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Thursday, July 28,2011

Snack bar with Boulder ties benefits malnourished

By Sarah Simmons
photo by Jefferson Dodge
Barr Hagen

Boulder is about to get another nutritional bar.

But this one is for a good cause, and its product developer lives in town.

Soon to be situated among the various granola and protein-rich bars already on the shelves at the Boulder Whole Foods locations will be a new bar with a mission: To help end the malnutrition of thousands of children in Africa.

The newest addition is from Two Degrees, a company based out of San Francisco that launched in January and has promised a one-for-one business philosophy with its sales. Co-founder and president Will Hauser says that for every bar sold, the company will donate one ready-to-use food nutritional pack to a child suffering from acute malnutrition in Malawi or Kenya.

“Our goal, in terms of sales and nutrition packs distributed, is we want to give away tens of millions of nutrition packs in a couple of years, and we think it’s both optimistic and realistic, especially with a phenomenal partner like Whole Foods,” Hauser says.

Boulder resident Barr Hogen, head of product development for Two Degrees, says she was inspired to begin working with the company two years ago.

“The concept is, we’re enjoying this food, and we’re very privileged to be enjoying this food, and we have ample amounts of it,” she says. “But it’s more real, especially for someone on the consumer end. It’s right there. Every time a bar is sold, we have to give back.”

Hogen says that as the former creative chef and product developer for Odwalla, being able to create a new kind of bar with tastes that complement the unique business model of the company was important to her.

“I’m kind of tired of having the same old bar,” Hogen says. “Our bar is not like a fortified bar, we’re not trying to be a protein bar, we’re trying to be, if you need a snack and are hungry, one of the things that you can reach for and know that you’re doing some good.”

So far, Hogen has worked to create three flavors for the company: Chocolate Peanut, Cherry Almond and Apple Pecan. She says she’s currently working on a chocolate sun butter flavor without nuts.

Hauser says that while Whole Foods may be inundated with companies that are involved in social causes and giving back, Two Degrees is uniquely different on several fronts, the most notable being that Two Degrees doesn’t give a percentage of sales to a cause but rather makes direct donations from the amount of bars sold.

“We total our sales and make donations according to the unit number of sales that we’ve made, and that’s a really important distinction,” Hauser says. “That’s how our customers know every single time they buy a bar, yes — we really are giving away a nutrition pack, no matter how many bars we’ve sold at that time.”

Additionally, Hauser says, Two Degrees only donates nutrition packs that are manufactured on the ground in the areas they are working to help. In Malawi, a facility run by Valid Nutrition hires local residents and uses local ingredients to make the nutrition packs — bags of dense, healthy, 500-calorie paste — providing economic opportunities to the area as well as serving medical needs.

According to the World Health Organization, severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition requiring specialized treatment, which until the recent introduction of ready-to-use nutrition packs, consisted of lengthy therapeutic diets and medical care in outpatient settings where disease was often spread. The packs do not require the addition of water or refrigeration, and, according to WHO, have a 95 percent success rate of treating acute malnutrition.

Two Degrees already donated 10,800 nutritional packs in February to children in Malawi and is projected to donate 50,000 more next month to Malawi and Kenya.

Whole Foods regional buyer Mike Rapport says the decision to bring the bars into both the Boulder-area stores and every other Whole Foods market in the nation comes from a drive to help Two Degrees meet its goal.

“We brought it back and we looked at it, and it was such a compelling story because it’s so mission-driven,” Rapport says. “There’s so much in line with what we do, that we sent it up to our national team, which is composed of the people that buy for all the different regions, and we voted it basically into the entire company — it went national right away, and that doesn’t happen very often.”

Rapport says he expects the flavors of and the mission behind Whole Foods’ newest bars to be well-received on a national level, but especially in the Boulder community.

“Clearly, [Boulder] is a great market for this kind of thing, and there’s a lot of income here that could support it,” Rapport says. “But even in other markets, Whole Foods attracts a certain kind of customer, and I think that our customer base in general will be behind this product.”

The bars are expected to appear in Whole Foods by the end of July and will sell for $2.50 a bar, Rapport says. For more information on Two Degree’s nutrition packs or its mission to end child malnutrition, visit http://twodegreesfood.com.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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