into a powder and we would mix it with organic nut butter, honey, protein powder, and roll them out. It became like our weekly candy meal prep. We would reach for the freezer and that would be our dessert. But really you were eating your whole food supplements disguised in nut butter and honey. So that is where the original idea was born.
Then when I was 10 my dad helped us create a little business out of it. He had his mail order business to his clients. So we started making these, what we called “daddy bars”, but then he named them perfect foods bars. We started making these small batches in my mom’s dining room, and selling them in zip lock bags for a dollar to his different clients. He taught us how to buy the ingredients, about the cost of goods, and how to make them and sell them. So that’s really when Perfect Bar started. I was 10, and Bill, our CEO, was 13 years old. It was like our version of a lemonade stand. Then in 2005 we decided to make an actual business out of it, and that’s when we started the Perfect Bar.
What was it like starting your own business?
We didn’t have a background or knowledge on how to open a certified kitchen. That was a big learning curve for us. Or how to make a nutrition fact panel for your wrapper, a bar code for it, the FDA rulings behind call outs and different things like that. So it really was starting at square one with the recipe, making a master monster to do list, and to keep chipping away at it one learning lesson at a time. To the point where we called up the county and said, “Hey so what are the requirements of having a kitchen and making nutrition bars?”. They were just like “click”. But eventually you just keep on seeking out those who have done it before.
We opened our first kitchen, built it from the ground up, figured out what goes on the walls and the floors. What are the rules that you follow. We are now still self manufactured here in San Diego. We make millions of bars per month, and they are totally a labor of love to make. We don’t use any traditional machines to make these bars, because they are all cold pressed, and put right in the refrigerator. It’s kind of the nuts and bolts of figuring out what your business is going to need, and just chipping away at it. Like starting from ground zero.
How did your dad shape what Perfect Bar is today?
The foundation of eating whole foods to be your source of vitamins and minerals. Nothing synthetic; using rose hip powder instead ascorbic acid for your vitamin c. Something as simple as that takes extra effort and is sometimes more expensive, but it’s what your body should really be eating. It’s real food. So the reason why our company is around is because of the passion that my dad had for healthy living, and whole food and nutrition. He really instilled in us that if you eat better then you feel better, and hence you live a better life. That is something that you can be so passionate about and really get behind. He would stop anyone and everyone to spread the good word, because that was something positive he had to give to the world. So it’s really the foundation of why we’re so passionate about what we do. We got from him.
If you eat better then you feel better, and hence you live a better life.
What I love about your company is that it hasn’t shifted towards using cheaper ingredients and methods.
Absolutely. We’ve really taken our time growing the last 11 years, and have figured it out along the way without having to compromise. Our last ingredient is organic spinach powder. You won’t find any hidden junk. I think people are really understanding that fresher is better when snacking. There really weren’t a lot of options before so we think that we’re paving that way.
How does the Perfect Bar help us live healthfully?
Like I said, not having to remember to take that supplement pack. It’s an easy way to get your whole food powders. You’re getting over 20 superfood powders in a really yummy bar that you’re not going to forget to eat. If we offer a really satisfying meal, that’s a complete meal, on the go, and it’s something that you can grab and take with you, it’s able to fill those points in your day when you would otherwise reach for that junky pastry, or skip a meal and your metabolism is now all over the place. We’re able to be there, and to intercept your day when you would otherwise have to cheat, compromise, or go without.
I don’t know how many times throughout my week when I’m reaching for a Perfect Bar because it’s available, and I’m thinking, “Shoot it’s already 2:00 and I’m going to be eating dinner at 7:00. Let me grab a cranberry crunch”. You’re able to get a whole lot of protein and some good complex carbohydrates, which are slow releasing energy. You don’t have the sugar crash, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
We’re able to be there, and to intercept your day when you would otherwise have to cheat, compromise, or go without.
Since the Perfect Bar is supposed to be kept in the fridge, is it a good bar to pack when traveling?
The bars can be out of the fridge for a week. The honey is a natural preservative for the product, but for a nine month shelf life you want to store it in the refrigerator for the organic omega oils and the natural nut butter oil. We don’t put any emulsifiers in it which is the binder that companies will use to keep their products looking the same. Your body doesn’t need it, and doesn’t want it either. So emulsifiers or soy lecithins in the bar that keep its shape or junky preservatives, we keep all of that out of it. So for a long shelf life keep it in the fridge, but you can take it with you on the go. So it’s amazing for traveling. You can throw it in your bag if you’re headed somewhere for a few days, and it’s easy to take with you.
I’m guessing you do a lot of traveling. How does the Perfect Bar help you?
I’ll grab a mixed box of a few different flavors and just pop it in my bag. If it’s a 5:30 am call time to head somewhere, and you’re just in the Uber on the way to the airport, eating a Perfect Bar, and drinking cup of coffee, it really is satisfying because of the calories.
