When Zach Hein attended MSU, his passion for spending time in the mountains led him to start his own energy bar business: Range Meal Bars. The 700 calorie bars are made with all natural ingredients and are designed to be a meal replacement for long days of adventuring.
Hein graduated from MSU’s College of Engineering in the spring of 2018 and officially started Range Meal Bars in 2020. However, he first started making his own energy bars in 2017 while he was still attending MSU. On weekend backcountry ski tours or multi-pitch climbs, Hein felt that existing energy bars weren’t providing him with enough quality calories. Determined to make a bar that could provide him with lasting energy, Hein Google-searched “How to make a cliff bar?” This is where his journey began.
“Every Sunday night I’d make my batch of bars for the week. No matter how they turned out, I still ate them. It was actually a great way of sampling because if I didn't like it, I was stuck with it for a week, and if I liked it, I was stuck with it for a week,” Hein said. He started with a no-bake brownie recipe, and after a few months of tinkering with ingredients — replacing sugar with honey and enriched flour with oats — he had perfected the recipe. Hein’s friends started asking for him to pack extra bars for them and even encouraged him to sell his bars. After graduating, Hein felt like he had enough time to pursue selling his bars commercially.
Having little business experience, Hein relied on reaching out to people with experience and watching YouTube videos to help him along the way. One of Hein’s first contacts was a hot sauce company he saw at a farmer’s market. This interaction led him to enroll in a series of courses to help him get started at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, Oregon.
While trying to scale up his business, Hein was pushed to reduce the number of natural ingredients in his bar, but he is committed to staying true to his initial intentions. “I like to eat whole foods that you don't really have to look at the periodic table of elements to figure out what's in there and I’m still my own customer,” Hein said. “If I'm gonna put my name on something and brand something that's associated with me, the commitment is to stay away from the more exotic ingredients…Keep it simple. Something that grandma would approve of.”
Hein designed the bars to be lightweight, making them easy to pack on days when backpack space is maxed-out, and the natural ingredients (more specifically the nut butter) in the bars make it so they don’t freeze in the cold weather.
Range Meal Bars are now sold in 36 stores across the U.S., including two stores in Bozeman: Owenhouse Cycling and Uphill Pursuits. Hein is working on scaling up the production of his company and his distribution with a goal to have his bars sold in 100 stores in the next six months. Within the next two months, Hein foresees having an ambassador team: “I'd be looking for people to represent it within the backpacking space, hunters, backcountry skiers, first responders, wilderness firefighters…maybe even the students at MSU would be a great place to go for that,” Hein said.
Hein currently has a full-time engineering job in Washington and works on his business during weeknights and weekends. When asked what advice he would give to a recent graduate who wants to venture down the road of entrepreneurism, Hein responded, “do something you're passionate about. If you're doing something for the money, in my opinion, you're gonna burn out quickly because it is such an uphill battle and a grind even if it’s going well.”
While Hein started Range Meal Bars during a suboptimal time — the beginning of a global pandemic — he achieved success in getting his bar into his first store, selling bars to seven-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Caeleb Dressel and having his bar picked up by special forces units in the military. It’s still the beginning of Range Meal Bars, and Hein is open for any help or advice on progressing his company. “Bobcats, if you got an idea, flood my inbox. I’ll respond to every email,” Hein said.
For more information about Range Meal Bars, visithttps://rangemealbar.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.