A local healthy snacks company is mixing things up.
Gratisfied, which launched in early 2019 making packaged snack bars, has put a new spin on its original Empower Bar product by offering a baking mix that customers can use to make the bars on their own.
The company ceased in-house production of Empower Bars earlier this year and recently launched the baking mix, which features seed flours, cinnamon and other ingredients. A single 8.9-ounce pouch sells for about $15 on the company’s website. Customers provide their own eggs, oil and sweetener.
The change came as a means to keep Gratisfied in business as it navigated the pandemic and related challenges in recent years, founder and owner Sara McGlothlin said.
“The way the bars were made, which is by hand, was laborious and we experienced some turnover on that side of the business,” McGlothlin said. “A lot of our energy was being spent on hiring for those positions and inventory and cost management, and throw in the supply chain issues and the rising costs of ingredients. Basically, our attention was so focused on staying afloat on the production side we weren’t really able to grow the way we wanted to.”
Gratisfied in its early days explored a contracted manufacturer arrangement but was unsuccessful in its attempt to find a company that would make the bars to the company’s specifications, with the desire for fresh eggs a particular sticking point. That motivated Gratisfied to embark on in-house production in the first place.
“It did maintain the integrity of the texture and the nutrition,” McGlothlin said of the in-house production. “But the way they were produced was our Achilles Heel because they had a short shelf life and they couldn’t really be scaled.”
In March, Gratisfied closed down its production at Hatch Kitchen, a Manchester food-and-beverage business incubator. The company continues to lease space at Hatch for fulfillment operations.
“Shutting down the kitchen was very tough and I had this extreme thought of, ‘Oh we’re not going to make it.’ It was during that stress the thought of making a baking mix came to me. It came to me driving in my car,” she said.
The restructuring resulted in layoffs for most of the company’s roughly dozen employees. At this point it’s just McGlothlin and a part-time assistant.
McGlothlin said the change means she can focus more energy on sales and marketing to grow the business.
The company launched the baking mix in July. An out-of-state contracted firm makes the mixes, which are expected to be Gratisfied’s primary offering moving forward.
Gratisfied continues to sell its pre-packaged Oat Bar and Granola Cluster products, which are made by a third-party manufacturer. The company is seeking a manufacturer to restart production of its pre-packaged grain-free vegan bars.
The company’s products can be found in about 25 brick-and-mortar locations throughout the country, and locally includes stores like Libbie Market and Ellwood Thompson’s, McGlothlin said.
Gratisfied’s products started to appear in out-of-state stores in early 2020 as part of an aggressive market expansion push that didn’t pan out.
McGlothlin said the baking mix has been a hit with customers so far. The new product has also, in a way, brought the nearly-four-year-old company full circle.
“It was a natural, organic succession, if you will. I had created the Empower Bar years ago in my home kitchen,” she said.
Gratisfied isn’t the only homegrown health food company to recently make an addition to its product line. Kim Baker Foods started to sell a lentil-based brownie product last month.