Do you reach for energy bars when you’re snacking on the go? How about a protein bar before a tough workout?
Pro athlete Taylor Collins and his wife, Katie, always did, until they realized that all that sugar and those highly processed ingredients weren’t really giving them energy – they were draining it!
Determined to create a snack that was truly healthy, energizing, and made with REAL food, they launched Epic Bars. Epic Bars are gluten-free, Paleo friendly, low in sugar and made with 100% grass fed animal based protein. To learn more about the story and the people behind Epic Bars, I chatted with founder Taylor Collins.
How did the idea for Epic Bars come to be? As well as the health benefits.
The idea for Epic Bars came from a shared desire for a product that didn’t exist yet. Katie and I are big outdoor fanatics and love endurance sports. We have eaten our fare share of sugary bars and gels and eventually couldn’t eat them any longer. It was sugar overload! We both craved something savory, something low in sugar, and most importantly, a product that had whole foods on the ingredient label.
We started imagining what this product would look like, and it was very clear to us that it had to start with an animal-based protein. We wanted to create the ultimate healthy snack, so we decided to use 100% grass fed animals. The nutritional profile of a grass-fed cow is very much superior to a conventional feedlot cow. Grass-fed animals contain 3-5x the amounts of certain vitamins and minerals compared to grain-fed! They are also treated more humanely, and when managed correctly, create a net positive return on the environment. Additionally, with Epic Bars we are tapping into a very ancient source of energy. When you take a step back to reflect, it’s very clear that our human ancestors have evolved consuming diets high in animal protein and fat for over 200,000 years. Only recently have human diets shifted to become high in refined sugars, carbohydrates, and processed protein isolates. Our bodies have evolved to identify and digest animal protein unbelievably well – it’s encoded in our DNA.
We have seen a lot of nutrition bars based with fruits and nuts but this is new territory for many! What challenges have you faced?
The most common challenge comes from people who might not be current on the most up-to-date medical research. Animal meat and animal fat got a bad reputation for a long time and that is still ingrained in popular culture. So, it is sometimes difficult for people to reconsider the outdated medical research that connects saturated animal fats to heart disease and stroke. I think this is slowly shifting, however, and more people are adapting their diets to include more low-carb, whole foods (like the Paleo diet).
The other obvious challenge is for people to comprehend what our product is. People see our wrapper and they think "energy or protein bar.” Before Epic, "energy" bars were only fruit and nuts. So this is obviously difficult for some people to leave their comfort zone and be open minded enough to try.
Our bars are not for everyone, and we tell people that all the time. We think some people thrive on animal protein where others thrive on plant-based material.
Tell us a little about your background. Have you owned a business before?
My background is in rehabilitation. I was a physical therapist interested in nutrition. My partner's (and wife’s) background was in psychology and women and gender studies. We have always been entrepreneurs, and eight years ago we started a commercial recycling company in Austin, TX. We operated that for 5 years during college. Three years ago, shortly after selling the recycling company we started a whole food, plant-based energy bar company called Thunderbird Energetica. We have always supported each other and shared a mutual passion to make a meaningful and beneficial impact on the world. We are also two of the most competitive athletes you will ever meet. I think that mentality has helped us tremendously as we apply much of the same thought process to running a business.
When did you realize that Epic Bars made it, (so to say?) Did you ever have doubts?
We realized Epic Bars "made it" on the day we launched the product to the public. In truly EPIC fashion, we launched the bars at Natural Products Expo West (the largest natural foods show in the world). Within the first 2 hours of the show, we had signed the 2 largest national accounts in the country! It was amazing! Everyone was talking about it, people’s reactions were incredible, and we walked away with a "NEXT forecast" awarded by New Hope 360 (the organizers of the event). The NEXT forecast was awarded to only a handful of companies that the show organizers felt were doing something truly innovative and category creating.
What is something readers would be surprised to know about you?
One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to sit around a fire with my wife (business partner) and our chocolate lab after a long hard day at the office. We have a tradition where we howl at the moon for up to 10 minutes. You can feel the stress melt away and our wolf pack bonding. I love it.