I am talked to them first Ree Dolnik, founder and CEO of Jeca Energy Bar Company, was still in 2016. At the time, he was experimenting with marketing his craft cookies around Buffalo. After 5 years, Ree reached out again to share some of the invaluable progress he has made with her … cottage food. bars?
It turns out that cookies were not the best corner of his business. The bars got much better. Why? Ree explained that while the “spices of the world” cookies tasted great … they didn’t look like cookies or people were waiting to see how the cookies would taste. “People expect cookies to be something they like to taste, like chocolate chips or something sweet,” he told me. “The cookies weren’t sweet. To the people, they were amazing. Horsefeathers market customers liked them, but overall the bars were much better than the cookies. ”
Ree’s trip to Buffalo, exploring the cookie market and bars, was very adventurous. “My company has been recommended for running an acceleration program in 43 North,” Ree said. “I was told there that two SKUs (cookies and bars) are one too many – it’s too confusing and too many messages. I had to make a decision and take a deep dive. Around that time, people were constantly ordering cookies on top of cookies, so I decided to use everything I had done with cookies and put them on the bars. We started with three flavors that are vegetative and world-inspiring: coconut + curry, matcha seeds + and almond + dates.
“Then we entered 2018 Ignite the accelerator pitch, and we were one of the winners. This gave us a lot of confidence, even though we didn’t have any accounts – a few stores were testing the bars in beta, like Co-op East Aurora. We didn’t even have our own commercial packaging. Buffalo was wonderful though – small businesses really helped. ”
When Ree worked to simplify his product line and sell it in local stores, he was also involved in trying to land a few bigger national accounts. Whole Foods ended up getting the bars done. Kroger Digital did the same. It looked like Ree was on his way.
“2019 was a good year to win,” Ree explained. “Then it was 2020, and we were hoping to move to a new manufacturing plant. But we all know what happened in 2020. This pushed us back a year and also gave us time to regroup and fundraise. We knew we wanted to have our own manufacturing company in Buffalo. We worked with Launch NY, which funded me in early October. We signed a lease on January 1 for an NFTA manufacturing facility at the airport – a commercial food center that was originally built as a staff canteen. ”
Production space was one thing. Commercial grade equipment was different. Ree found that he could basically gain access to smaller equipment in the U.S., where the bars are still hand-built. Larger equipment cost millions. Due to limited quality control, it was not possible to maintain the service of one package. He needed something in the middle and eventually identified the equipment in Europe. ”
The problem was that we wanted to be different from what was already on the market, ”Ree said. “We looked at the United States, but we couldn’t find what we needed. The European manufacturer is now equipping the equipment to meet our exact process specifications and meet the requirements of the US FDA. We expect the equipment to arrive here by the end of the month, and this will allow us to work at full capacity by the end of February. ”
Another problem Ri faced was packing. She wanted to use 100% reusable wrappers that looked like a certain style. “We wanted them to be different,” Ree told me. “We wanted them to be different. The cover should be easy to open and toss in one direction so that people do not eat while riding or cycling without clutter and clutter. Customers have told us that this is important. It seems that we have finally identified a packaging company in California that can get there – we are now negotiating prices. ”
With the equipment on the road and smoothing the pack, it looks as if Ree has gone to the races. And that’s good news for Buffalo – we’ve seen over the last two years a number of small boutique food companies emerge, each producing unique products that appeal to a new generation of eateries who are healthier and tasteless. It’s a new welcome image of the city that should surprise many people who tend to think of Buffalo as such. land of chicken wings. Not that this is a bad image, it’s good when it comes to the dishes that represent us, it’s good to have variety.
Connect: Jeca’s craft food bars