Preparation, perspiration, perseverance and chance partnered in launching Zeek Bars for kids on a national trajectory. In July the premium, nine-gram protein bar with a humble Silicon Valley beginning was introduced in 33 Bay Area Whole Foods stores.
The Cosmic Cookie Dough and Brownie Blast Off bars in space-themed packaging appeal to kids even before the first bite.
“Nobody else has done well with a more nutritious protein bar explicitly for kids,” said Reid Pearson, who co-founded Zeek Bar (www.zeekbar.com) with his wife, Kassidy Pearson, an Executive Business Partner at Google.
“Kids are picky. They want different textures and flavors. Ingredients have to taste really good. However healthy it is, there’s no point if kids don’t want to eat it.”
The couple developed their kid-friendly recipe in their apartment in Mountain View in 2016, funding the venture with savings and credit financing.
“Kassidy would come home from work and all these ingredients would be all over the kitchen, and I’m in an apron,” said Reid Pearson. “Developing the initial recipe took [six months of] experimenting and failing.”
Now Santa Clara residents, the Pearsons hand made the bars each weekend. They peddled them at local swim meets, where parents wanted nutritious snacks for their kids rather than the typical concession stand fare.
“The ingredients are natural and healthy,” said Reid Pearson. “The parents we sell to are the type that turn the bar over and read the label.”
To increase production they rented space in commercial kitchens. They adapted a $300 hand crank for rolling out clay to rolling dough, enabling them to make 1,000 bars in five hours.
In 2017, with business increasing on Amazon, they found a copacker in their home state of Oregon to make and package a short production run of 10,000 bars.
Then at a swim meet in spring of 2019, a Vice President at Whole Foods happened to overhear a woman raving about Zeek Bars and put the Pearsons in touch with a Whole Foods “local finds” team.
“We’re in our own lane as a kids’ protein bar,” said Reid Pearson, who majored in entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. “It’s been a lot of hard work and running around — and luck, too, for the Whole Foods guy to hear the testimonial. It was a huge break for us.”
As a student, he coached for Beverly Hills Little League Baseball and first saw the challenge parents had in finding nutritious snacks for the young players.
“We really do believe that Zeek Bars can be a national brand and fill a gap here in the market. In the next year or so, we may need to get financial backing,” said Reid Pearson.
“I don’t view this as work. I’m excited every day. When you create a company, it becomes like your child. I’m super excited to be able to work on it and grow it even more.”
The Pearsons are also excited about their first child, Ari, born on May 26.
“The thing about being an entrepreneur is that there are so many ups and downs,” said Reid Pearson. “I’m excited about the future but realistic about the challenges and obstacles.”