Protein bars can be natural and still give you energy. Here, we talk with Josh Reding, Founder and President of MakerBars to find out more about the history of the company, what ingredients they use, and their plans for the future
I founded MakerBars when I was an Engineering and Business student at university. I used to spend long hours on campus, was physically active, and needed something to keep me going during these periods.
Energy and protein bars kept me going throughout the days without having to wait in line to buy food or going out to eat. I found out they contained a lot of “junk,” which neither I nor my friends wanted in our bodies.
One day, I tried a meal kit and it got me wondering if I could make my own bars. I always loved cooking, so I went to the kitchen and figured out that it wasn’t hard to make bars out of simple ingredients.
So, I created the first kit with everything needed to make bars at home. That was MakerBars’ first product. After that, we ended up launching another product called MakerBars GO, which was focused on keeping people full for an hour or two. We designed plant-based protein balls and have since signed those to retail and online stores.
MakerBars challenges the status quo, with ingredients you can pronounce, a beautiful design, and a simple, sustainable ethos – all while making everything delicious.
Our bars are better for you than those containing sugar, syrups, and brown rice. We use higher quality ingredients to make something that tastes amazing, while ensuring customers are kept full with natural fibers and protein.
I’ve always had a background and interest in sustainability and want to push the status quo when it comes to packaging. In 2018, Greenpeace announced that food wrappers are the number one polluter in Canada, and the UN stated that it’s one of the most common single-use plastics worldwide.
Our package is the only one I know in Canada that is home compostable. Our customers really appreciate that.
We only use simple ingredients you can pronounce. It’s a little challenging because many bars use strange ingredients to achieve crazy macronutrient profiles. For example, bars containing two grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein typically won’t be natural.
We use mainly pea-protein and we don’t use bad added sugars – instead, we use honey. We focus on keeping it simple and natural. We also include toasted local oats and fair trade organic dark chocolate.
There were a lot of ups and downs for everybody in the industry during this time. Our product category dropped around 60% to 70%. We saw some recovery after the first lockdown but many buyers were refusing or cutting back on single-serve products. Other local small business owners had their products pulled off of the shelves.
We were aware of this but I knew we needed to perfect our compostable package before we could scale.
We also focused on studying shelf life and figuring out how to work with the manufacturers, as well as improving our formulation. I spent a lot of time on these activities, and I was very happy with the result. Right now, we have a nine-month shelf life but I still want to get to one year.
Other than that, I reflected on where my time was best spent. For most of the first half of the “Pandemic Era,” I was still running around doing local deliveries and working in the kitchen. Since then, I’ve started getting other people involved to help manage the workload.
At the start of this year, we still didn’t know where everything was going here in Canada but now we’re excited because we’ve got a lot going on. We want to grow in universities, grocery stores, and food service locations at some sports… The constant “vibe” we’re getting is that customers are very excited for Version 2.0 of GO Protein Bites (previously MakerBars GO).
We’ve been setting up with a manufacturer so that we don’t have to be in the kitchen anymore, and we’re also going to focus a lot on sales and marketing.