Entrepreneur spotlight: Cathy Richards

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It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention. Cathy Richards could not find a protein bar that suited her lifestyle, or tastebuds. Richards, who has Crohn’s, a gastrointestinal disease that effects digestion, could not find a protein bar that she could eat on-the-go that was appetizing and filling. So she made her own.

The Simply Bar, named for its natural, simple ingredients (that don’t take a master’s degree in chemical engineering to pronounce) meets Richards’ orders. The idea behind The Simply Bar was to create a bar with eight or less simple ingredients. It is high in protein and low in fat, making it suitable for anyone who wants to closely monitor their intake, whether that be someone who wants to lose weight, an athlete, a vegetarian or vegan, or anyone who wants a healthy delicious snack. With 16 or more grams of protein, 160 or less calories, iron and a short list of all natural vegan, kosher, dairy- and gluten-free ingredients, The Simply Bar outperforms its competition in sheer numbers.

“I hate to admit it, I don’t cook a lot, and there was nothing on the market that filled me up,” says Richards. “It’s great to have something on the go that will keep me full and I know won’t give me an upset stomach because there are no chemicals, fats or refined sugars.” The Simply Bar’s natural ingredients make it especially easy to digest for those with food sensitivities, and its high iron content makes it perfect for women and vegetarians.

It is because of Richards’ dedication and conviction that The Simply Bar is now enjoying enormous success (and distribution) and why we think she deserves the Entrepreneur Spotlight this month. Motivated by her desire to fill a hole in the health and wellness market, Richards spent time at the Guelph Food Technology Centre, a global leader in food safety, training, quality and technical solutions, educating herself on the unique needs and challenges of food product development.

“I learned a lot about how you develop bars and now my partner hates it because I now have all the tools to play around,” kids Richards. “You give someone a bit of knowledge and you go off from there.”

Once The Simply Bar was made in six flavours (Peanut Butter Chocolate and Lemon Coconut, for example) Richards went to “every health and wellness store in Toronto.” Slowly, but steadily, smaller stores were taking on The Simply Bars. Soon, The Simply Bar was in 90 stores with Richards and her partner playing the roles of CEO, CFO, R&D, Marketing and PR.

Finally the Ontario Natural Food Co-op took notice of sales of the bar and became distributors. From there, The Simply Bar got in more than 500 health food stores across Canada (stores like Noah’s Natural Foods and The Big Carrot), grocery giant Loblaws , Bulk Barn, and Richards’s staff is growing, which suits her naturally outgoing and personable character.

Having just introduced The Simply Snack, a 100-calorie bar, Richards is concentrating on getting The Simply Bar into as many consumers’ grocery bags as possible.  

For more information on The Simply Bar, visit www.wellnessfoods.ca

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