Before Kellie Lee created prebiotic energy snacks packed with protein called Rowdy Bars, she was experimenting in her kitchen. Lee and her husband are big backpackers in Nevada, and she liked to create snacks for them to take on their adventures. But around the same time, Lee started experiencing digestive health challenges. She discovered she had gallstones, and had to have her gallbladder removed. After that, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and started to gain weight.
She had run marathons and had done half-ironmans, triathlons, and the like, but with her new medical challenges, she was fatigued and couldn’t run anymore. She was looking for new alternatives for sugar and binding agents, and she read that eating based on a low glycemic index can improve health, which could help her deal with her hypothyroid condition.
She came across the yacon root, a zero-glycemic sweetener, which is not to be confused with the yuccaroot. It’s more like a distant cousin, Lee told PYMNTS in an interview, that “comes from the same area” — South America — and has a similar appearance. The root has an indigestible fiber called fructooligosaccharides and is a form of prebiotics that is food for probiotics in the gut. (Prebiotics and probiotics together help people digest food.)
Lee ordered some to start baking with and ended up with a bar recipe. She and her husband started taking the bars with them. Lee says she started noticing a difference in her overall digestion and energy level. And she felt like she could start getting active again. One day, she made some for her family, and Lee recalls her sister saying, “you should sell these.” She ended up getting a cottage food permit and was making about 10 batches per week as she worked full-time and studied for her MBA.
She bootstrapped the company and scaled up into a co-packer. Today, the company sells a variety of protein-packed prebiotic energy bars with organic yacon syrup. Its flavors include blueberry almond tart, sunflower butter n’ berries, chocolate coconut cashew, and peanutty dark chocolate. Beyond nuts, or in the case of the sunflower seeds, the company’s bars contain egg white protein.
The Root Ingredient
Lee says the bars have a broad appeal because everyone needs to aid their digestion. And if consumers have a healthy microbiome, they are going to have a healthier life. The company has especially received a lot of feedback from those living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One mother emailed her to tell her that for her son, who has type 1 diabetes, “it’s the perfect snack for him to take to school,” Lee says. The market also includes athletes, like runners.
She notes that Rowdy Bars has attended a lot of races and runners enjoy the bars. The firm counts ultra-marathoners as customers because the bar provides sustainable energy due to its low glycemic index. One ultra-marathoner, who eats Rowdy Bars regularly, consumes a little bit at a time through his race, and she says it seems to work well for him. Consumers can order the company’s products as a one-time purchase or a subscription through the company’s website.
Shoppers can order 12-bar packs of single varieties, or, alternatively, Rowdy Bars offers a four-bar variety pack, as the company has four flavors. It also has an eight-bar pack, with two of each flavor. Lee says the company was selling single bars for a little while, but it wasn’t cost-effective. For payments on its website, the company accepts PayPal and Google Pay as forms of express checkout in addition to credit cards. The company’s products are also on Amazon and eligible for Prime. It also has its bars in some brick-and-mortar stores.
Her team is essentially her family: Her sister-in-law does her logistics and her sister operates as her executive assistant (along with others as part-timers at events). In, say, five years, she would like the company to be able to take care of the people that work for her and be a “healthy option for people” who are looking for a quick snack while educating people on the importance of having a healthy digestion system.