BAR-U-EAT brand creates healthy, sustainable snack products in Steamboat

BAR-U-EAT products are made with natural ingredients, including oats, seeds, nuts, honey and dates. Co-founder Sam Nelson said the bars are not too sweet but offer a great-tasting alternative to many of the bars consumers currently find on the market. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The taste was born on the slopes, rivers and trails near Steamboat Springs, and entrepreneurs Sam Nelson and Jason Friday said it was their love for the area that helped them decide to base their new venture, BAR-U-EAT, in the Yampa Valley.

“I’ve been making these bars for a very long time, I would say five-plus years, and I would always take them along when I was hiking, skiing, touring, you name it,” Nelson said. “I started giving them to friends, and I had enough peer pressure to try to sell them.”

Nelson started selling the bars to a few people and received a lot of positive feedback.

“It was a way to make a little extra cash, but it was just a hobby,” Nelson said.

That was when Friday, his lifelong friend, pitched the idea of turning Nelson’s idea into a marketable business. The two had grown up across the street from each another in Falls Church, Virginia.

“We’ve known each other since we were about 3 years old,” Friday said. “We’ve been best friends, and Sam’s been making these bars for years. I’ve been telling him that he needed to go legit with it.”

Then one day while enjoying the slopes at Steamboat Resort, the name for the new business became clear as Nelson made his way to the top for another run.

Steamboat Springs' entrepreneurs Jason Friday, left, and Sam Nelson launched the BAR-U-EAT snack bar in December 2019. Today the bars, and the recently introduced BITES-U-EAT, can be found in 26 locations across Steamboat Springs, including the Community Agriculture Alliance Market downtown, and in 11 states across the country. (Photo by John F. Russell)

“He was sitting on the lift one day and decided that BAR-U-EAT would be a good name,” Friday said, referring to the famous Bar UE lift at the resort. “It kind of reflects our ethos of locally sourcing our ingredients and contributing back to the community. I think it was a good, good choice all around.”

Just over a year ago the two, plus an army of volunteers, began producing the bars, which were created using simple, whole and organic ingredients without artificial preservatives or pesticides. The business utilizes a commissary kitchen in Steamboat for its production.

Today, BAR-U-EAT bars and bites can be found at 26 locations in Steamboat Springs as well as Avon, Boulder, Breckenridge, Buena Vista, Carbondale, Denver, Durango, Edwards, Estes Park, Frisco, Fort Collins, Ouray, Ridgeway, Silverthorne, Telluride, Vail and Wheat Ridge. The bars also be found in states from coast to coast including Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

The BAR-U-EAT logo gives a shout out to Routt County's rich ranching traditions with an active twist. (Courtesy)

The company started with the BAR-U-EAT four-pack in the original flavor. The bars are a blend of lightly roasted oats, nuts and seeds bound together by Majhūl dates and honey, which is locally sourced through the Bear River Apiary. In December BAR-U-EAT added BITES-U-EAT to its offerings as well as a few new flavors including oatmeal raisin, PB & J and coffee pecan, which uses locally roasted Seedhouse Coffee beans.

While BAR-U-EAT was born in Steamboat, Nelson said he was inspired to make his own bars after coming across a nutritional bar that was handmade by a local cafe near where he was working a a ski guide in the Westfjords region of Iceland a few years ago.

When he returned to the U.S. and settled down in Steamboat, he struggled to find the same kind of bar that he has enjoyed in Iceland on his backcountry adventures.

“I wanted something different than what was out there,” Nelson said. “We use honey and dates so you get a little bit of natural sweetness and then use oats, nuts and seeds so you still get some crunch. It’s this perfect blend of crunchy oats, nuts and seeds with a little bit of soft honey. So it’s hitting both ends of the palete.”

In addition to creating a healthy snack bar, the two entrepreneurs were also committed to creating an environmentally friendly product. BAR-U-EAT is a proud member of 1% for the Planet.

BAR-U-EAT bars use whole, organic ingredients and local Colorado honey and then are sealed in 100% compostable packaging. (Photo courtesy of BAR-U-EAT)

“First and foremost we’re making great tasting bars, and we are also committed to using compostable packaging,” Nelson said. “Compostable packaging is really big, because it’s an industry that is dominated by single-use plastics.”

Sustainability is one of the reasons BAR-U-EAT bars come in a four-bar package that can be opened and then resealed. The bites come in a similar multi-use container. When the time comes to discard the packaging, the consumer can be confident that the materials used are compostable.

“We’re a snack bar that you can enjoy every day,” Friday said. “A lot of people use them as their morning pick-me-up, but they’re also great when you’re out on the trail, when you’re hiking, biking or you just need a little bit more energy. They have everything that you need to keep your mind sharp and keep your body going.”

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