Export Success Story: The GFB

RADER: The GFB started in 2010, really the Stone Age of the gluten-free world. Most of us are very familiar with gluten-free now, but when we started, there was only a few products in the market and we were really focused on making the best tasting protein bars in the market with simple high-quality ingredients and that really didn’t exist at the time. At the GFB, what we like to say is that we make good for you foods in good for you ways. So what does that mean? Well number one, it’s using great, high-quality ingredients to create great taste. We all want to look forward to what we’re eating, but it also means making it in good for you ways. So a couple of things that we’re really proud of in terms of the good-for-you ways is our first of all, our hiring program. About 60%, maybe 65%, of our production team is returning citizens, which means formerly incarcerated folks, so, just really focused on building the community, second chances, and building our team here. And then secondly, really focus on sustainability. We publish our sustainability report on our website and that’s always available to look at, and one of the things we’re really working on is becoming zero-waste certified. We have saved over a hundred tons of waste this year from going to the landfill, and we’re also a certified B corp, which means were focused on people and planet as well as making a profit. Probably 2013, we had done some research before we kicked the business off and we saw that Canada was always a health minded population and gluten-free was actually gaining a lot of traction in Canada – so the International Marketing Program at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development really helped us get going, because there’s a lot of things that seem really challenging when you start to export. Whether it’s logistics, or it’s you know pricing, or how to deal with your packaging, and the group there really helped us connect to a lot of different resources to solve those problems. We had the chance to go on a Trade Mission to Toronto and kind of learn more about the market and that’s how we got started. There’s really two key parts to that trade mission. The first part is going on a trade tour, going to stores, looking at competitor’s customers, how the stores look over there, when we went to Toronto, and you’re with about 10 to 15 different companies at the same time, so it’s a chance to interact with peers and talk about what their challenges or thoughts are on exporting. And then the second part of it is a chance to interview, or talk to different distributors or brokers, or potential customers in the market, learn about how things like pricing work and how distribution works, kind of a speed-dating concept where you get 15 to 20 minutes with each person to talk about potential business together. The trade mission really helped us get into Canada and grow into Canada because it connected us with the right people. And so through that trade mission, we met our broker who connected us to our two distributors in Canada, and we still work with them today and we still work with that broker today and it’s been five years and it’s been a great partnership. Our business grew 60% last year for Canada and it’s actually on pace to double this year, and so yeah, I mean that mission is really what kicked off you know our business in Canada and without it, I don’t think we would be exporting to Canada. As a result of our exporting business, we’ve added about six to seven jobs so you know, it’s about 15% our business today and hopefully continues to grow, planning to double the business this year and if that continues to happen, we will have a lot more folks on the floor focused on Canada business.

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