By Ben Wiese | Jun 27, 2022
Organic energy bars and snacks
Bearded Brothers takes a minimalist approach to the energy bar: organic fruit, organic seeds, organic nuts, and delicious results.
Founders Chris Herbert and Caleb Simpson started handcrafting product from their home kitchen in 2011 as a result of the market lacking what they desired: clean, trusted, and nutritious fuel.
"They were looking for a bar that was simple, organic, tasted good, and suited their needs," says Meyer, who joined the business in June 2018. "They didn't see a bar that suited their needs, so they made one."
Flash forward more than a decade and consumers can now find Bearded Brothers bars through retailers such as REI, Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, and Amazon. With its growth, the company has remained committed to working with U.S.-based family farms and sourcing directly whenever possible.
In 2018, the Austin-based company shook the trees in search of across-the-board improvement. They refreshed their branding in hopes of growing their audience, reworked product formulas to ensure better shelf-life, and streamlined internal manufacturing practices to increase efficiency.
"We've really tried to improve the process and get it to a place that’s as efficient as possible while ensuring that the food and safety remains best-in-class," says Meyer. "We've always been good at making bars, but we also saw an opportunity to improve the manufacturing side. We looked for higher-powered equipment to increase our capacity and efficiency. We moved locations and built out a new warehouse space in North Austin. We also did a little bit of re-formulation to not only help with the taste and texture, but to help with our manufacturing capabilities."
Meyer adds, "We've also launched new product lines -- including a kid's line -- and most recently, we launched a bar crumbles line, which allows us to not only offer our product in a different form, but it helps us eliminate our food waste while producing bars."
The Bearded Brothers brand has come a long ways since the home kitchen days. After operating out of a shared 7,000-square-foot commissary kitchen, they've since moved into a 10,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse space of their own, complete with large-scale mixing, extruding, and flow-wrapping stations.
In addition to having the warehouse space, owning their manufacturing allows Bearded Brothers to eliminate some variables in their quality control process -- a necessity for a company that has built a reputation on quality.
"We pride ourselves in the quality of the product, the quality of the ingredients, creating the product in-house, and owning that part of the supply chain," says Meyer. "We feel like we're the best to handle the quality assurance by making the bars as well. It's another way to make sure that what we send out in the market is top-notch."
Bearded Brothers has yet to rent out its manufacturing space to other businesses, though there have been discussions on the matter.
"While we have thought about [renting out the space], for us, it can be a bit of a distraction," says Meyer. "We have the potential to do it, but it's always a balance of asking whether something is going to be a distraction while we grow the brand versus trying to utilize any excess capacity we might have."
Challenges: Currently, Bearded Brothers is in a push-and-pull relationship with its growth: without proper pacing, the business can strain and suffer.
"Oftentimes, other companies are outsourcing their production," says Meyer. "For us, it's making sure that as we grow, as we have more orders, we are able to ensure that we're keeping up from a manufacturing and fulfillment perspective. We must ensure that we're growing at a healthy rate and not overgrow. You have to be good at planning -- not just what things will look like over the course of a year, but over the next three to five years."
Opportunities: At the end of 2021, Bearded Brothers began selling new monthly-to-seasonal flavors and product lines to feel out what the market is calling for most. The monthly-to-seasonal lines are an opportunity to allow consumers to communicate what is most desired without the company committing too much to something too soon.
“We mainly do bars right now, but I think there's a big opportunity to continue to grow outside of just bars and offer the same ethos of clean and simple ingredients and organic product that you feel great about eating and sharing," says Meyer. "That can be in all kinds of places in a grocery store. We're able to create new flavors or product lines in our production facility and put it on the website and get feedback from customers while simultaneously evaluating what is and isn't working. It's just a really good way to do little tests to see what works."
Needs: With continued growth comes the need for a discerning eye when determining which potential opportunities are wise to pursue and which are best left untouched. The fulcrum of the current tension lies in the luxury of having the option to tinker with flavors, product lines, and concepts. There's a cost to spending too much time in the lab, but it remains an invaluable part of the company's future.
"One of the benefits of owning your own manufacturing is that you can be nimble and try new things. But as we grow, we also have to make sure that we don't overextend ourselves. We have to focus on the things that are working well and double down on them, rather than getting too distracted by new flavors that may or may not be a great use of our time."