Interview with Jonathan Miller: Founder of Element Bars

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers about yourself? How did you get into the business?
Jonathan Miller: It started with raisins . . or more accurately without raisins. I was enjoying one of the energy bars I had baked in my own kitchen when a friend said “That’s really neat. I would have my bar with almonds and raisins”. I hate raisins and that that sparked an idea – why not put the power back into the customer’s hands and let them pick the ingredients they want in their custom bars.

Sarah Velasco: What does your average day look like for you? What does your job entail? 
Jonathan Miller: I start the morning by picking 3 bars from the previous days. I sample 2 of them and then each the 3rd one for breakfast. If I like the bar, I’ll email the customer and thank them for breakfast and if I think there is an issue with the bar, I’ll email the customer and make sure they liked the recipe (since we do have a taste guarantee). Next, I probably be working with different ingredient suppliers – trying new ingredients and seeing how they interact with other ingredients..from chia seeds to egg white protein. We also do contract manufacturing (sometimes calls private label) where we produce bars for other bar companies, retail outlets, or corporate events. I’ll often spend time with customers on the phone making sure they design the right bar for their target audience.

Sarah Velasco: What makes your bars so unique? 
Jonathan Miller: ElementBars.com lets users design their own custom wholefood bar by selecting organic and conventional ingredients and then personalize the label. Users who want proven taste and nutrition can customize a "popular bar" that has received the most positive reviews by other users of ElementBars.com.
Each energy bar is hand made, packaged, and then labeled with its custom bar name and nutritional information. Element Bars is committed to using unprocessed or minimally processed elements in each bar to retain the most nutritional value.

Sarah Velasco: How can readers purchase Element Bars? 
Jonathan Miller: We have 2 main types of bars – popular and custom bars. Custom bars are built from scratch – starting with the core (chewy, crispy, oaty, datey) and then adding fruits, nuts, sweets, and boosts. Our popular bars have been voted on by our customers as the best balance of taste and nutrition and are sold at a discount of $1.99 per bar (vs $2.99 for the custom bars). We also offer our popular bars in variety packs so you can get a sampling of 4 different bars.

Sarah Velasco: What would your favorite bar contain? 
Jonathan Miller: As discussed above, my favorite bar is the one I pick from the previous day’s production so it is really changes day to day. If I had to pick, I would probably go with the chewy core with 1 fruit and 1 nut (maybe cherries and almonds).

Sarah Velasco: What are the most popular build-a -bar combinations? What do customers include in their bar most frequently? 
Jonathan Miller: Cherries and blueberries are some of the most popular ingredients because you don’t often find them in other mass market bars. Cherries and blueberries are actually very expensive, but we feel strongly at Element Bars that flavors should come from ingredients, not bottles (i.e. natural flavors) so we spend the extra money on premium ingredients.

Sarah Velasco: Are there any "donts" when creating your own bar?
Jonathan Miller: We have a system that will automatically tell you if you put 2 ingredients together and warn you before checking out. An example is agave in the oaty core – it is just too thin and the bar tends to fall apart.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about your experience with Shark Tank ? What was that like? 
Jonathan Miller: On the September 13th episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, founder Jonathan Miller successfully negotiated a deal with infomercial king Kevin Harrington. Watched by over 5 million households, the national spotlight has significantly accelerated Element Bar’s growth: from being the 3rd most searched term on Google that night to a 24-hour sales volume that surpassed the previous 6 months. I look back and watch it sometimes and am amazed at the answers I gave. That being said, I prepared for weeks with lists of frequently asked questions and that, along with a passion to see the business succeed, allowed me to be confident enough to take on the sharks.

Sarah Velasco: Are there any common misconceptions about whole food bars? 
Jonathan Miller: Everyone throws around the term all natural very loosely. At Element Bars, we believe it should all come from food that you can find in your pantry. No unpronounceable words.