By Chris Meehan | Jul 03, 2020
"What makes us innovative compared to others is that we're the only prune-based bar on the market," says Webber. "There's nothing like this out there anywhere. It's very standalone and we all know the key to category growth in any business industry is innovation
"There's an education piece that has to come along with what we're doing," Webber says. "Prunes in itself are not a food product that a lot of millennials and gen Xers grew up eating. So it's kind of like a reintroduction for them."
"We're really trying to push low-glycemic," he continues. "The prunes are the catalyst that makes that work."
Webber explains that the low-glycemic aspect of the sugars from prunes make them more suitable for diabetics. Low-glycemic sugars are absorbed more slowly into the blood and the fiber in prunes help with a feeling of satiation after eating. "This is our biggest differentiator, branding ourselves as low-glycemic, and as a next generation of healthier for you products by not just slapping a bunch of what everyone thinks are healthy ingredients together," he says.
Though he founded the company with his brother, Patrick, in 2014, Webber says they were making some of the bars for themselves and friends as early as 2007. "It wasn't until 2014 that we were like: 'We're tired of making these for everybody for free,'" he recalls.
At first, the company experienced slow growth as it sought its niches within the sports and the outdoor industry. It looked to market within groups that ski, mountain bike, climb, golf, and practice yoga.
In 2017, the product got a boost with an Editors' Choice nomination in Backpacker magazine, which helped it gain a nationwide presence in REI stores, and it refreshed its image with new branding and packaging the following year. "That's when we landed Safeway," says Webber. "So even though we got founded in 2014, I really look at 2018 as our coming-out party."
Fourpoints is continuing to expand into other chains, including Natural Grocers and Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply stores, as well as climbing gyms, hotels, and other outlets. It's also expanding its offerings.
"When we started off, we were making our product with hemp protein and whey protein, and were just trying to make the best complete bar. What we found was that professional athletes and our military couldn't have the hemp," Webber explains. "Conversely there's a strong plant-based protein movement that hasn't really gone away -- that's only getting stronger. So we decided to split our line into two."
Whey protein proved a sticking point in the natural foods space, he says, and the unique prune and hemp approach to nutrition helped the company break into stores as a category innovator and to attract more vegan and vegetarian consumers.
"We turned our core line of energy bars into 100 percent plant-based bars and just use the hemp protein, so there was a reformulation there, and then we created a higher-calorie, higher protein-bar that just had the whey protein and we call it 'Tactical,'" Webber continues. "We just launched it in February."
They're already having success with the newest bars. After landing the Air Force Academy as an account in spring 2020, "My ultimate goal is to see the bar as standard issue with our troops," says Webber. "They don't have access to some of his really good nutritional items and so we created this specifically for them."
The whey protein-based line also is in demand by professional athletes, many of whom steer clear of hemp-based products. "The Kansas City Chiefs were ordering our Tactical lines throughout this past season," Webber says.
Fourpoints has also experienced unique growing pains. In 2018, the company went from producing in a commissary to working with a co-packer to produce its bars. "We went to place our first order of 25,000 units and they said, sorry, 'We're shutting the doors,'" Webber says. The company used seed funds from family and friends to invest in creating its own co-packing facility: Basecamp Co-Pack.
"Now we have our own facility in north Denver, right off I-70," Webber says. "We do co-packing services for small- to medium-sized companies in addition to manufacturing our Fourpoints Bars. . . . We've been getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 20 calls a week from potential clients from all over the country -- Florida, Texas, New York, California, all coming out to see if we can manufacture for them."
Webber, also a co-owner of Carboy Winery in Denver, and his partners in Fourpoints have a background in the restaurant industry, so developing a co-packing facility may not have been as difficult for them as for another startup getting into manufacturing. He says the FDA and local health department have complimented them on their facility's cleanliness already.
Challenges: "Retail was already a moving target before COVID," says Webber. "After COVID, retail is even more of a moving target because people now are going to purchase even more online, direct to consumer, than they did before."
Consumer education is another challenge for Fourpoints. "It's not a familiar taste that most people grew up with," he notes, "and there's a legacy function about what happens when you eat a prune, which is not true, but it does help."
Opportunities: "There's a tremendous opportunity within alternative channels, and in food service, like K-12 kids in schools," says Webber. 'But the military is obviously the biggest one."
Needs: "Growth capital," Webber notes. "All the money that we had went into manufacturing so that we could keep our business going and control our process left us with zero marketing budget."