It’s only just hit the store shelves, but Colleen Dyck’s made-in-Niverville energy bar already has a loyal customer following.
“People are sending me photos of themselves on mountain tops or in yoga poses with their GORP bar, or out in the canoe with their kids,” said Dyck, who operates Artel Farms Ltd. with husband Grant.
“It’s hit something with people.”
Dyck, a triathlete, began what she dubbed “the Great Gorp Project” in 2005 after discovering most leading brands of energy bars contained corn syrup and other ingredients she didn’t want to eat — or feed her children. She decided to create her own bar from natural ingredients sourced as close to home as possible.
“It was just an idea at the time,” she said, adding she incorporated the company immediately, thinking it would only take a few months to have a product for sale.
Then she began to run the gauntlet of food product development. At the same time she and her husband were designing and building an ultra-modern four-storey home, as well as expanding Artel Farms, which is now a 13,000-acre enterprise that employs six people full time and 24 on a part-time basis.
“There were a few kids birthed along the way too,” said the mother of four.
Winning the top prize at the Great Manitoba Food Fight at the 2009 Capturing Opportunities business development forum was a big incentive to keep going with GORP.
“When I won that award it did more for me than I think people know,” said Dyck. “It gave me confidence to keep going.”
That same month, the couple was also named national co-winners of the Canadian Outstanding Young Farmer award.
The house is now completed and has a fully-equipped commercial kitchen installed in the lower level. There, Dyck and her staff are producing and packaging two flavours of GORP bars, with a third soon to launch. The bars contain locally produced oats, hemp, sunflowers, flax, pea fibre and honey from their canola crops as well as imported ingredients such as cocoa and almonds.
During the longer-than-anticipated product development period, Dyck took GORP bars to marathons and fun runs, seeking feedback from prospective customers. That’s helped fuel the excitement and consumer demand for a new product with a name familiar to any hiker — the acronym stands for “good old raisins and peanuts.”
“For me it’s more than a funny acronym,” said Dyck, adding gorp is something you pack for an adventure, whether that’s a day hike or a mountain-climbing expedition.
“To me it’s a philosophy — it’s about healthy living and finding adventure in your life and eating clean. That’s what I tried to duplicate with this product.”
The product retails at Vita Health Fresh Market and Nutrition Plus stores in Winnipeg, as well as in several other locations around the city and in southern Manitoba.
The company’s logo, a tiny tractor with wings, symbolizes the couple’s approach to farming.
“Agriculture is a wild ride,” said Grant. “We recognized that early on.”
Artel is a Russian word that stands for “a group of people working together for a common goal” and this team approach has been the foundation of the farm’s success, he added.
“We can’t stress that enough,” he said. “We really believe that’s the culture we’re trying to ingrain here.”
In addition to GORP and the farm, the couple is also involved in Wood Anchor, a Winnipeg company that turns diseased elm and other reclaimed wood into fine flooring and furniture — and a concrete supply business.
More about GORP: www.gorpworld.com