Nothing gladdens the soul more than the spring weather. But your spring checklist…oof.
Your calendar is full. Your project list is long. You’re balancing a firehose of enjoyment, work and exhaustion.
Where are you going to get the energy for the months ahead? That’s a good question!
We spend a lot of time thinking about energy here at Jeca, and there’s no greater living laboratory for our founding principles than the springtime.
So we’ve got good news and bad news, and we’re going to deliver them all at once: how you feel is intimately connected to what you eat.
You see, most products in the industry we’ll call Big Energy Bar (many of which have slick, health-based branding meant to divert your eyes from their ingredient lists) pack their products with refined sugars, oils, fillers and other ingredients.
It’s a really good way to mass produce millions of sweet, snackable bars that get sent to every food retailer in the U.S. But it’s objectively terrible for sustained energy levels.
Our company comes from a different place. We’re not built on a foundation of unit economics. We’re built on the biological principles of human energy.
Here are a few thoughts on that subject now that spring has sprung.
Right now you are probably basking in the literal and metaphorical rebirth of our natural environment. You’re letting the rays hit your face. You’re outdoors with a good drink and Jimmy Buffet playing…
Actually, you’re probably remembering your own garden. And wondering if you should get the mower tuned up. The deck needs to be stained again. You need new patio furniture.
Weren’t you planning on losing those winter pounds? Who wants to go for a walk or a run? Outdoor yoga classes anyone?!
There is a lot of variation in how energy is stored and used in the human body, depending largely on the individual person and the activity they’re doing. Endurance athletes require energy on-hand to maintain the quality of their performance. Strength-based athletes need to make sure they are nourishing their muscles and helping them.
But the underlying truths about what humans need to sustain energy levels are more common than you might think. We need carbohydrates on call when we need them, protein to lift us up when we’re down and fat to be there when our other friends are occupied.
When we give our body adequate reserves of energy, we barely notice these things. But when we don’t, it can cause tremendous day-to-day disruption. Exhaustion, gastric distress, headaches and moodiness can all be symptoms of distress rom low stores of energy.
We like to think of our products as a concierge for those biological needs, providing adequate balance but not an oversupply of macronutrients. It’s especially important to consider that balance this time of year, as we respond to the changes in nature by filling our own calendar with activities. Whether or not you end up one of our customers, we hope you’ll carry that lesson with you into the spring and summer!
Balance is key
Fad diets and extreme nutritional trends often create a distorted mythology around a sound principle, such as the keto diet and the benefits of protein. The truth is that all macronutrients have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and the key is to present them to your body in a way that takes advantage of its processing sequence.
Each of our bars has two parts carbohydrate, one part protein and one part fat. Your body grabs the carbs first before moving to the proteins and fat – which means that you can go from yardwork to workout and then relaxation without experiencing unnecessary peaks and valleys.
Most other bars are absolutely loaded with sugar – think of how many times you’ve seen glazed chocolate on the bottom or the top of a bar. We all love chocolate, but it has a dubious place in the energy or fitness industry. Sugar causes your energy levels to rapidly spike and then fall. It’s not an accident when you suddenly can’t keep your eyes open in the middle of the day. That’s your body reacting to the energy sources you’ve given it.
There is a huge differentiation in the sources of those macronutrients, which is an overlooked factor in the broader conversation about nutrition.
Let’s take our company’s best-seller, the Almonds + Dates bar. Most food products that incorporate dates actually use processed ‘date paste,’ while we buy and bake the fruit itself. This is important because inferior dates have diminished nutritional value, especially in the quality of dietary fiber released to your body. Fiber is crucial for the good working order of your digestive system, and the more of it you get, the better you’ll be (ahem) going.
To highlight a few more examples:
- We don’t buy peanut butter. We buy the nuts themselves then roast them and make our own paste.
- Our Coconut + Curry bar uses organic coconut flakes, rather than coconut extract. We intensify the coconut flavor without using additives.
These steps aren’t about being trendy or marketable. They are based on decisions we’ve made as we consider our founding principle: what’s best for your body? The fact is that high quality food ingredients are one of the most practical ways to create sustainable energy levels to meet life’s daily challenges.
We’ve been inside the large facilities that crank out many of the energy bars you’re used to seeing in supermarket aisles. It’s an eye-opening experience.
The truth is the industry can only mass produce the magic of an energy bar – from the taste to the mouthfeel – through the use of unhealthy oils and fillers. Without those things, the factory can’t make them tasty. It can’t make them crunchy. It can’t make them stay together as they’re packaged, shipped and sold.
This touches on the broader conversation about the quality of mass-produced food, but what we’re really trying to underscore is the connection between how food is made and how it makes you feel. We believe that’s a crucial distinction in the energy bar niche, which is approaching $1 billion in the U.S. alone, and marketing itself on the back of convenience and vitality.
We have spent a lot of time in our labs – working with the Rochester Institute of Technology on the intersection of energy bar production, fluidics and thermodynamics – to find alternative solutions to these challenges. This is a really exciting moment for us, as we incorporate machinery and processes that allow us to make more Jeca Energy Bars while maintaining the artisan taste and feel that our customers value so dearly.
A word about us
Like all great stories, this one begins in the kitchen.
Oncology researcher Ree Dolnick was looking for ways to manage her daily energy swings, which often pushed her to the brink of exhaustion for no discernable reason.
Ree found that consistent but small portions of food throughout the day were the best antidote to her problem. But almost every energy bar she could find were stocked with ingredients – corn syrup, refined sugar and oils, to name a few – that her technical training had taught her to avoid.
So Ree decided to solve her own problem. She came up with a product that uses healthy raw ingredients, but with the satisfying texture and mouthfeel that has made energy bars so popular. That might have been a happy ending, if Ree’s family and friends hadn’t gotten wind of her creation, leading to a small list of customers. By 2017, Ree was ready to quit the security of a job in cancer research for the world of entrepreneurship, and she launched herself fulltime into Jeca Energy Bars.
Now joined by business partner Karina Loera and based at its laboratory/production space/global headquarters in Buffalo, Jeca Energy Bars is a full-service maker and seller of artisanal energy bars. The company’s three flagship products, Almond + Dates, Coconut + Curry and Matcha + Seeds, are available at Whole Foods stores and at Jeca’s website.