Vendor Profile: Fresh Bar
Open your pantry and pull out 11 ingredients from your shelves: oats, honey, applesauce, dry milk, bananas, raisins, orange juice, almonds, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix all together, pour into pan, bake, cut and refrigerate. Make enough for one thousand bars.
Do your bars stand up to Five Friends Food Fresh Bar? It took twin brothers, Will Handke and Ross Pomeroy (different last names, but twins none-the-less), dozens and dozens of batches before they devised the right combination for flavor and texture. They also kept in mind freshness, portability and food safety as regulated by the state of Minnesota. Fresh Bar maintains the nutritional values of what makes a great snack bar.
Fresh Bar Quest
“I was sitting in zoology class and feeling hungry, but I didn’t want to eat the [snack bar] in my backpack,” says Pomeroy, co-owner and manufacturer of Five Friends Food that produces four varieties of refrigerated snack bars. His competing interests—satisfying his appetite and avoiding the dry chomp of another convenience bar—drove him to create something different.
Pomeroy’s quest for a fresh, chewy-not-crunchy, snack bar led the science major to ding around in his parents’ kitchen. Pomeroy wondered if the snack could go into his backpack in the morning before class and still be in good shape for an afternoon break.
Being the supportive twin that he is, along with curious, Handke elbowed his way into the scullery, too, and together they began to concoct what has grown into a profitable business. The gregarious twins invited a few other friends to share in the profits as well as the manufacturing portion, which culminated in the business entity, Five Friends Food. They launched their product into grocery stores in March, 2012.
Production night happens twice a week. In rented space at a commercial kitchen in north Minneapolis, Kindred Kitchen, the five friends roll up their sleeves, scrub their hands and set to work. The Five Friends Food logo is not a marketing ploy; it represents five long-time friends who finance and operate the business.
Handke says, “They’re loyal, hardworking, intelligent, resourceful, fun to be around and—most importantly—were as excited as we were by this opportunity. It has always been a dream of ours to do something big, something special, with friends—and we’re very lucky to have friends like these who share that dream.” They joined with a how-can-I-help-out mindset, not one of what-is-this-gonna-get-me.
Their complementary work styles and single-mindedness at completing the task at hand with excellence makes for a fast-paced evening. With a history dating back to their days in grade-school in Mankato, Minnesota, they know one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Jobs of measuring, cutting, operating machines for mixing and baking, and packaging are all shared amicably.
Currently selling their product in 38 locations, Handke relished the fact that he had control of his vocation. He created his own motivations, as well as set his own hours.
“I was frustrated about my previous job,” said Handke, “I was going nine-to-five and there was no incentive.”
The student who studied history and theology transformed into a business-minded whiz who co-founded the company and works for Five Friends Food fulltime. He handles all sales, completes administrative tasks and manages delivery. “In the back of 1995 Honda Odyssey, 26 miles per gallon,” he says with a wry grin.
They want the business to grow, but as they work toward that objective, Pomeroy still works as a science writer. With his background, he figures out the balance of carbohydrates and protein in each variety of bar.
“A lot of the flavors are me messing around with ingredients,” Pomeroy says. Since they have a refrigerated product, their choices are not limited. “We can use all sorts of ingredients,” he confirms.
They also share a desire to succeed. Pomeroy says, “It’s about being driven and wanting to do it. We enjoy working with each other and creating. Fresh Bar allows us to do this.”
In the kitchen, Mike Steffan, the youngest of the quintet of friends, nimbly packs each trio of bars into a sealed bag and then into a slim box. Austin Hinkle and Tom Johnson complete the five-some.
The Fresh Bar container itself reflects the energy and joviality of the company. From the tagline, “The bar has been raised,” to the brief company bio on the back, “Five Friends, One Story,” Five Friends Food reflects the company mission: To do something different that people enjoy.
Susan Budig, also known as The Mindful Poet, writes as a music journalist, feature writer and news journalist for local newspapers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry appears in “Writers Digest;” “Music & Vision;” “Classical Poets;” Thirteen Blackbirds Poetry blog; Art & Earth arts blog, and “Friends of the Arts” newsletter. Find her poetry on her blog susanbudigs-poetry.blogspot.com.