|Producer of the Month: Garuka Bars|
by Jon Megas-Russell
Growing up in northern Vermont, Mike Rosenberg, the founder of Garuka Bars, discovered a love of nature from an early age. It all started while his parents attended Vermont Natural Resources Council conferences and all the kids would play in the woods. Those days led to his passion for hiking, skiing, wakeboarding, and being a steward for animals, nature, and the earth. To this day he stillis an avid outdoorsman; this long-cultivated passion feeds his yearning to provide excellent hand-crafted energy bars.
In 2010 Mike unfortunately hurt his knee while wakeboarding. Forced to take some time off from work, he began a journey in his kitchen. From flank steaks to baking bread, he became very proficient at creating delicious food. Once back at work he began to share one of the newly discovered products of his labor, his energy bar, with colleagues. One of these colleagues, a beekeeper, suggested he add raw honey for flavor and energy. The raw honey changed the profile to a “really awesome flavor” and is now the main ingredient in his bars.
After Mike healed from his wakeboarding injury, he decided to live and ski in Utah for a winter. He continued to make his energy bars. He handed out samples in lift lines and the positive feedback started pouring in. As more people tasted the bars he got more and more requests for orders, so he started a website to distribute samples and full orders.
After that winter of skiing and what became the inception of his energy bar business, he returned to Vermont and dove head first into Garuka Bars. One of the first places he turned to sell his bars was the Burlington Farmer’s Market. Through his involvement at the Farmer’s Market, both the Outdoor Gear Exchange and the Courtyard Marriot began to sell his bars.
To this day he still sells at the Farmer’s Market each summer and loves the interactions, feedback, and stories from people he meets. He also sells lots of bars across the East Coast including in stores such as the Brattleboro Food Co-op. As sales have taken off online, he receives many emails and pictures in which people are being fueled by Garuka Bars from South America to the West Coast. Mike is always delighted.
Mike is thrilled with his recipe and loves that the flavor profile is consistent and packed with energy. From the crunch of the peanuts to the specific raw honey, he has tested many recipes to get his energy bar to where it is today. One of the ingredients he is most proud of is the raw honey because it comes from Champlain Valley Apiaries in Vermont. They do not use any pesticides and they allow the bees to feed on their own honey over the winter. “Ethically they are doing a great job beekeeping,” Mike said. He is thrilled to support their beekeeping efforts by making raw honey a key ingredient in Garuka Bars.
Garuka bars are delicious; beyond that, they also support a great cause. Mike always wanted his business to play a larger role in the community and be socially responsible. So he began speaking with his brother about the potential of supporting a smaller non-profit. His brother brought forth the idea of donating a portion of profits to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). After doing some research Mike got on board. Their work is proactive and socioeconomic by focusing on both the people and gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. IGCP believes that the “Earth’s survival is dependent on humanity’s ability to maintain a healthy and balanced environment that includes all species of wildlife.” This partnership with IGCP even inspired the name Garuka Bars. “Garuka Bar is named after one of the few remaining mountain gorillas ranging the volcanic forests of the Virunga Massif in Rwanda.” Every time you buy a Garuka Bar you are supporting a great cause!
Mike is excited for the future. He recently hired two employees, moved into his own commercial kitchen and is eager to become more efficient with what he now calls “his company.” The impact that his product can make is multi-faceted: from 100% recycled packaging, the bars being handmade in VT, and 1% of profits being donated to the IGCP. And besides all of those worthwhile effects. Garuka Bars are fueling adventures!
Visit the Co-op on Thursday, January 14th, 11am to 1pm, to taste Garuka Bars and meet their team!