Raising the nutrition bar

Kathy MacDonald and Sheena Clark share a love of good local food, healthy eating and baking. When they started making homemade nutrition bars to eat after their workouts, they realized they could turn that hobby into a business. So in 2012, Made with Local was born as they sold bars at Halifax’s first Open City event.

“Halifax is an awesome place to launch a business like ours,” Clark says. “There’s a thriving food scene and its heart is farmers’ markets, but there’s also a big push for restaurants to source ingredients from our own land and water. Customers are demanding it. It’s really exciting.”

All the bars are 90-per-cent Maritime-ingredients by weight and the oatmeal is 100-per-cent locally sourced. Varieties include molasses and peanuts, honey and blueberries and dark chocolate and cranberries.

MacDonald and Clark researched the farms and growers that produce the ingredients they use in their bars. They visited Terra Beata Cranberry Farms in Lunenburg to source their dried cranberries, apples and blueberries. Crosby Molasses supplies them with the Fancy molasses that is made from pure condensed sugar cane. They get the chocolate from Just Us and oats from Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick. “A big thing right now is knowing where your food comes from,” MacDonald says.

During those first days in business, MacDonald and Clark made the bars themselves, using the kitchen at Two If By Sea in downtown Halifax. When they started selling the bars commercially, they worked in the kitchen at the Banook Canoe Club in Dartmouth where they mixed the batches in lobster pots. Once the production of the bars got to be too much for their own busy schedules, they sourced out the work to Flowercart in New Minas, an organization that provides vocational training to intellectually challenged adults living in Kings County.

They also sourced out the design of the packaging. The bars, which were first sold in plastic wrap with basic labels, now come in whimsically designed paper packaging that tells the story about the ingredients of each bar. The packaging itself, designed by Sarah Riley and Pierre Tabbiner, won the gold award in the packaging category at the recent Ice Awards. “Every one of our products tells the story of Atlantic Canadian farmers and food producers,” Clark says. “We want to continue growing that community network of local food love.”

The distribution is local, too. The bars are sold in local cafes and farmers’ markets. An online store allows customers to sign up for a monthly delivery of their favourites. The duo will also soon launch a new product, Loaded Oats, 100-per-cent locally sourced instant oatmeal made with organic oats, flaxseed and dried Nova Scotia apples or berries. But the ultimate goal is to promote the brand across Atlantic Canada and beyond.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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