Bart and Ashleigh Mitchell started Goodkid Foods out of sheer necessity: They were tired of feeding their kids crap. Sugary crap to be exact. The parents of two young kids found themselves relying on snack bars that often seemed more than like dessert than a healthy nosh between meals.

So Ashleigh began baking. She developed numerous recipes for healthy snack bars before landing on one that her kids devoured. That was 2011. Now you can find Goodkid bars in Nordstrom eBars, at Mt. Bachelor’s cash registers and even Whole Foods. BendTECH sat down with Bart Mitchell to learn more about the couple’s plans for their snack bar startup and to try a few Goodkid bars ourselves.

Startup: Goodkid Foods
Founders: Bart and Ashleigh Mitchell
Started: 2012
Headquarters: Bend

How did you get started? We weren’t happy with the options we had for snack bars for our two kids, now ages 7 and 3. Not only are most of them packed with sugar, but they also often had sports messages on them. We think every kid is different, and the snacks didn’t necessarily need to promote just excelling at athletics. So Ashleigh started to bake her own.

Does she have a baking background? No, not really. She’s a pilates instructor and self-taught when it comes to baking. She started with her own recipe. They’re mostly almond-butter based. She’d make in them in small batches and we’d eat them. Our own kids and their friends were the first taste testers. They liked them a lot and we realized pretty quickly that we could make a business out of this.

How do you describe Goodkid bars? They’re really low in sugar — they only have about 5 grams of sugars, which is half the amount of other popular brands. We’re pleased that the flavors don’t sound like desserts. They’re lemon blueberry, oatmeal raisin and apple cinnamon.

snacks ... not sugar.
snacks … not sugar.

So how did you move from baking them in your kitchen to mass production? We knew we had to tweak the recipe so that they would have more of a shelf life. Not add preservatives, but just make some changes. Then we worked on the packaging. We were actually ready to go to market in early 2013, but then we looked at our packaging and felt like it didn’t really represent us. We were touting the bars as brain food and we were headed down the wrong path. So we stopped and took a full year to figure out our brand and the message we wanted to communicate.

Spending a year on packaging sounds luxurious, especially in some startup circles (tech) where moving fast is typically the priority. Was it worth it? I think we would have failed quickly if we went with our first round of packaging. It was important that we portrayed the inherent goodness of food and the joy of kids. tbd (#inbend!) really helped us get our messaging in line. We ditched the brain stuff, but did focus on the fact that these are really low in sugar. We did our first production run in May 2014.

bart use this
Bart and Ashleigh Mitchell, owners of Goodkid Foods.

How you funded? We’ve been funding it ourselves.

Are you raising money? Not at the moment. We did participate in the Angel Oregon conference, and we made it to the second stage of the concept stage companies. But to be honest, I realized that we weren’t really looking just investors. We want partners, someone with knowledge in the food industry who could help us grow in addition to providing investment.

And how’s business been? We started with a slow, local approach just selling in Bend stores such as Newport Market, CE Lovejoy’s, Food 4 Less and Footzone. We got a lot of feedback and that was helpful. Then toward the end of this summer we began pursuing accounts out of town. We’re now in Nordstrom eBars, New Seasons and we’ve been approved to sell into Whole Foods. We’ve also signed on with Amazon Prime Pantry, Diapers.com, Vinemarket.com, Abesmarket.com, and we’re featured on Zulily.com.

Is it mostly individual bar sales? Yes for now. We’ve focused mostly in food service, places where we’re sold at the cash register. In fact, Mt. Bachelor was our biggest seller last year. But we’re just finishing a 5-bar pack and we hope to push into grocery retailers by spring.

What next for Goodkid Food? We were just at the Fancy Food show and we saw a lot of interest. The people from (an unnamed Big Bar company) kept coming over to sample our bars. I finally had to tell them I knew who they were. Our goal isn’t to stay small, I’d like to be a big company and sell Goodkid Food nationwide.

 

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley