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Meet Anish Vanmali of BLD Bar in Northridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anish Vanmali.

Anish, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been into food. Whether it’s cooking or eating out, I think food has a way to bring people together and help the mind wander to transcend many of life’s personal problems, at least temporarily. With food, you have to be willing and eager to explore new possibilities, new combinations, and put past judgements of what you think food should taste like out the window. It’s likely that your favorite dish is something that was considered quite unexpected back in the day.

In my late teens and college years, I also started to get into fitness and weightlifting a lot more as well. Not only is a proper diet key to progression in the gym, but it is also key to health and longevity. Some health problems with my stomach set me back during my early college years and caused a major change in the way I view food. I changed my diet into a lifestyle type of change, where I don’t eat gross fast food, and I try to stay away from unhealthy ingredients, preservatives and try to keep sugar intake as low as possible. Of course, I still eat dessert every once in a while, because life is about balance in my eyes, but overall I would consider my diet extremely healthy.

All three of these (my passion for food, my love of fitness, and my new healthy diet) combined and formed an idea in my head that I should create a bar that was different than anything else on the market. Every single time I went to the grocery store to get bars, the shelves were filled with only sweet and dessert flavored options. It’s like every company only knows how to make, mint, peanut butter, chocolate, and vanilla. So, I set out to create low sweetness bars with savory flavors like Nachos (Jalapeno & Cheddar Cheese) and a Green Juice flavor (Ginger, Lemon and Chives). These bars were designed to eat all-day. If you want to wake up and grab a bar on-the-go, you now have a low sweetness option that isn’t so sugary in the morning. If you want a late-night snack before you fall asleep, you can eat a nachos flavor bar without the sweetness to keep you up at night or the guilt of unhealthy ingredients. This is where the name BLD bar was formed because our bars are inspired by Breakfast Lunch and Dinner ingredients.

We just launched our company fully in mid-September, and are quickly expanding in the southern California area mostly through small gyms, juice shops and farmers markets.

Has it been a smooth road?
The first obstacle that I encountered was the lack of resources that were available to create something like this. It’s one thing to be able to cook in the kitchen, it’s another to be able to trial and error a shelf-stable product that can last a year without almost any knowledge of food science and preservation methods. I had to dig deep in the web, into forums and I even read a couple of e-books that were so generalized that they didn’t help much. It took me about a year from conceptualization until my launch date, because as a foodie, I wanted the texture to be just right (moist, melt in your mouth, not gummy, and not chalky).

Because I started this by myself and with no prior knowledge in the industry, other problems popped up along the way in almost every facet of my company. When you start a company, my advice is to be as knowledgeable as possible in every single aspect of your business, or you WILL end up making costly mistakes. I realized that I needed to learn everything about boxes quickly. How do these boxes fold, how do they ship, what kind of design works best, what kind of perforations make it easy to open yet sturdy, etc.

For my film (which is the bar wrapper), there are so many little details that could be overlooked, but if one thing is wrong, then you can’t use it. Approximating size is a big issue, and being new to the industry I trusted my film manufacturer to help me get started and guide me through the process. They gave me a size and for weeks I was using this in my graphic designs, but I started getting anxious and wanted to check everything. It turns out after I self-printed to double-check, that the given size was totally off and I had to reconfigure the designs. I mistakenly trusted my film manufacturer to give me the right size, but it was wrong the whole time. If I didn’t double-check, I would’ve had to eat the cost of not only the film but also the bars that wouldn’t have been able to get wrapped. Obviously, I fixed this in time before my first run, but trust went out the window when this happened and I knew that every single facet of my product must be learned and double-checked if mistakes are to be avoided.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the BLD Bar story. Tell us more about the business.
We create low sweetness, savory bars for all-day consumption. Our bars are designed to eat from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.

I really started this company because I want to inspire people to “challenge your comfort zone” (our slogan). We want people to not be afraid to try new things because we feel that personal growth comes from testing your boundaries and overcoming mental hurdles in every aspect of life.

The best things in my life have happened when I pushed myself to the limit, was thinking outside of the box and away from the mundane, every day is the same type of lifestyle. I always ask people what their fondest memory is in the past year, and usually, they give me an answer of some type of adventure or travel story, something where they were out of the repetitiveness of everyday life.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think that the snack industry as a whole is trending towards becoming a lot more health-focused over the next 5-10 years. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of diet on your health, and now more than ever, they are actually reading the ingredients lists and nutritional facts and making decisions based on what it is they are eating. As a society, we need to work towards making our diets healthier, but keeping the costs low enough that it is actually feasible on a national scale.

The trend towards lower sugar products is increasing, but as a consumer, you have to be aware that something sweet but with low sugar is extremely misleading and there’s a reason for this. In place of sugar, companies use a workaround with either stevia (which is actually natural) or sugar alcohols which allow them to keep sugar low on the label but it’s just another unnatural ingredient on the label in sugars place.

Unnatural preservatives and artificial food dyes will eventually die off from our American products, and we will have companies using more natural preservatives (sugar, salt) and natural foods that give off the desired color.

Pricing:

  • Box of 12 Jalapeno/Cheddar Bars 35.99
  • Box of 12 Ginger/Lemon/Chive Bars 35.99

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