For six years, Corrine Konell was the smiling face behind Cowgirl Cupcakes in Sandy. Now she's traded her sweet treats for a product near and dear to her stomach — protein bars.
Konell started her booth at the Mount Hood Farmers Market this year after the March launch of her barNONE brand.
"I couldn't find anything I could just pick up off the shelf because I have a lot of food allergies," Konell said. At one point, her allergies to cow-based dairy products, gluten, refined sugars, corn and soy had her on an elimination diet of mostly leafy greens.
Needless to say, she saw a lot of weight loss and was lacking a lot of key nutrients she needed that are commonly found in foods she couldn't eat.
Goat whey was the game-changer for the 31-year-old. Once she found out the alternative dairy product was something her stomach could tolerate, she began experimenting and baking with it, as well as finding ways to incorporate it into her own diet.
"For six years I had a cupcake business — Cowgirl Cupcakes — so I know how to formulate recipes," Konell noted. "I love recipe formulation. I love the whole food science aspect."
During this period of time, she also found she was definitely not alone. Her family is very fitness-oriented, and she learned that several people in her community had similar allergies and dietary concerns.
"There was definitely a need," Konell said. "Ultimately, (I started selling bars) because my family and I see that there isn't really anything on the market that isn't full of sugar and other things."
The Boring-native started out making her bars in her home kitchen and kept them to herself. When she saw the demand for her product in the community, her bars became a business.
She started researching how to make them shelf-stable, and eventually partnered with a co-packer in California to formulate a better-preserved recipe and package for the bars.
Konell's flagship flavor is peanut butter chocolate chunk. The bar contains real food ingredients and is gluten-free, non-genetically modified, and does not contain any refined sugars or additives.
"I liked baking when I was baking, but it was really physically exhausting," Konell explained. "What I love about this now is I'm working to educate people."
Konell's product line is not limited to Sandy though. She travels to the South Waterfront, Oregon Health & Science University and Nike World Headquarters farmers markets in Portland, the Bridgeport Farmers Market in Tigard, and both the Happy Valley and West Linn markets.
She is also in discussions with Oregon-based grocery franchises New Seasons and Market of Choice, and plans to have her bars available for retail purchase soon.
Five months into her new venture Konell is looking to go global. Her hip #voteforgoat promotional apparel, which she sells along with her bars has already gained her some notoriety around her farmers market circuit, but she wants to help on a more international scale.
"I knew I ultimately wanted to get a good product into stores that was unique," Konell said. "I basically have the corner on the market here because (my product is) so unique. I feel like I'm paving the way for this type of product."
Konell will attend the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association's Canada Outbound Consumer Oriented Trade Mission in Toronto, Canada, in September. There, she will present her product to Canadian buyers and determine if her bountiful bars would sell to the United States' northern neighbors.
In the mean time, Konell said, she is still figuring out distribution for her more local customers and deliberating on whether or not she should take on a venture capitalist.
Konell's barNONE bars are available at the Mount Hood Farmers Market from 3-8 p.m. one Friday a month, or online at www.barnoneprotein.com.