Bakers Journal

Features Nutrition
Pandemic snacking on trend

How a dietician developed a better-for-you granola bar


January 28, 2021
By Bakers Journal


Topics
Through intensive market research and networking, a Canadian entrepreneur created a healthy snack that’s now popular in North America. Photo: healthy crunch

Between social distancing and health concerns surrounding COVID-19, many consumers are concerned about their wellbeing. The turn towards healthy snacking has never been more on-point: Many bakery customers feel they can fight potential infection by strengthening their immune system or making careful choices in their snacking habits. By focusing on healthier diets, many in the baking industry can benefit from supplying healthy choices for their clients. 

This trend towards better-for-you snacking has been studied by Mars Foods, as their recent purchase of KIND Bars indicates a move from indulgent foods towards a more healthful option. Many bakers can profit from offering gut-friendly, or immune boosting ingredients. One Canadian nutritionist-turned-snacking-entrepreneur spoke of her motivation creating “Healthy Crunch,” an allergen-safe granola bar.

Julie Bednarski has training in the food industry on top of her credentials as a registered dietitian. “I would look at products and I’d be like, why can’t we have a better product with cleaner ingredients that also tastes good?”

Bednarski’s nutritional expertise paired with her work experience at Unilever, which helped her understand packaged goods ingredients, regulatory compliance and health claims. The ball really began rolling once she enrolled in culinary school. “I really learned the culinary aspect of how to really balance a product and how to combine all the different flavours to make a product that’s really tasty.”

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Her company began in 2014 after some consumer research. After experimenting with some potential recipes from her home kitchen, she had her friends test out some of the treats and give her feedback. “Within one year of that, we actually launched nationally in Starbucks locations,” recalled Bednarski. “That was kind of our really pivotal moment; I connected at a woman’s networking event with someone who knew someone from Starbucks and she tried the products. And, and next thing you know we had 25,000 points of distribution within Canada.”

The first step towards creating a marketable product lay in extensive research. “I actually started developing the granola bar over two years ago. We did a competitive analysis and looked at all the competitors here in Canada ¬ — not only in Canada, but outside of Canada as well —  and we saw that there wasn’t actually a low sugar granola bar on the market that was geared specifically for kids that was allergen free.”  

Fully aware of how a “health halo” can affect consumers’ relationships with food, Bednarski set out to market her much healthier granola bar. “I think that a lot of products out on the market say that they’re healthy and then you look at their nutritional label, you’re like, ‘wow this has 25 per cent sugar in it.’ There’s hundreds of names for sugar…I will look at granola bars that call themselves ‘healthy’ and then they would have four or five different sugars as the first ingredient.”

When COVID-19 hit, Healthy Crunch was lucky to be its own manufacturer and had “good control of our supply chain,” by keeping most of the ingredients, with the exception of tropical ingredients such as coconut, local.  Bednarski feels that her company has thrived partially because of the pandemic, and with a sharp eye on the news and close ties to her suppliers, she was able to thrive in spite of it. 

 “We manufacture here in Mississauga, but we source as much locally as possible,” explained Bednarski. “We try to work with many local vendors, and COVID has also taught us that working with as many people as locally as possible is the key to success. Really looking at your supply chain and, everyone in the food industry has got a good sort of wake up call. Even retailers are saying, ‘let’s try to source as much local as possible from our from our products and our suppliers,’ because if another wave does hit, and they can’t get products they don’t want to have empty shelves as they did in the past.”

Bednarski’s healthy snack research and local production line has paid off. The Ontario-based company anticipates high growth, and has launched four product lines last year, and as of our chat last year, aims to launch four more product lines. “We’re really looking to build a brand that consumers could see and understand… we’re just looking to continuously grow and innovate everyday foods that consumers will love.”