Looking at Chris Herbert and Caleb Simpson, it’s not hard to see how their company Bearded Brothers got its name.
Technically Chris and Caleb are brothers-in-law—their wives are sisters—but both the business and their raw food lifestyle are a family affair. “I got into this because of Chris,” Caleb says. “I had been a meat and potatoes guy all my life, until a few years ago after my wife and I visited Chris and his wife. We ate raw foods for an entire weekend. I started learning more, doing a lot of research, and gradually transitioned to a raw foods diet too.”
Chris and Caleb are brothers-in-law… but both the business and their raw food lifestyle are a family affair.
Chris and Caleb bonded over their shared love of outdoor activities and their growing passion for healthy, conscious eating. Caleb is a trail runner and Chris is an avid disc golfer, and they had a hard time finding portable foods that were organic, raw, vegan, and didn’t taste like cardboard. So the Brothers started to make their own bars to take on their adventures. Soon friends and family began clamoring for their snacks, and Chris and Caleb realized they were making something special.
After being in business for less than three years, Bearded Brothers bars are distributed in more than 300 retail locations across the country. With such a large reach, you might imagine the bars are now being processed inside a large factory through a series of machines and handlers. Peeking inside their relatively small commercial kitchen, however, tells quite a different story.
With the help of just a few food handlers – and an assembly line that spans the length of two large tables – the bars are prepped, packed and sealed. Their product development process is refreshingly simple: “We ask ourselves two questions: What are foods that we enjoy, and what are foods that are good for you?” shares Caleb. The four flavors they offer now are the result of years of experimentation in making the bars for themselves, friends, and family.
Austin has been a great place for the company to grow. “Austin loves to support local foods and it’s an excellent place to start a food business. This city is like the Silicon Valley of the food industry, in terms of innovation and creativity,” says Caleb. Austin has also been a place where natural food startups in particular have thrived, as success stories like Whole Foods and Sweet Leaf Tea demonstrate.There’s been a growing interest nationwide in the health consciousness that’s long been a part of the Austin lifestyle. This has been a double-edged sword for Bearded Brothers; on one hand, it’s meant an increase in the market for their products. But it’s also made it increasingly difficult for them to use organic ingredients while keeping costs low.
“Dr. Oz talked about chia seeds on his show recently and they became incredibly popular. We couldn’t find them and thought we just might not be able to source organic chia anymore,” explains Chris. “We have had conversations about whether to use conventional ingredients because of the cost. But we’ve decided we can’t. Not only because it’s important for health to continuously eat organic—it’s also important because we want to support organic farming. If we’re all in and on board for organic farming, they can grow more and prices will go down.”
“This city is like the Silicon Valley of the food industry, in terms of innovation and creativity.”
However, it’s still difficult to find products that are raw, vegan, gluten- and soy-free and made with organic ingredients, which is why Chris and Caleb want to expand the Bearded Brothers product line into savory snacks. “Our bars have a sweet taste by necessity, because you need a binding agent and that’s usually figs or dates. We wanted to put something that’s different out on the marketplace,” says Chris.
Aside from snacks, they have ideas for other products and want to establish a community around the Bearded Brothers. brand. “We want to be more than a snack food company,” says Caleb. “We want to educate people on health and wellness and create a place where people can learn from each other.”
“We want to educate people on health and wellness and create a place where people can learn from each other.”
Talking with Chris and Caleb, it’s clear that what’s driving Bearded Brothers is their passion for sharing the healthy and tasty food that’s brought them so much pleasure over the years. Unlike other companies that talk about a hypothetical market for the things they sell, the Brothers only make products that they themselves eat and enjoy. This is a philosophy that has served well to now only keep their products honest, but to make their offerings display an abundacne: of conscience, health, and good food.
Organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, energy bars
This article originally published in The Gather Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine [December 2013].
Explore the full issue on your desktop here or download the FREE mobile issue designed specifically for your iPhone or iPad in the App Store today.
Local Arts Columnist
Jamie Smith is a writer and content strategist based in Austin, TX.
She writes for and about people and organizations doing innovative work in the fields of arts and culture, design, social justice, travel, and technology.
If she’s not writing, she’s probably at a book club meeting, traveling through cities large and small, or trying to tackle Austin’s outsized hills on her bike.
Photography: Kelly Rucker