Protein bar maker RXBAR started in a basement and recently sold for $600 million — proving that transparent ingredient lists and a great-tasting product can go a long way
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- RXBAR began in a suburban kitchen in Chicago five years ago.
- The company recently made headlines for selling to Kellogg for $600 million.
- RX Bars first gained popularity in local gyms but quickly found an enthusiastic following thanks to their transparent, simple ingredient list.
- RX Bars include a base of egg whites for protein, dates to bind the ingredients, and nuts for texture.
- You can get a 16-count variety pack for $33 on Amazon.
Five years before selling his company to Kellogg for $600 million in 2017, Peter Rahal was going door-to-door trying to sell homemade protein bars to local gyms. The packaging had been made on PowerPoint, and the gyms were agreeing to sell the “RX Bars” on consignment.
Rahal had begun the ambitious experiment in his parent’s basement with a childhood friend (and future co-founder) Jared Smith in response to an increased public interest in fitness. CrossFit was trending. People were going paleo. But there didn’t seem to be a protein bar that represented the same interest in real nutrition.
Most of all, Rahal and Smith wanted to make something “upfront” — an easy, good-for-you snack that came from a few great ingredients that people could readily understand. So the “whole food protein bar” was born. And when the company redesigned what an RX Bar looks like, Smith and Rahal decided to ignore warnings from industry experts about needing a logo and “appetite appeal” and decided just to list their “No B.S.” ingredients instead. “It’s how we’ve always described our bars. What’s inside. What isn’t.”
Millions of sales later, it seems like Rahal and Smith had the right idea.
RX Bars taste good, yes (Business Insider ranked them the best tasting among 12 of the most popular protein bars out there), but they’re also good for you. And you don’t have to Google heptasyllabic, clinical words from their ingredient list to double check that. Each bar contains what is essentially three egg whites, six almonds, four cashews, and two dates for 210 calories. There’s no added sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers. And the bars are dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free. In other words, “it’s like eating three egg whites, two dates, and six almonds.”
The egg whites provide protein, the dates help everything stick together, the nuts add texture, and the fruit boosts flavor. There aren’t any fillers.
Anything not listed on the front packaging can be found in the ingredients list in the back, but most RX Bars have fewer than ten ingredients — all of which you will recognize. For instance, on the Mixed Berry bar I inhaled for breakfast this morning, the front reads “3 Egg Whites, 6 Almonds, 4 Cashews, 2 Dates” and the entire ingredient list contains eight things: dates, egg whites, almonds, cashews, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, and natural flavors. Natural flavors are purified extracts from natural sources, such as a spice, fruit, or vegetables. According to a representative of the company, the natural flavors used in RXBARs come from the real food ingredients such as fruit and chocolate and do not include propylene glycol, synthetic, artificial or GMO derived ingredients.
Though technically billed as “protein bars” they’re a practical snack for anything. You can throw them in a purse, hiking pack, or send along with kids for a snack both of you can feel good about.
RX Bars are delicious, good for you, and they’re clean and simple. That is why people love them. But another aspect of RXBAR’s success is their willingness to fail, learn, and doggedly adapt while always remaining in the public eye. It’s a trait we often observe in successful startups, and RX is one such example. Upon initial commercialization, the company struggled, course corrected, and proceeded with its characteristically meticulous attention to the details. For the startup, “‘Okay’ is never good enough,” which is one reason why they cycled through 250 formulas for the Coconut Chocolate bar before landing on the one they loved enough to ship. It also means customer service carries disproportionate weight.
RXBAR went from a basement kitchen in Chicago to a multimillion dollar company because it acted on the idea that people would like having healthy foods they understand without giving up convenience or taste. And if that sounds like it’s worth about $2 per bar for you, you can grab a variety pack from Amazon. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself keeping four in your gym bag and three in your desk.
Get RX Bars on Amazon, Jet, and Walmart