From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. 

Today I sit down with Brenden Schaefer, Founder & CEO of Bright Foods. When I first heard his story I got very interested. Brenden left his job 3 years ago because he wanted to focus his energy on something different: starting his own food company to make the kind of products that he wanted to eat. He told me that over the years, he’d devoured hundreds of energy bars, smoothies and juices, without being never completely satisfied: everything was too processed, had too much sugar or wasn’t convenient. As a perfect maker does, he therefore decided to make his own stake in his own way.

When I asked him what was his first step, he told me: “I sketched it out on a piece of paper, and that was the beginning of the adventure”.

But my main question is: what made you want to tackle the snack bar industry, which already has so many options on the market?

“While our product is a bar in shape, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. What we make is much more like a bowl of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts, along with superfoods like turmeric and probiotics. What you see is what you get: the first ingredient listed on the package is a veggie, and the other ingredients on the back are pretty much the cleanest lineup you’ll find in the store. As an example, our Kale Pineapple Coconut bar packs in whole organic kale, organic pineapple, organic almonds, and Baobab (a prebiotic African superfruit), as well as a combination of organic chia, coconut, and dried orange (the “magic” solution we use to bind our bars with no artificial ingredients). You’ll always find our products in the refrigerated section, we never add any sweeteners, and our products are never baked, ensuring you get real food to go.”

I see, so it’s about ingredients, positioning.. something else?

“Yes! Texture. Our bars are juicy – you should try them!”

From a making standpoint, what challenges did you face (and overcome) in the beginning?

“Simply put, a lot of them. For starters, no one had ever made a bar from fresh produce before – so the first question was, how do you combine a bunch of fresh veggies and fruits into a bar and keep all the juice and the fiber inside? How do you do that without using any strange chemical binders? How do you get it to stay fresh without baking the product?

Once we had gotten our first prototypes (and tested them at a local farmers market), we came upon the second big hurdle: no existing manufacturers could make our product. We had to figure it out ourselves from the ground up: how to go from making 70 bars by hand in a day to thousands. We scoured the U.S. for the people who could point us in the right direction, searched high and low for affordable equipment, and then went through a ton of trial and error. Another crucial factor was finding and figuring out how to use High Pressure Processing (HPP) to extend the shelf life of the product while keeping the flavors and nutrients. No one had ever used this before on whole fruits and vegetables, so we had our work cut out for us. There were a lot of failed attempts, but we eventually found the right team and zeroed in on the three bar flavors that make our current lineup: Carrot Pineapple Turmeric with Probiotics, Kale Pineapple Coconut with Prebiotics, and Beet Orange Ginger with Maca.”

Today Brenden is teaching us how we can get creative in creating something that we can’t find in the shelves, simply thinking out of the box and prototyping with some making techniques. Keep on following this inspiring journey towards a healthier (and, really important, fresh) snack market!