By Wanda Lenoir
Think Small. These two little words help connect consumers to thousands of small businesses—they need our support. Many operations are owned by veterans who faithfully served and protected our country. Battle Bars has a simple mission—offer healthy snack bars that taste good. Never forgetting to help others, purchases also support Operation Enduring Warrior, an organization that empowers veterans and first responders across the country.
Briefly give an overview of roles and responsibilities and previous experiences.
Our management team is uniquely fortunate and set up for success due to our backgrounds in different industries and professions. Two of us (Ian & Alex) are military veterans who understand the communities within and those that support the U.S. military in the general public.
Colin Sparks, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, brings over seven years of experience both in general marketing and in the CPG/nutrition bar space, enabling us to accurately communicate the benefits of our products vs. the downsides of others on the market. He can keep a finger on the pulse of ongoing marketing trends and contributes to our ability to adapt quickly to a changing online environment.
The snack category is highly competitive. What motivated you to manufacture gluten-free protein bars?
Our team was primarily motivated by what we saw as a lack of clean, truly healthy options in the market. The majority of brands utilize artificial sugars or sugar alcohols that aren’t necessarily being reflected as such on the label. Taste and freshness were an easy target for us since our experiences with most protein bar brands typically led to a chalky, undesirable taste that was fairly hard to finish. Our goal was to make something that tasted better, was better for you and didn’t make you regret your choice after!
In what ways do Battle Bars differ from competitors?
A 100% commitment to no artificial sugars, collagen + antioxidant-infused, and a proprietary marshmallow blend combined with our whey crisp base leads to a great tasting bar that doesn’t make you feel like you’re eating a protein bar.
Who is the primary target audience? The health-conscious? Athletes?
The bars were originally designed based on our experiences in deployed environments overseas, where the need for fuel on the go is always important. As a result, it’s a natural and easy step to bring this idea back to the average gym-goer or athlete, who needs a constant source of fuel that is both nutritious and delicious. But, it’s not limited there – many of our customers use our bars as a meal replacement for breakfast or lunch, pre/post-workouts, and anything in between! There is no limit to their use, and all audiences can find a part of their day that the bars can fill for them.
Share your thoughts on the growing demand for natural snacks/protein bars and products made in the USA.
Historically, the idea of “American Made” hints at a level of quality that is unmatched or hard to match. We intend to maintain this reputation and contribute to keeping both jobs and origins of our products here in the United States. If we can help grow our communities as a result, it’s a win for us, the consumer, and those that rely on American industries and companies for employment.
Where is the company located? How many employees?
Our business is primarily based in Florida, but we also have a key footprint established in the city of Chicago, where our Partner & CEO Alex Witt owns a military-themed gym that also serves as our Battle Bars H.Q. Currently, we have three employees, but many relationships with contractors and graphic designers.
How does the company maintain the quality of products and promote the brand?
It was essential for us to love and consume our products just as much as our customers did. As a result, we have a very deliberate process in place when testing new flavors, measuring overall quality, and providing the service to back up the quality product. Much of our business has spread by word of mouth. This has enabled us to link up with gyms and fitness centers across the company to sell our bars. We also work with our veteran/first responder charity, Operation Enduring Warrior, to cross-promote and talk about the critical issues that they represent.
What is your philosophy on the importance of customer service? What role does customer feedback play in the product assortment?
Our customer service is a particular point of pride. When you write to us, you’re not writing to a regular customer service representative – you’re speaking directly with one of the company’s founders. This contact enables us to directly measure feedback that we are receiving, which can then be brought forward to our productions to either make changes or continue something if the input is well received! We’ve also had several customers send us excellent ideas for products, flavors, or marketing plans, and we can implement them. It’s inspiring and encouraging to have an incredibly supportive customer base such as ours.
What are the biggest challenges small businesses face in today’s retail environment? Has COVID-19 impacted the company’s growth strategy?
There are thousands of small businesses that continue to struggle with the ongoing shutdowns across the country. Some perceive that a lack of more support to prevent them from permanently shutting down is a particular sticking point. In Chicago alone, it’s reported that some 11,000 small businesses recently shut down for good. We continue to support our partners and local businesses as best we can.
While our overall growth strategy was not immediately affected by COVID-19 as we are primarily sold online, we mostly saw impacts on logistics networks. We re-evaluated how we shipped our products and became more vigilant regarding trends or long-term delays with certain carriers.
What is the most important thing you want the readers of Cutting Edge to know about Battle Bars and your company?
Battle Bars is a veteran-owned and operated company. We are grateful to every American who supports local small businesses, as well as to those that have helped us grow since our inception. We are 100% committed to the integrity and quality of our products and to better our community. When you order from us, not only are you receiving an American-made product, you are receiving a guarantee of satisfaction with your order, or we will make it right!
Ian Sparks, Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer, is a currently serving Army Captain and has been for 13 years. A veteran of Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, after his return from his latest deployment, he and Colin realized there was a gap in the industry and that Battle Bars could fill it. He applies his experience in operations and project management to the daily operations of the brand.
Alex Witt, Partner & Chief Executive Officer, is a Navy veteran who, after completing his tour of duty in Iraq, became a successful veteran entrepreneur who helped lead a logistics start-up to success. He currently retains ownership stakes in several businesses and regularly donates to first responder-focused charitable organizations. He is the founder of 10.40.10. Fitness in Chicago, where the military/first responder theme resonates with the local community. A customer of Battle Bars first recognized the game-changing possibility of Battle Bars and joined the team in 2019.