Gluten Free Bar: Reigning over Michigan’s food exports
Michigan exported $2.8 billion in food and agriculture products in 2015. Exports help boost farm prices and income, while also supporting over 22,600 jobs both on and off the farm in food processing, storage and transportation.
Every $1 in export activity generates another $2.93 in economic activity, meaning Michigan’s total agriculture exports of $2.8 billion have a local impact of an additional $8.2 billion.
Why am I talking about the local economy of Michigan? For a very good reason, it is the home base of a great food and snack company called the Gluten Free Bar company, the statistics also are taken from when GFB started exporting their goods.
It is companies such as Gluten Free Bar that help to generate local economic and social development, by using and staying loyal to local partners. I spoke further with Marshall Radar, founder of GFB with his brother Elliott, to understand how GFB is operating and plans for the future.
Q: How has the mission of Gluten Free evolved since its founding?
Marshall Rader: At the beginning, it was very simple and product focused, we felt that it was really important that we serve the celiac & intolerant community first and provide a great-tasting product they could count on. Since then our mission has evolved to bring happiness through snacking to a much larger audience, but we didn’t feel that we could do that until we served the celiac and intolerant community first.
We wanted to make a great tasting product that people could look forward to eating, for example, enjoying a GFB during an afternoon break from work. At that point and even now, our mission could be boiled down to “To make people happy”. Since then, we’ve evolved into an actual business, and our mission is still the same, but with a much larger perspective.
We used to think of “people” as our consumers. Now, when we say “people” we think of everyone we touch, team members, community, consumers, retailers we work with, suppliers, etc. So essentially, it has evolved to a much greater purpose of having a positive impact on others.
In the photo: GFB’s array of snacks Credit: GFB
Q: Why sustainability and what does sustainability mean for you?
MR: When we first started The GFB, we wanted to build a company that “did the right thing”, at the time that meant very simple things like recycling what we could, and paying our team members a living wage. As we’ve grown we’ve learned that “doing the right thing” really equates to “sustainability” it means we operate with a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. It means that we are focused on more than just making money, and as a company we have committed, now achieving B-Corp certification.
Q: How is the GFB able to stick to its core values of doing good while staying competitive? How does your business model support sustainability?
MR: One thing that sets us apart from many competitors is that we manufacture our own products. That allows us to be competitive while promoting team, sustainability, B-Corp values and the ability to have a larger positive impact in our community, through employment and strong team relations.
The challenge in pursuing a strategy of self-manufacture is that in order to excel, we need to be “better than world class” at both marketing and manufacturing. It is more challenging, but in the end, we believe it to be the right strategy for us. It allowed us to scale without outside investment. Being independent, means that we can make decisions more simply, for example taking on the additional costs to be a B-corp, recycling programs, or team programs. Additionally, it really allows us to develop our own team, focused on just our product and making the best possible GFB products. Self-manufacturing has product quality, customer service and financial advantages.
In the photo: Marshall (right) and Elliott Radar Credit: GFB
Q: Where do you see the direction of the Gluten Free Bar heading? Are there any challenges or milestones ahead?
MR: We continue to work to evolve from a regional & emerging brand to sharing our passion & products with a larger audience. The GFB products are now available in a wide variety of national and regional retailers across the US and Canada, including Target, Meijer, Kroger, Whole Foods, Loblaws and many more. Our focus will always be on making the best possible products for our consumers and making sure we support all of our consumers and retailer partners in the right ways. We think that means continuing to innovate in ways that make lives better, simpler, and happier. Along the way, we’ll encounter some challenges that we don’t see coming and some that we do. We believe an intense customer focus will allow us to surmount those challenges and fulfill our mission.
Q: What message does GFB have for other companies focused on supporting their local communities?
MR: That it is good business, the more we engage locally with our community through outreach and more effectively supporting our team members, the better it is for our retailer partners, and our business overall locally and regionally.
Related article: “THE RAW CHOCOLATE COMPANY” by Leo Cammish
Q: What is the future of sustainability? What can the average person do to support sustainability?
MR: We feel that the movement towards sustainable business practices is only going to grow. Not only are business stakeholders realizing that being a sustainable business is the right thing to do, but consumers are asking (and even demanding) that the businesses they support, be making positive social and environmental impacts.
One thing for an average consumer to support, sustainable businesses that are a Certified B Corp. These are businesses that have been verified by a third party to meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Aside from supporting B Corps it’s all the little things people do in their daily lives, walking, biking and taking public transit instead of driving. It is the simple but obvious points such as buying locally produced goods and buying locally grown food, conserving energy and natural resources, reducing/reusing/recycling.
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