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These Vegan Protein Bars Are Made from Upcycled Ingredients

This woman-owned company is paving the way for zero food waste, one snack bar at a time!

Real Food Bar is a plant-based nutrition-bar brand that was founded by Anna Sullivan in Austin, Texas in 2019. These vegan protein bars are made from upcycled ingredients and pack a powerful 15g of plant-based protein per serving. Sullivan was inspired to create the company with her husband to fill a need for an on-the-go snack that could stand up to their adventurous lifestyle. The pair would often take these snack bars for breakfast on busy mornings or enjoy them on hiking trips—which accounts for the pictures taken by Sullivan and her husband that are now featured on Real Food Bar’s packaging. With the goal of creating a bar with a complete nutrition profile, Sullivan began experimenting in the kitchen with real, whole ingredients. Nearly two years later, Real Food Bar was born. And with tasty flavors like Espresso Chip, Chocolate Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, and Cherry Cashew, they’ve been a hit ever since.

While the aim of Real Food Bar is to provide a nutritious plant-based protein option, the company has also taken strides to create a circular food economy through the utilization of upcycled ingredients in the manufacturing process, which has a positive effect on the environment.

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly upcycled ingredients are and how Real Food Bar is making an impact on health and planet.

Ingredients That Reduce Food Waste

In 2019, the Upcycled Food Association was founded to help companies better identify ingredients that reduce food waste and to have a positive impact on the environment. According to the Upcycled Food Association, foods that are upcycled consist of ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and that have a positive impact on the environment. Upcycled ingredients can consist of soft or bruised fruits and vegetables like avocado seeds, potatoes, and bananas, as well as grains like rye and wheat. These ingredients might look misshapen, but they’re still safe and delicious for humans to eat.

At Real Food Bar, “ugly is beautiful,” meaning the company takes imperfect or upcycled ingredients—sourced from various producers in Canada, the Midwest, and California—and turns them into delicious snack bars. Since launching in 2019, the company has managed to rescue over 500 pounds of kale, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes that would otherwise go to a landfill.

Creating a Circular Food Economy

By upcycling ingredients like imperfect veggies, Real Food Bar is creating a circular food economy. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular food economy produces organic, healthy food using natural, regenerative, soil supporting growing practices. In addition, any byproducts or waste can also create new food—which in turn redistributes a surplus of edible products.

Food for Better Health and Planet

Real Food Bars are packed with 15g of plant-based protein sourced from peas, which are homegrown in Wisconsin and contain 85% protein per 100g (making them a tough competitor against animal-derived protein sources such as whey). The fiber in the bars is from tapioca fiber and is derived from cassava root. In addition, polyphenols from cherries (great for inflammation!), 11g of prebiotics, and hidden micronutrients such as kale, sweet potato, and cauliflower are also contained in the bars, making them a food for better health and the planet.

While Real Food Bar began with upcycled kale, cauliflower, and sweet potato, the brand has expanded their upcycled ingredient list to include coconut flour and Bing cherries. The company also plans to add peanuts and coconut oil to the list soon.

“We’re in the process and have exciting plans to upcycle additional ingredients, including peanuts, peanut butter, coconut oil, and coconut flour from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in partnership with Field Better, a platform that eliminates the middleman by working with 40,000 smallholder farms with traceable and upcycled ingredients,” Sullivan told VegOut.

Where to Buy Real Food Bar Vegan Protein Bars

Real Food Bars are available at select Whole Foods (Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma), Gopuff, SnackMagic, and Royal Blue Grocery, as well as online at Walmart.com and Amazon.com.

To find Real Food Bars at a store near you or to purchase directly with discounted recurring delivery options, visit RealFoodBar.com.

Kayla Pasko


Kayla, a Midwest girl living in NYC, is a writer with a background in media sales. When she’s not scoping out trendy vegan spots, she’s usually taking a yoga class, shopping at Trader Joe’s, or catching a Packers game.

Articles by Kayla

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