Mississauga Company Carving Out Niche in Competitive Healthy Snack Market

Local entrepreneur Jiries Rabba is putting his small business of PrOATein Bars on the fast track of success.

The genesis of entrepreneur Jiries Rabba’s decision to start a business in the health foods industry came, in part, from being an unsatisfied customer.

A fitness enthusiast, Rabba says he simply couldn’t find a protein bar that suited his needs. Either the ingredients weren’t healthy — many, he says, were high in sugar and fat — or they just didn’t taste very good. So, he decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and create his own. In January of last year, the Port Credit resident launched his Mississauga-based company, PrOATein Bar.

When he was considering starting his own business, Rabba knew he was going to be entering a health food industry that was already heavily saturated with scores of companies offering their own protein bars. He admits he was a bit apprehensive at first, but he also believes his company is carving out its own niche, because their bars differ from many on the market.

One of his first orders of business was finding the right mix of ingredients, says Rabba, as the bars are billed as being all natural with no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners. Oats, whey protein isolate and date paste are just some of the main components for his bars. He also touts the fact that his are both nut-free and gluten-free. Each contains about 10 grams of fibre, 15 grams of protein and is between 160 and 170 calories.

“We care about what people put into their bodies; it’s as simple as that,” he said, speaking of his products and his company’s philosophy.

Rabba says the bars are marketed as healthy snacks that are a good way to get over that “3 p.m. snack craving” for chips or candy. Manufactured in Quebec, they are touted as a wholesome snack for — as an example — the hectic mom who’s always on the go or the busy professional looking to fuel up between meetings.

As well, the company plays up the fact it’s both Canadian and local to Mississauga.

Currently, they offer four flavours: banana chocolate, white chocolate coconut, fudge and vanilla blueberry. They retail for $2.99.

The bars can be found in more than 1,200 stores across Canada, including chains such as Longo’s and GNC. Rabba says they’re also currently testing in Costco and Loblaws. They can be found at the Nature’s Source location in Mississauga, as well as select independent stores, among other retailers.

Sales increased by 15 per cent between 2016 and 2017, and Rabba firmly believes they will swell by 50 per cent next year. The company is growing, with plans of launching a fifth flavour within the next month-and-a-half (he wouldn’t divulge what it was) and a sixth in the second quarter of 2018.

He also has future plans to expand into other products, including a breakfast oatmeal cup and protein shakes.

It’s a small but dedicated workforce for the company, with four full-time employees, which includes Rabba, as well as several part-time contract workers.

It’s hard to survive in the healthy lifestyle industry as a small business, but Rabba says he’s working hard to make a real go of it. “With a small business, you live and breathe it,” he said. “The onus is on you to make it (work). You just have to keep plugging away. There’s ups and downs; some days are great, others are tough.” However, he does have some insight into the industry he says helps him run his business successfully.

For example, he’s a self-professed diehard fitness enthusiast and worked for a number of years as a personal trainer before starting his professional career. That allowed him to forge relationships with those in the field he can turn to when required.

More information on the company can be found at proateinbar.com.

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