Heaven’s Pantry, headquartered in Pennsylvania, has brought a totally unique energy bar to market. Motivated by the lack of a truly healthy and all-natural energy bar that actually tastes good, they got to work in 2019 on research and development. After many late nights in the test kitchen, they broke the mold and accomplished the mission. With only six all-natural ingredients – Dates, Cashews, Almonds, Cocoa Powder, Coconut Oil and Sea Salt – The Holy Grail of Energy Bars was born.
Manny Lai, Justin Gottlieb and Robert Marchionni met when attending Lehigh University. They became friends because they all shared an entrepreneurial spirit. After college, they stayed in touch while all doing their own thing. Lai worked long hours at a top consulting firm. Perks included unlimited free coffee from the local coffee shop. However, caffeine came with a dizzying mid-day slump. He wanted a better solution. Marchionni had been pondering what to do after college. He wanted to start a business, but as a consultant, he could only scale that so much. He had been making energy bars at home since he couldn’t find a high-protein snack that wasn’t loaded with sugar. Gottlieb was focused on running and exercise, as a balance to his work life. Like Lai, he was frustrated with the lack of healthy choices for energy bars, without the side effects of caffeine and all the added sugars and other junk.
While on a long drive on a summer night, Marchionni had business on his mind. He called Lai, and the homemade energy bars came up. Lai had an “ah-ha” moment. This could be the answer that he (and so many others) was looking for to replace coffee. There was a gap in the market they could take advantage of. He also realized the scalability of the idea, which he shared with Marchionni, who immediately suggested they meet for coffee to run it by Gottlieb and get serious about this endeavor and form their company.
Customers are more savvy these days, they read the ingredients, they want to know what they’re eating. With our energy bar, the simple ingredients speak for themselves.
Lai and Marchionni spent countless hours in the test kitchen, building off of Marchionni’s homemade bars, to create an energy bar recipe that provides sustainable energy, naturally, without the added sugars and crash. As they experimented, Lai thought of some early childhood memories and was inspired. His parental units fed him fruits and nuts to enhance his cognitive function when studying. He realized that simplicity was the way to go. Wholesome, nutritious and simple ingredients were the answer. “Sometimes innovation can be super simple” declared Lai “It doesn’t need to be some complicated idea.”
As they worked late into the night, perfecting the recipe, they got it down to the essence of the perfect energy bar. With only six all-natural ingredients, their new energy bar was born! It was so good in fact, that they thought it could pass as a brownie. Gottlieb tried it, and as part of their target market, agreed – they had the answer. Now what to call it? An amazing energy bar needed an equally amazing and strong name.
They picked “Excalibar” – basing it on the lore of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. “We chose this theme due to the integrity, ethics, and industriousness of Arthur and the Knights. It’s how we pride ourselves in doing business and is reflected in the purity and wholesomeness of our products. It’s a tool used by an upstanding warriors to get themselves through the day. Whether it’s adventuring in nature, building a career or running a business. The strength of the Excalibar is represented by our products – which are specially formulated to boost people with the night needed to conquer what challenges life throws at them.” asserts Lai.
Now it was time to truly get down to business. They worked out of a shared space in a ghost kitchen in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania to make and launch the product. They did everything themselves – from the marketing to the manufacturing. Made in small batches, they reached out to health food stores and gyms to sell the product. The initial response was good. People all had the same reaction – they thought it tasted great and loved the fact it only had six ingredients with no added sugars. They managed to get into a few stores. They were off to a good start, but they knew they had to look forward and plan on how to scale the business.
In the autumn of 2021, they revamped the logo and packaging, initially having done it themselves, with a local ad agency doing the design. Marchionni secured a co-packer to make the product and package it. The new look helped them get into some more stores. Notably, they secured The Farmstand, bustling marketing within the Easton Public Market, as a client. The bars were an instant success, doing well positioned right next to check out, as an impulse purchase item. Tanya, manager of the Farmstand says “Excalibars is Excellent. A yummy, healthy way to get the protein you need and satisfy that sweet tooth. Our customers love them!”
As they look forward, they’re making an even bigger push to get bigger clients, focusing on scalability. With their recent print ad campaign in Supermarket News, they’re already gaining interest. “Wholesale purchasers see the value in this particular product” proclaimed Lai “Customers are looking for all-natural, gluten-free and vegan options. Excalibar fits that need. In addition, customers are savvier these days, they read the ingredients, they want to know what they’re eating. With our energy bar, the simple ingredients speak for themselves”
As they expand, the team runs the business from three different locations in the country. Today, Lai works as a VP in a Fortune 500 Company, in North Carolina, while being a managing partner of Heaven’s Pantry in the evenings. He credits his high level of productivity to a balanced diet. Excalibar’s 6 natural ingredients were carefully selected to aid cognitive performance and boost energy without leading to a slump or crash. Gottlieb is on the west coast in California. “Balancing a full-time engineering job with starting a new company has been a fun and challenging journey. I am passionate about the ExcaliBar and I want everyone to have an opportunity to taste how delicious it is. It feels great to share a healthy and tasty product that I can call ‘mine’ with others. This really motivates me to work hard on helping our company grow.” Gottlieb states. Marchionni resides in Pennsylvania and is focused on servicing its local clients. “When our ad agency came up with the tagline ‘The Holy Grail of Energy Bars’ we all immediately agreed they nailed it. It truly is the elusive energy bar everyone has been searching for all this time.”
Today one can find the Excalibar for sale at La Purisma Naturista, Santa Ana, CA, Newport Coffee Company, Newport Beach, CA, Palm Berrie’s locations in North Carolina, Highmark Farmstand, Easton, PA, Ivy’s Bridge to Better Health in Tustin, CA and Taste of Nature in Wind Gap PA. Check them out on Instagram @heavenspantry