Interview: Mike Rosenberg and his Garuka Bars

 

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I got in touch with Mike Rosenberg; owner, founder, creator, head honcho, and el presidente of Garuka Bars, an all natural energy bar made from local ingredients, to chat about energy bars, Vermont honey, and gorillas:

So, to start off with these bars are delicious. Absolutely amazing, I recommend them to every person I see. I’m especially excited about the fact that the original recipe doesn’t use any kind of tree nuts or soy in it (I’m allergic to both, and it is so hard to find a god energy bar without either!). Congrats on an amazing product. Tell us a little about how and when your company got it’s start? How were you influenced ? I am a little bit of an adrenaline junkie.  I ski almost everyday in the winter and wakeboard almost everyday in the summer. I also run, play soccer and do a little climbing, so you can imagine that when I tore my knee wakeboarding I was going a little stir crazy.  I decided to try to do something productive with my forced hiatus, so I started learning to cook more proficiently.  I went from stuffed flank steaks to whole grain Italian breads to chocolate raspberry muffins. Then I moved on to energy bars.  I never intended to start a business, but after about 6 months of well-intentioned heckling from my friends, I launched a website offering free samples.  By the summer I was doing farmers markets, and then that fall I had my first retail account. The rest is history!

Where are you based out of? The business is based right off the back side of Jay Peak, in my home town, Montgomery Center.

How long have you been in business? Since March of 2011.

Who are the head honchos? What did they do before Garuka Bars? You’re looking at him!  Well, obviously not really.  But it’s just me.  Before this I worked in the IT department at Magic Hat, and now I work with a handful of Vermont vendors to bring you delicious, all-natural handmade energy bars.

mike at garuka

Mike Rosenberg, head honcho at Garuka Bar

How large is your business? We turned two years old in March, and we produced a little over 15,000 bars in 2012.  That’s a quarter ton of VT made honey!

Do you have any mottos that you base your products or maybe your work ethics off?  I’ve always tried to make Garuka Bars a community oriented business, whether that means contributing to global non-profits and local fund raising events, interacting with customers on a first name basis, or using environmentally responsible packaging.  I’m a firm believer that if we all do a little, we can do a lot.

On your website you make a big buzz (get it!?) about your honey, it’s great that you’re keeping your ingredients local! Nice one!  We do make a big buzz about it because it’s an amazing Vermont product.  It’s all part of that community oriented focus.  It’s important to me that Garuka Bars is as much a product of its community as it is a product for its community.  I want people to be proud that the product they are enjoying is something that is a result of the community they helped create.  CVA and Garuka Bars wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Vermont, so why shouldn’t we give credit where it’s due!

We are largely an online business, but we also sell locally where our supporters have asked for it.  You can find us at more obvious places around Burlington like City Market, OGE, and Healthy Living, but also where you might not expect us, like CVU High School, Dealer.com, Maglianero Cafe, and Petra Cliffs.  A full list of our accounts is on our site.

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Can you tell us a little about the ‘Endangered Editions’ bars? Endangered Edition bars are limited edition flavors that I release in a 24 hour online flash sale. Lots of people from the Garuka Bars community would always ask when I would come out with a new flavor. It would be really hard for me to manage production of more than one flavor full time, but I figure the least I can do is give them something new to enjoy every few months. Our email subscribers get early access to the sale, and then the notice goes out to our social media followers.  It’s a fun way of thanking all the supporters that have gotten Garuka Bars to where it is now.  The only catch is that you have to act fast, our last flavor, Pumpkin Pie, sold out in less than 8 hours!

Nutrition is obviously an important part of any athlete’s diet, how do your bars contribute to the needs of the every day athlete that you market for? The first thing you can tell by looking at a Garuka Bar is that it’s made from real food. It’s no secret your body performs better on real food ingredients than it does artificial and synthetic ones.  I’ve worked hard to perfect a formula that provides a balanced nutritional approach to energy.  Garuka Bars have a balanced amount of fiber, protein, carbs, and fats.  All things your body needs to perform.  The lynchpin to this whole equation is the raw honey, it’s super low on the glycemic index, meaning it provides almost instant energy with no peak or crash, just consistent, long lasting, primal energy.

Could you tell us more about how and what organizations your company helps contribute to such as the International Gorilla Conservation Program? Our main focus is raising awareness about Gorilla Conservation.  There are only about 800 mountain gorillas like Garuka left in the world!  We donate 1% of our profits to the IGCP, and that money goes towards things like habitat protection, conservation educations, preventing poaching, and medical care for gorillas.  When we have the ability, we also try to support local non-profits and charity athletic events.

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What do you see for the future of Garuka Bars, any new projects or ideas coming up? Well for starters, it’s a whole new year of Endangered Editions!  I’ve got some really good flavors lined up.  Also, we just launched our new retail display boxes, and I’m looking into a more durable recyclable plastic wrapper (instead of compostable) that will please my more outdoorsy supporters.  It has a built in pull tab like a pack of gum, so it’s a lot easier to open, and it will stand up to the Spartan Race beatings a lot better.

Do you currently sponsor any athletes?  Currently the only athlete we sponsor is Margaret Schlachter, a professional obstacle racer from the blog Dirt in Your Skirt.  Margaret approached me very early on about a partnership, when I was barely in any retail stores and had no budget whatsoever.  I had to politely decline the offer, but it soon became apparent that she was going to be our #1 rep with our without an official sponsorship.  As Garuka Bars has grown, I’ve tried to repay her support with a continuing increase in commitment on our end.  I’ve always dreamed of supporting a group of people like Margaret, who would work together to help each other grow and network in their different sports, while also supporting the Garuka Bar brand and community based ideology.  I haven’t found the right people yet, but I know they’re out there.

There you have it folks! Get out there and let Garuka Bars fuel your adventures. Purchasing them means supporting local business as well as raising awareness about gorilla conservation and habitat protection.