BumbleBar secures big contract

Journal of Business

By Treva Lind

Snack maker projects it will boost production by up to 500,000 bars a year.

SPOKANE, WA-BumbleBar Inc., a Spokane Valley-based manufacturer of gluten-free snack bars, has landed another sizable contract to create products under a private-label agreement with an undisclosed company.

BumbleBar founder and co-owner Liz Ward says the company has signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company that prevents her from divulging its name. She says, however, that once BmbleBar is in full production with that contract and another private-label contract it secured last year, it will be making between 300,000 and 500,000 additional bars annually. Currently, the company manufactures about 2 million BumbleBars a year.

“Later this year, we’d anticipate hiring more employees,” she says, adding that the company currently has seven employees, in addition to herself and her husband, Glenn.

The latest contract involves developing three separate lines of nutrition bars. Those products are scheduled to launch this fall, and the company expects to start manufacturing them in August.

The contract that Bumble Bar secured last year is with one of the biggest natural foods companies in the U.S., Ward says. It has already started making products for this company.

“For private-label contracts, we’ve been doing smaller projects for quite a while, but these two – the one last year and the one we just got – are both larger companies,” Ward says.

She declines to disclose BumbleBar’s annual revenue, but says she expects the company to grow this year following a national promotional campaign and with its new company projects.

Ward, who wanted to create healthy snack bars during her years as an avid hiker, sold her first nutrition bar and started the BumbleBar company in Seattle in 1995. It moved to Spokane in 2003 and now operates out of a leased 12,000 -square-foot space in the Spokane Business and Industrial Park, at 3808 N. Sullivan.

BumbleBar uses two main ingredients for its bars – sesame seed and flaxseed – and it promotes the bars as gluten free, organic and ethically sourced.

Later this year, the company plans to offer a different ingredient base for a new line of BumbleBar-branded bars, Ward says. While she declines to say what the base will be for the new nutrition bars, she adds, “They’re not going to be seed-based.”

This month, Ward says the BumbleBar company also unveiled a new line of 100-calorie, junior-sized BumbleBars, shrunk to about two-thirds of an ounce, or slightly less than half the size of its main line of bars which are 1.4 ounces each.

The company developed the smaller snack – available in three flavors of Original Peanut, Amazing Almond, and Chocolate Crisp – for customers who want it for kids or as an easy-to-pack pocket size. BumbleBar also has used them for promotional give-aways at events, such as Spokane’s Windermere Marathon this past weekend.

Meanwhile, BumbleBar also has a new contract with the Selet Hulling PLC partnership in northern Ethiopia involving crops from the Tigray region to bring 50,000 pounds of sesame seeds a year to Spokane Valley.

The partnership works with two Ethiopian farming cooperatives that support roughly 1,500 farming families. BumbleBar started receiving seeds from the partnership about a month ago.

“Ethiopia has the best-tasting sesame seeds in the world because of the soil conditions,” Ward asserts. “They are sweet and they don’t have any bitterness.”

Additionally, the company has upgraded its equipment in the past year to increase production efficiency. With the upgrades, BumbleBar also created new brand packaging logos and exterior wraps for the bars that are both easier to open and more environmentally friendly, Ward says.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to freshen up the brand,” she explains. “The old package was difficult to open. It was painful to watch people open it. Now, even my children can open them.”

BumbleBar also increased efficiency for packing up its individual bars in light-weight box cartons for bulk sales and shipping to retail stores – going from 15 bars per carton to 12 bars per carton, “so the bars are fresher getting onto the shelf,” Ward says.