Balance Bar Company—a Valhalla-Based Energy/Nutrition Bar Business—Sees Financial Turnaround Under CEO Michael Sands, a Bronxville Resident
Bronxville resident Michael Sands takes the Balance Bar to new heights
It’s only been two years since Bronxville resident Michael Sands, the former chief marketing officer (CMO) at both Snapple and Ben & Jerry’s, took over as CEO of the Balance Bar Company, one of America’s original energy/nutrition bar leaders, today based in Valhalla. In that time, the company—at 14 people strong—is showing signs of a turnaround.
What had been “an orphan brand” owned by Kraft (the Greenwich, Connecticut-based private equity firm Brynwood Partners bought the company in November 2009, and brought in Sands in January 2010) has implemented a new strategy, including a from-the-ground-up social media platform and a fresh approach to telling consumers that its products help buyers lead a healthy, well-balanced life. Another key ingredient: bringing Gene and Joyce Daoust, two of the original Balance Bar nutritionists, back into the fold as a way to reinvigorate the brand’s former glory. “Our goal is more than just getting Balance Bar on the shelf,” Sands says. “It’s also to optimize our product mix and shelf assortment and to regain leadership in the category.”
Some background: Balance Bar was founded in 1992 by a group of Californian sports enthusiasts and was based on Barry Sears’s Zone Diet. From the beginning, the bars were built around boosting energy using natural supplements with the concept of a 40-30-30 ratio, meaning 40 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from dietary fat. All have approximately 200 calories. During the height of the high-protein diet craze, the company flourished, becoming number one in the market with more than $100 million in sales. That was 1998. In 2000, Kraft Foods bought the company. Still the company suffered a gradual decline in sales. When Sands took over, sales were at an all-time low.
Fast forward to today—after six years of sales declines, the business is experiencing 10 percent growth in the top three core SKUs since Brynwood bought the company. As he did with his previous job (Sands was the founder and CEO of LesserEvil Snacks), Sands has been working closely with nutritional consultants and dietitians to reformulate many of the popular flavors and create new ones. His motto, after all, is “Tasting is believing.”
In order to reach more consumers—specifically busy moms—the company recently introduced the new Café line with Café Chocolate Almond Biscotti and Café Cinnamon Bun, meant to complement a morning or afternoon hot beverage. And in August, Nimble, a slightly smaller, 120–calorie product designed for women, with the same 40-30-30 formula, was launched.
Then, of course, there’s the Westchester advantage. “Being in Westchester, we pull talent from all over the tri-state area,” Sands says. “Plus, with Pepsi down the street, it’s easy for suppliers to make an extra stop and come see us at the Balance Bar offices.”