Farm to Backpack: The Story of Canada’s GORP Energy Bar

If you’ve taken a bite of a GORP Clean Energy Bar, then you probably already know that they’ve got the whole taste thing figured out. What you might now know is the story behind this Canadian-made (like literally, rolled out by hand on a farm in the Canadian Prairies) fueling staple. Fresh off receiving the 2016 Mompreneur Award of Excellence (by The Mompreneur® Showcase group and Parents Canada), we caught up with GORP founder Colleen Dyck in her hometown of Niverville, Manitoba to get the scoop on how her homemade, artisanal confection has made it into the hearts (and packs) of endurance athletes across the country.

Q. What prompted the idea for GORP?

A. After I had my first baby, I started training for triathlons. I would pack up my daughter, my gear and head into the city for my swim practice. After swimming I’m always so starving! Swimming just leaves such a hole in your stomach and I was just so hungry that I would swing through the drive through for a burger. In my head, I was thinking “This is so wrong. I know better”. But I was just so hungry. So I started using protein and energy bars. When I was going through the grocery store, I just didn’t like my options! There was so much junk and fake ingredients in each bar, I thought – hey, I’m sure I can make something better at home. 

Off I went to my practices from then on, eating my home made GORP bars. Soon enough, my training mates and family started demanding I make them their own bars. That was the moment I thought – hey, maybe I’m on to something! 
And here we are 8 years later (it took a bit longer than I expected!). We are now selling across Canada, and have been on the shelves for 3.5 years.

Q. When did you realize you had a product that was marketable and how did you get it into the hands of athletes?

A. I realized my product was marketable when my family, friends and training mates were demanding that I make them bars! I started to get GORP bars out to athletes and everyone else by handing out samples at marathons, fun runs and our town fair. We just grew from there.

Q. What makes GORP unique compared to other energy bars?

A. GORP bars are different in a few ways. We have the only re-sealable package in our product category. Our customers love this aspect, as they’ve all had energy bars “die” in the bottom of their purses, backpacks and gym bags! 
We also concentrated on taste first. This is a bar you are going to enjoy because it is made from real food and we left out all the junk. We roll out every batch by hand to preserve the integrity of the ‘bite’ and mouthfeel. You will bite into full almonds and chewy oats. We apply the least amount of processing possible. 

As for the nutrition, I didn’t just want to sprinkle in the functional ingredients to make the label look good; you are getting 1 full teaspoon of ground flax and 2 teaspoons of raw hemp in every bar, along with 11 grams of protein from sprouted brown rice and 6 grams of fiber. 

Another quality that causes us to stand out is the fact that we use sprouted brown rice protein. It is hypoallergenic and won’t cause bloating or gas. This has been a major selling point for us, especially with athletes. It’s a very expensive protein to use, but our customer testimonials about how the bars don’t upset their stomachs is proof enough for us that we made the right choice.

Q. Why should an athlete consider giving GORP a try?

A. As explained above, the unique qualities that GORP Bars have to offer over the many other bars are enough to give it a try. Our athletes really do love that they don’t feel bloated or heavy after eating our bars. The main reason being because of the non-bloating sprouted brown rice protein. 

We’ve been told by long distance runners or cyclists that they cut our bars into pieces and eat the pieces throughout their trail. We know hockey players that eat a bar between the 2nd and 3rd period for that extra boost of energy. Our local professional teams even have them in their locker rooms (Winnipeg Jets, Blue Bombers, Goldeyes) to use as well!

Q. What are you most proud of about your business?

A. I’m most proud of the type of people that are attracted to GORP bars – like our customers and our staff. It seems to resonate with an amazing group of people that I’m lucky and grateful to be surrounded by and do business with. 

Q. Tell us about your unique NOT SO PLAIN JANE and NOT SO AVERAGE JOE sponsorship programs. 

A. While brainstorming one day about creative ways to celebrate and give back to our customers we came up with the idea for our NOT SO PLAIN JANE and NOT SO AVERAGE JOE program. It’s all fine and good to sponsor professional athletes but what about the guy down the street who is training for his first ever 5K? Or the woman who is going to start walking around the block on her lunch hour instead of sitting at her computer? We wanted to engage and inspire those folks too. So our “real person” sponsorship program was born. We choose a man and a woman to sponsor for 3 or 4 months at a time and spend time connecting with them on social media and hopefully inspiring them on their journey!
We also sponsor Levi Nadlersmith a skier from Boissevain, Manitoba who recently traveled to Norway for the Youth Olympics, Team McEwen - the Manitoban Curling team that just played in the Tim Hortons Brier, The Red Truck - Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross Team and obstacle racing couple, Mikhail Gerylo & Ellie Schwartz. 

Q. When you’re not working, how do you spend your time? Do you still train – and if so, for what sports?

A. When I’m not working, I am a mom to 4 beautiful babes. My priority is my family, so many times family and work life blend and the kids join me on work related activities like demos and helping with our packaging machine! Haha. But when I really get some time to myself, I love to run, hike, go to CrossFit, and I’ve really been into paddle boarding in the summer.