Ch-ch-ch-chain distribution

A local health food startup is distributing its product to one of the fastest-growing grocery chains in the country.

Health Warrior, which produces foods with chia seeds, announced Tuesday that its chia bars will be on the shelves of every Whole Foods in the country.

“It’s a really special opportunity for Whole Foods to give us. Now we’re getting ready to launch a heavy marketing campaign to support it,” said Shane Emmett, Health Warrior’s chief executive.

Emmett said the company hired a firm out of New York called Jaywalk to do the marketing.

“It’s going to be a lot of different things,” he said. “We’ll be doing a lot of sampling at athletic events. An example of that would be Dominion Riverwalk. We have a big digital plan, and we’re working closely with Whole Foods to do some in-store things.”

Emmett said the company would be marketing through social media as well.

The company’s co-founders, Nick Morris and Dan Gluck, are based in New York, but Emmett and three other staffers are based in Shockoe Slip.

Emmett said producing enough chia bars to push to more than 300 Whole Foods stores wasn’t as challenging as it sounds.

“We sent tens of thousands of bars to Whole Foods locations,” Emmett said. “But we’ve already produced hundreds of thousands of bars. Our online sales have been robust.”

The company has added a salesperson, and former BB&T executive Austin Harris joined Health Warrior as its vice president of finance and operations.

The company was inspired by the book “Born to Run,” which extols the virtues of barefoot running and a back-to-nature approach to health. Some of the characters in the book run more than 50 miles a day, eating only chia seeds, which are rich in nutrients.

The two-year-old firm, whose first customer was Ellwood Thompson’s, has been getting some huge national press. In January, it was the focus of a Wall Street Journal article that revealed that two NFL standouts used the product.

And a few days ago, the bars were featured on a “Today Show” segment about healthy kids’ lunches. You can watch that here.

As for the future, Emmett said the company is working on some new chia products, but “they are big secrets right now.”

For now, the company sells bags of chia seeds as well as the bars that you can find Whole Foods.

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