Lauren Fleshman is a feisty, world-class, super fast middle and long distance runner competing as a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite team. She is also a “smarty pants.”
Yep, she has a BA from Stanford in Biology with a bonus MA in Education.
But Lauren isn’t simply “book smart.” She has combined what she learned in school with her running experience to create a real food refueling option called Picky Bars .
Lauren, along with her husband, triathlete Jesse Thomas, and professional marathoner Stephanie Rothstein, have teamed up to create a gluten and dairy-free energy bar. And the enthusiastic reception from the running community means that the modest experiment in Lauren’s kitchen has turned into a full-blown entrepreneurial adventure.
Lauren graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the product as well as the company:
Where do Picky Bars fit into a diet based on real foods, and do the ingredients substantially differ from other energy bars on the market?
Picky Bars are the perfect blend between a performance bar and a health food bar. The ratios are built for performance but we don’t fill them with cheap soy protein and crushed up vitamins like your typical sports bar. The quality of Picky Bars’ ingredients are what you’d expect from a high end health food bar, but your average health food bars never have the right carb, protein, and fat ratios for sport. Health food bars look good on paper but their ratios set you up for gut distress, uneven energy, and less than ideal recovery. Picky Bars are the bar for active people who care about eating real food, like us!
On the product packaging, what do you mean by, “It’s Freaking Science, Dude?”
Our slogan refers to our nearly impossible-to-achieve combination of qualities: just try to make a 1) gluten- and dairy-free real food bar that is 2) athletically balanced for sport and 3) tastes amazing. It’s really hard! You have to employ all the skills you learned in science to experiment and research. But there is also something tongue in cheek about the fact that you can do all these things without making an amorphous blob of genetically engineered vitamin putty that tastes like brick mortar…you can use real food! Revolutionary! It’s freaking science dude!
Has the running community been supportive of Picky Bars?
We would not have a business if it weren’t for the support of the running community. Period. Runners from all over the country took a chance on us when we were packing our bars in dime bags (food safe ones of course) and printing our own stickers on label paper in my living room. “You trusted the science behind the product, the intention of the product, forgave us when we weren’t perfect, provided constructive feedback, and wanted to support us as people. When you share them with your friends or post a photo on Facebook or twitter, we grow. We literally grow because of you guys. I get overwhelmed thinking about it.”
Picky Bars, if it succeeds, will be as much a testament of the spirit of the running community as anything else.
Where do you go from here: More types of bars, related products for the running market, or expanding your distribution?
After reaching capacity for what we could make in my house, we’ve recently gone all professional and contracted a likeminded bar company to produce our bars for us, Bumblebar. They are still hand made by a small team, but the owners Liz and Glenn have bigger tools and mixers and the machinery that can wrap a bar professionally and put it in a carton, like the bars you see in the supermarket. They can also make WAY more per month than we could in my house. What’s great about this, other than the fact that I got my kitchen back, is that now we can get into more stores! Before, our growth was limited by production, and now that isn’t a problem. Now we can finally follow up on all the great leads we’ve gotten from the running community and have enough bars to go around!
Long story short, our focus is getting into high quality grocery stores, more specialty running stores, and creating our next flavor.
Best of luck to Lauren Fleshman and the Picky Bar team!