Longmont nutrition bar business makes it to ‘Shark Tank’ – Longmont Times-Call

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The Honey Bunchie company has been in Longmont for more than a decade, but a television appearance on Friday night will put the business and its gourmet honey bars in the national spotlight.
The bars, which were recently rebranded to Bon Bee Honey from Honey Bunchies, will be featured on an episode of “Shark Tank,” a reality show in which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to investors, or “sharks.” Made by hand in a commercial kitchen in Longmont, each bar is a sweet, salty blend of honey, nuts and sunflower kernels. Nearly half of each bar is pure honey, which Chief Marketing Officer Kendra Bennett said makes the product unique.
“Standing out in the nutrition bar category is extremely hard,” she said. “We feel really fortunate that we have something that is completely different.”
The mind behind the bars is Bennett’s father, Ed Payne, a mathematician, entrepreneur and Vietnam War veteran. As a fighter pilot in Vietnam, one of his favorite forms of energy came from a snack made by his wife, Jennifer Payne, that would ultimately inspire the Bon Bee Honey bars. In 2010, Ed Payne launched the Honey Bunchie company, initially working by himself to make, wrap and promote the bars.
“He had no experience in the food industry, and he just figured it out,” Bennett said. “He was making something that would taste really good because he wanted a really good snack.”
In February of last year, Bennett decided to reach out to a “Shark Tank” casting producer on LinkedIn. To her surprise, the producer responded, which led to Bennett traveling to Los Angeles in September to represent the company on the show. Bennett said her sons helped her practice for her appearance by posing as the “sharks” and asking her questions.
The whole process, Bennett said, has been “very surreal,” especially as a fan of the show herself. She said the idea of going on “Shark Tank” was something she kept in her back pocket for years.
“We really didn’t want to bring in investors for most of our journey,” she said. “We wanted to do this on our own. We wanted this to be ours as long as possible.”
Bennett said it felt good to represent her hometown and fellow Longmont entrepreneurs on national television.
“This is definitely going to bring some attention to Longmont, which makes me super proud,” she said.
Bennett remembers carrying a cooler up and down the streets of Longmont and Boulder, handing bars to pedestrians and “anybody who had a register.” Red Frog Coffee in Longmont became the first retail outlet to sell the bars, in 2013; since then, the company has expanded to put the bars in stores throughout Colorado, including Whole Foods, King Soopers, Natural Grocers and Ozo Coffee Company.
“We just wanted people to try them, and we knew once people tried them, they would love them,” Bennett said.
With Ed and Jennifer Payne as the co-owners, the Honey Bunchie company is equal parts woman-owned and veteran-owned. Bennett’s brother, Edward Payne, is also involved as chief operating officer and lives in Longmont as well.
Since roughly 4 million viewers are expected to tune into Friday’s episode of “Shark Tank,” the family is bracing for an increase in website traffic and a spike in demand for the bars. The bars are also set for a nationwide launch with Kroger in June and can currently be found in a handful of 7-Eleven stores in Dallas.
“People are absolutely getting behind us,” Bennett said. “To go outside Colorado and receive (support) like this in a place where it’s not our hometown, it’s mind-blowing.”
Jennifer Payne said the recent attention directed at the company comes from her family working hard and making a good product. She said her husband is excited about the success of his idea.
“He’s very, very happy that something he has created is going where it’s going,” she said.
Bennett’s appearance on “Shark Tank” will air at 7 p.m. Mountain Time on ABC.
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