The Keto Bar startup embodies the “CanDo” spirit
SANTA MONICA, CA. – Surfing, losing 65 pounds and starting a million dollar keto bar business are among Adam Bremen’s latest feats. The financial analyst turned entrepreneur was born with cerebral palsy and has used an electric wheelchair to get around his whole life.
From an early age, he was taught that “life is about what you can do, not what you can’t”. That’s the philosophy behind CanDo’s Keto Krisp, the line of low-sugar, low-carb protein bars it launched in 2018.
Mr. Bremen’s journey in the food industry began with his weight loss journey. Shortly after turning 40, he realized he was overweight and needed to make a change.
“Someone asked me to go to this event that helps people with special needs surf,” he said. “My friends and family were there, including my brother. I spent my whole life watching him play sports and cheering him on. That day he got a chance to watch me do my thing. It was really special. After that, I said, ‘If I was in better shape, I could do more things like this.’
Online research led him to discover the ketogenic diet. He combined the high-fat, low-carb diet with a personalized exercise program, and the extra weight began to melt away.
The biggest challenge was finding an on-the-go snack that fit her new lifestyle.
“I was constantly in the store looking for different snacks that could keep me in line,” Mr. Bremen said. “Every bar I’ve tried has failed. One day my brother said, ‘Why don’t we start our own keto bar? There’s clearly a need for a tasty snack.
The duo teamed up with food scientists to develop a prototype. They landed on a formulation that includes MCT oil, coconut, and almonds for a dose of healthy fats. With indulgent flavors and a satisfying crunch, the bars contain 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar, and no more than 6 grams of net carbs. They are sweetened with erythritol and stevia.
After perfecting the formulation, Bremen went door-to-door to sample the snack at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The brand secured distribution at a local health food store and then began selling on Amazon. From there he quickly moved on to Erewhon and Whole Foods Market in California.
That momentum caught the attention of Matt Clifford, co-founder and former chief operating officer of Barnana, a maker of plantain chips and other healthy snacks. The CPG veteran and entrepreneur joined CanDo as Managing Director in early 2020.
“The credit goes to the speeds these guys were seeing at Erewhon and Whole Foods,” Mr. Clifford said. “I joined the team during the pandemic when everyone was retooling and retiring, but they had phenomenal buy-in from their retail partners.”
Mr. Clifford helped expand the brand into new regions and then nationally with Whole Foods, Costco and more, securing around 5,000 new doors at the height of the pandemic.
“We did all of this while our category was crushed,” Mr. Clifford said. “We represent 8% of the total nutrition bar category growth to date. For a new brand, that’s a pretty big number.
The key to the brand’s success is appealing to both keto and non-keto consumers. Not all CanDo fans buy into the lifestyle.
“If you look at the number of bars we’re selling, it’s virtually impossible for every single one of these people to be on a keto diet,” Clifford said. “People buy our bars for the low carb and low sugar offsets, and they buy them because they taste great.”
CanDo’s line includes Almond Butter, Chocolate Mint, Almond Butter Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Raspberry, as well as two plant-based varieties: Buttery Blackberry Jelly. almond and the piece of peanut butter chocolate.
Its latest innovation, a salted butter collagen bar, combines the flavors of a buttery pastry with hints of sea salt. It marks the brand’s first introduction of functional collagen and uses grass-fed butter.
“We’ve really put the gas pedal on the innovation front,” said Clifford. “We had three bars at the start of 2021. Now we have eight bars. The thing that impresses Adam and me the most is that each of our products has been speed accretive. I don’t think many brands can say the same.