The Perfect Bar is higher in calories, what are your thoughts?
Calories are not all created equally. I think people are really understanding that these days. Five, six, seven years ago people wanted a low calorie fat. They wanted zero sugars. Although it’s super sweet; there’s something wrong here. Nature doesn’t offer a zero sugar super sweet product. You get the Stevia’s of the world and you’re tricking your body. Even you taste buds tasting sweetness will make your body react to that in different types of ways. Using what nature intended for our sweet sugar, which is our honey and a complex carbohydrate, to the nut butter. Yes, nuts are full of fat that keep you full. You also need fat for brain function, and your hair and nails.
It’s not a low fat bar, and we don’t want it to be. It’s not a low sugar bar necessarily because you do get sugar from the honey, but it’s a complex sugar. So you’re body needs all of these different things so they have to come from the right places for them to work in the right way. We add five different organic omega oils to the product so you can call it complete meal; a complete meal in our mind which has fats, calories, and protein, and carbohydrates.
It’s where your sugar is coming from. Where’s your protein coming from? There are protein bars out there that have 30 grams of protein, but if they’re using incomplete protein you’re not getting a complete B vitamin. So you’re body is going to kick out a lot of that protein so maybe you only absorbed 10-13 grams of that. It all depends. We use only whole food ingredients, including the protein sources. We use milk, egg, rice, and obviously the protein from the nuts, so you’re getting a more complete amino acid which your body will actually absorb.
Calories are not all created equally….it’s not a low fat bar, and we don’t want it to be.
What would be the Perfect Bar’s greatest achievement so far?
I think for us is when we landed one store for Whole Foods. We just demoed the heck out of the bar and people started buying it off the shelf. There was the moment when you’re like “People in a grocery store are going to buy our mom and pop bar”! Before we would sell to people we knew; that was easy. But it didn’t quite feel real until you stood and watched people reach up, grab it off of the shelf, and then come back for more. We’re like, “Ok, this this could be something”. Then after that 30 days it expanded to five Whole Foods, and now sold nationally in Whole Foods.
We really built the foundation of our business in Whole Foods markets with those shoppers in mind. They really like shopping the parameter. They like finding new items. So we of course were that perfect item. Buyers wondered “Why is this bar in the fridge?”. They really take the time to get to know us as a product and give us a try. Since then selling in Costco and now moving into the conventional grocery store, it just continues to build. But taking our time to make sure that we don’t trip ourselves up by growing too quickly. So there’s not one thing that was our greatest achievement, but when we got into Whole Foods I feel like that was our first day where we kind of grew up as a company.
What is something that you hope to achieve in the future as a company?
We would like to educate people on how to eat better, and that it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you maybe think. Taking the time to set some philanthropic goals is really a focus for our company, because that’s what is most important to us.
For the brand we’d really like to keep carving out the fresh snacking space in the refrigerator. For now we’ll expand on flavors for the bars, but eventually expanding that snacking category.
What is the Perfect Bar’s mission?
To offer affordable whole food nutrition on the go. We want to be able to meet the dietary needs for everybody and anybody, and play a part in their daily victories of eating better and trying new things. Also, having that relationship with somebody, and being that reliable product for them.
One thing I love about your company is that it is family owned. What is it like working with your family?
It is so much fun. My brother is the CEO and we all live here in San Diego. Sister runs our Costco road show business. Other sister is director of operations, and oversees everything in the kitchen. Little brother is doing our Costco road shows and is out there sampling. Everybody plays these fun roles within the company, and we’re always trying to find ways to challenge them to continue growing. There are absolutely bad days, of course. There are the tough ones, a sibling personally going through something, and then you get to deal with that at work. Whatever it may be, we do blur the line with personal and professional because it’s hard not to.
There are days when it’s tough at work and then you see them at Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve all made this commitment to doing our best to see this brand and our stories be the best it can be. We do have to know that it may mean setting aside our pride or conflicts as siblings, and continue working together to see it become all it can be. It’s really fun though. To walk into an office and see seven of your siblings working away, for this common goal, and to have made these bars since we were little is truly really cool.
To walk into an office and see seven of your siblings working away, for this common goal, and to have made these bars since we were little is truly really cool.
What’s your favorite Perfect Bar flavor?
It varies over the years. It started with peanut butter because that’s the only flavor we use to make. Now it’s fruit and nut, but we’re launching a couple of new flavors. One of which I can’t mention, but it is now my new favorite flavor. So a couple of new flavors coming out this summer!
Until next time,
P.S. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a variety pack of Perfect Bars this Thursday! Stay tuned for the review and giveaway to be posted on Facebook.
Photo credits: The Perfect Bar
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