Creation Nation founder: ‘We’re creating a new category’ with no-bake, protein bar dry mixes

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Creation Nation founder and CEO Karen Nation.
Creation Nation founder and CEO Karen Nation.
“There are protein powders for smoothies, baking mixes for cookies, and I just thought ‘why not a no-bake mix for bars?’” Karen Nation, founder and CEO of Creation Nation, told FoodNavigator-USA at the recent Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, CA.

At the show, the company debuted its new packaging and a new flavor—PB & Jelly Get in My Belly—bringing up the variety count to a total of five.

The dry mixes allow consumers to customize their protein bars, or balls, by mixing in their choice of a liquid (yogurt, applesauce, nut milk), with a fat (avocado, ghee, almond butter), and a sweetener, if any, as the dry mixes come unsweetened.

The Malibu-based company​ started in 2014 and was first sold primarily online or at local natural food stores. Thrive Market was the company’s first big account, Nation said.

Since then, the company has been growing fast, she added. The product is going on shelves at Whole Foods this year, and is currently developing a distribution plan with KeHe, and has distribution with UNFI.

“Creating a new category, it’s a little nerve-wracking sitting there while all the big protein bar companies' directors of innovation and R&D teams are asking you questions,” ​Nation said, talking about her first experience exhibiting at Expo West this year after having been an attendee at the show for six years.

“But I put five years into this, it’s my passion, it’s my baby. Our booth was constantly busy…we did pick up a lot of new accounts, which is great,” ​Nation added.

Starting a ‘DIY-protein-bar-from-scratch’ company… from scratch

A certified sports nutritionist by training, Nation started the company because she was unhappy with the options on the market.

“I saw a problem that needed a solution—everything was stale and had a lot of sugars, which I didn’t want. That has been the state of the protein bar and the energy bar market for a long time,” ​she said. “Everyone just accepted that it is what it is.”

New flavor 'PB & Jelly Get in My Belly' debuted last weekend at the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, CA.

She started making her own protein-rich bars and bites, which her clients loved. What they didn’t love was having to shuffle through different aisles at a store and collect all the individual ingredients, sometime having to visit different stores to get what they needed for one recipe.

In 2014, Nation started her company after her years of research and focus group. It was entirely self-funded, and whatever income came went straight back to expanding production, she recalled. “I was not one of those lucky individuals with a rich family or wealthy friends to go to, so I had to do it the hard way,” ​she said.

Finally she found one investor, who she did not name, “who was very dedicated to the product, so I didn’t have to ask a hundred people.​”

‘At any grocery store that carries protein bars, this should be an option’

The idea of a protein-rich mix isn’t entirely new—Flapjacked offers protein cookie baking mix​. But the no-bake aspect is what makes the product line unique as it blends convenience and customization.

And it’s not just about customization. According to Nation, the products stand out in the protein snack category because of its cost-saving and environmental benefits.

Each pouch can make eight to 12 bars with 12-16g protein per bar. The upper price range in the line is $14.99, making each bar around $1.25. Compare this to some of the top-selling protein bar brands on Amazon: RXBAR​, with around 12g of egg protein per bar, costs $25.99 for a box of 12 ($2 per bar) or Quest Nutrition Bars​, with 12 20g bars for $24.99.

The bulk amount of ingredients in each pack also means consumers avoid throwing away individual wrappers of a protein bar. In fact, the pouches they come in can be reused to store the finished product.

“At any grocery store, supermarket store that carries protein bars, this should be an option,” ​Nation said.

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