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Meet Brenden Schaefer of Bright Foods

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenden Schaefer.

Brenden, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Food is my professional and personal passion, and I also love cycling and yoga – which basically means that I eat a lot. For years, I looked for something that tasted great and left me feeling great, but I always came up empty. Bars were chock-full of sugar and heavily processed, juices had a ton of sugar and no fiber (giving a big spike and then crash), and it was too difficult to eat fresh fruits or vegetables during the day; I didn’t have time between meetings to constantly be washing my hands and dealing with leftover peels.

I wanted to get fresh food in a way that fit my life and started thinking of different ideas. A fresh snack bar was the most appealing to me – something that I could hold in my hand and eat on the go, but that was made only with the stuff that made me feel good – organic veggies, fruits, and nuts, along with the superfoods which I didn’t have a way to work into my diet.

I sketched it out on a piece of paper, and that was the beginning of the Bright Foods adventure. Nearly a year after our official launch, you can now find our bars in the refrigerated sections of Whole Foods, Erewhon, and Lassen’s markets, and online at our website, www.brightfoods.com. We have more flavors and retail partners coming on soon!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not – starting any company is a difficult endeavor, and creating something completely new is especially challenging. 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 taste great for 90 days without baking the product?

And most importantly, how do you make it taste delicious? Once we had gotten our first prototypes (and tested them at a local farmers market), we came up against 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, looked everywhere to find affordable equipment, and went through a ton of trial and error.

A key factor was figuring out how to use High-Pressure Processing (HPP) to extend the shelf life of the product – it maintains the flavors and nutrients, which is why the first comment people make when trying our bars is, “this tastes like real food!” No one had ever used this before on whole fruits and vegetables, so there was a really steep learning curve.

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. Lastly but importantly, a big challenge has been learning how to describe to people what this product is.

A juice in a bar, but with all the fiber and way less sugar? A salad in a bar? After talking to a lot of people, we decided to call our product a Whole Food Bar, because that’s exactly what it is – real, whole food in bar form.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Our goal at Bright Foods is to make it convenient and delicious to eat real, clean, whole food, wherever your day takes you. While our product is a bar in shape, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends between it and other snack bars. What we make is much more like a bowl of fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts, along with superfoods like turmeric and probiotics.

And 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 and coconut (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 bars are never baked. It’s real food to go, and they taste great and leave you feeling great. I’m most proud of the culture that we’ve created at our company. We’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, we have a lot of healthy debate without ego, and we value creativity, intellectual honesty, and collaboration – along with, of course, moving fast and getting stuff done!

If you had to start over, what would you have done differently?
I would have found someone early on who understood food production. Making food at scale is hard; working with organic fruits and vegetables is harder, and creating something that’s never been done before is even more difficult.

I struggled and made a lot of mistakes, and it was only with the help of some amazing colleagues (including my business partner, Adam Razik) that we were able to launch these products. But, it’s all part of the journey.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jennifer Chong

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