We didn’t want to start a bar company.
Have you been to a grocery store lately? There’s no aisle with more options than the energy bar aisle. People run into the aisle, blindly grab a bar, and try to get out before they spend hours sifting through options. So why in the world would we start a bar company in Salem, Oregon? Believe us, we didn’t want to.
“These aren’t for sale!”
Ten years ago, nutrition educator Jan Johansen was getting ready for an open house for her company, Liv Wellness, where she focuses on healing people through organic real food, exercise, and rightful living. Just prior to the event, she realized she didn’t have any snacks prepared. Jan ran into the kitchen and from years of making wholesome organic food, had an extensive litany of ingredients to choose from – sesame seeds, quinoa, fruit, coconut - real foods - to create what would become a prototype of the first LivBar.
Clients gobbled up the bars during the open house. “Where can we buy these?” “I like these 'Liv-bars.'" Jan initially brushed off the comments – she didn’t have time to make and sell a new product, in addition to running her business - certainly clients could find another good option.
Just because there are lots of options doesn’t mean there’s a right option.
But there wasn’t a good option. Part of Jan’s lifestyle training is to take clients to the grocery store and teach them to shop. But the energy bar section was a problem. “Which energy bar should I buy?” Jan didn’t feel good about any of the options – even though the selection was vast. They were all too processed, made from fake food, not vegetarian or vegan, and tasted terrible. “Can I just buy more of those ‘Liv-bars’ from your open house?”
LivBars take on a life of their own.
Despite Jan and her husband Gabe’s busy lives owning multiple businesses, Jan’s clients continued to ask for the bars, and on a personal level, Gabe also suffered from multiple food allergies and loved LivBars, but wanted more flavor options. It could no longer be denied that there was a need for organic, balanced, real food bars, free from top allergens, that tasted great. After more experiments and flavor development, in 2012, LivBars were officially born as the first gluten free, soy free, dairy free, corn free, non-GMO, organic, great tasting bar on the market. Originally only for sale in the local coffee shop, The Governor’s Cup (Salem is Oregon’s state capital), requests for bars skyrocketed.
With that growth, and the growth of Jan and Gabe’s other businesses, they decided to bring in a dedicated partner to help run the business, grow the customers, continue to hone the flavor profiles, develop the brand, and design the packaging.
LivBars level up.
Jayson Selander – master yogi and graphic designer - was up to the challenge as a real food believer. He created the distinctive LivBar® registered trademark, had the bars certified as USDA Organic, built the first iteration of the LivBar commercial kitchen in downtown Salem, developed new flavors, perfected the taste and texture of the bars, and vastly expanded the retail locations LivBars were sold at, including making LivBars available nationwide on Amazon Prime.
Good for your health, taste buds, AND the planet.
With LivBars already being so different – made from real food, all organic, crunchy and chewy, and tasting great – Jayson wanted to make another change to the bar industry: moving to compostable packaging. Food wrappers are the fourth most common single-use plastic found in the environment, according to UN Environment, and the broader context of rightful living includes being caretakers of our planet. Since then LivBar uses all 100% compostable wrappers made from cellulose, the most abundant of naturally occurring organic materials (certified to both ASTM D6400 and EN13432 by Vinçotte, Din Certco, and the BPI).
How to lure a CEO back from New Zealand
As sales and distribution increased, Jayson was looking to bring in professional management to take the business to the next level. Jayson was attending a local Pub Talk on entrepreneurship where Wade Brooks was the guest speaker, and this is where they first connected. Wade had founded his first company in college, which went on to become the first Apple Computer Value-Added Reseller in the United States. Since those early years, he had run a number of successful companies, and after retiring early, went on to teach those skills to MBA students at Willamette University where his venture investing class was ranked top 10 in the nation.
Jayson met with Wade after the Pub Talk and Wade loved the LivBar brand, bars, and was personally invested in the cause as a vegetarian. He came on as an advisor to LivBar in 2018. However, he had already made commitments to teach early stage investing at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Economics and Finance in New Zealand.
Once you’ve tasted a LivBar, you can’t go back.
On a return visit from New Zealand, Wade met with Jayson to check on LivBar’s progress. There was too much opportunity to pass up and Wade agreed to leave an academic career in New Zealand to become the CEO at LivBar. After Wade signed on, he raised some much-needed growth capital, and called in two of his former MBA rock star students to join in the cause.
From cog to a cause.
Wade wasn’t surprised that his former students had gone on to successful careers with Fortune 500 companies, but both were unhappy about being a cog in the big machine, and had personal reasons why LivBar was the right choice for them. They were both passionate about being part of an amazing grassroots cause. Jessi Freitag joined the Livbar team as our Marketing and Operations Manager in January 2019, and, with two family members having celiac disease, deeply believes in eating only real, anti-inflammatory foods; and Ryan Brush joined the LivBar team, as our Channel Development Manager, having a passion for health and fitness, and looking to LivBars as a healthy and nutritious options for his two teenage children.
Why you should be passionate about LivBars.
After the founding of LivBar in 2012, the LivBar team is stronger than ever! Everyone mentioned above is still a part of the LivBar family and more passionate than ever for LivBar’s all organic, eat real food, mission. Jan and Gabe’s LivBars are still free from gluten, soy, dairy, corn, nuts*, and GMOs. They are still certified USDA Organic, still in a compostable wrapper, and still hand made with love in Salem, Oregon.
It’s important to us that you have a healthy, delicious bar, you can feel good about eating, and giving to your children. A balanced, baked bar, not an extruded, uncooked, goo bar, which make up 95% of the bar market. We care about health, nutrition, rightful living, and we believe you should too!
*LivBar’s contain coconut, which is a fruit that some consider to be a tree nut. Most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconuts but please consult your doctor if you have a tree nut allergy.