Snacking has taken on a greater significance in the U.S. diet than ever before, as people are looking for something they can eat on the go. While this sector was once dominated by candy bars and other ”junk food,” consumers are looking for healthier snacking options. Two products in particular have helped grow this category: meat snacks and protein bars.
EPIC Provisions has managed to blend those two trends, creating a tasty alternative to the traditional protein bar. Whether it’s the Bison Bacon Cranberry bar or the Chicken Sriracha flavor, EPIC’s protein bars combine all-natural meats and ingredients like almonds and berries to create tasty combinations. The company’s unique products have proven so popular that the company was acquired by General Mills earlier this year.
“Our company philosophy is to ‘feed others as you wish to be fed,’” says co-founder and owner Taylor Collins. “Adding the fruit, nuts, and spices allowed us to stay away from using sugar and other preservatives inside the product. It also created an amazing texture and a more well-rounded snack.”
Interestingly, Collins and Katie Forrest were vegetarians before they were founding a meat-based protein bar company. Their high-carb, low-fat diet began making them ill, and adopting a vegan and then a raw food diet just made matters worse. Eventually, they turned their health around with a paleo diet that incorporated healthy animal fats and grass-fed protein, and a marketing idea was born.
“We were both extremely conscious about where our meat was coming from and had a difficult time finding meat that met our standards. After experimenting with early prototypes we knew that we had created something special that was nowhere else in the market,” Collins explains.
EPIC meat bars will not be found in the jerky section of a grocery aisle. Instead, they are marketed along with granola and energy bars, as a point of differentiation from other meat companies.
“In our mind, we were creating a “real protein bar” and for that reason, wanted it to be merchandised with the energy bars,” Collins says.
The bars cover the basic proteins — Beef Apple Bacon, Chicken Sesame BBQ — but they also feature more exotic items like Lamb Currant Mint, Wild Boar Bacon and Venison Sea Salt Pepper. Collins says that the company’s mission is to expand the animal kingdom inside the grocery store.
“We believe that eating a greater diversity of Mother Nature’s bounties is the best way to nourish our body. We think outside the usual protein offerings because we want everyday people to have access to some of the healthiest and tastiest meats on the planet,” he says.
The bars were a quick hit. The company won Best New Brand of 2013 at Natural Products Expo West. EPIC has since gone on to add bone broth, animal oils and a “Hunt and Harvest Mix” that adds jerky pieces to trail mix. “Carnivore Coconut,” for instance, mixes grass-fed beef jerky with toasted coconut flakes.
As the company has expanded the notion of how meat can be used in snack foods, EPIC has partnered with select processors to bring its ideas to market.
“By partnering with a handful of amazing co-packers, we are able to focus our energy and capital on growing the brand rather than dividing that with running a manufacturing plant,” Collins says. “Producing a meat bar is very different from producing an all-meat item. To help get our production plants started, we have made capital investments in special equipment that otherwise they would never own.”