From Vegetarians to Meat Evangelists

How one couple’s Paleo conversion has shaken up the sports nutrition business.

It took two former vegetarians — Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest — to shake up the sports-nutrition market with their grass-fed meat bars.

Collins and Forrest launched Epic Provisions in 2013 with a selection of bars with unusual flavors such as Bison Bacon Cranberry and Lamb Currant Mint. Since then, the bars have become some of the hottest-selling natural food snacks on the market, tripling in sales each year since their launch in 2013.

The snacks have sold so well that co-founders Collins and Forrest sold Epic earlier this year to General Mills, remaining on board as CEO and president, respectively, to develop new “whole animal” nutrition products.

24Life asked Collins how they started the company, how they’re trying to make the meat industry more sustainable and where Epic is headed.

24Life: How did you become interested in a Paleo diet?

Taylor Collins (TC): We were introduced to the Paleo diet after being vegetarians for many years. Unfortunately, our bodies were beginning to break down with a plant-based diet, and Katie was suffering from constant gastrointestinal issues as well as inflammatory issues that were diet-related. We started eating a Paleo diet out of desperation to heal our bodies and gear up for a competitive triathlon season. It worked.

24Life: How were the first meat bars created?

TC: Katie and I developed the Epic bars by creating recipes in our own kitchen. We had complete creative freedom to mix our favorite animal proteins with our favorite fruits and nuts. We then tested all iterations of the products during long bike rides, hikes or traveling.

24Life: You have standards for your sourcing to make sure you are conserving grasslands and humanely treating the animals that go into your products. How did you come to these standards?

TC: Soon after we launched Epic into the market, we realized that in order to create the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, we had to start looking into soil health and biology. Thriving soil creates healthy grasslands, these grasslands create nourishing feed for ruminate animals, and these pastured animals produce healthy food for the end consumer. It’s a cycle that is often overlooked with meat production but critical in order to maintain health throughout this system. Since then, we have been committed to large-scale grassland restoration projects and partnering with nonprofits like the Savory Institute. When managed appropriately, livestock can enrich, heal and create a net-positive return on the earth.

24Life: Why do you think these meat bars are a better choice than a traditional whey or plant-based protein bar?

TC: By creating a bar made from grass-fed and pastured meat, we are producing a whole-food product that our bodies easily recognize and readily absorb. Our human ancestors have evolved over the last 200,000-plus years eating a diet of wild meat, fruit and nuts. Epic bars are an homage to the same foods consumed by our ancestors and consistent with our evolutionary genetics. Other protein isolates (soy, whey, pea) are highly processed and rely on toxic ingredients to extract from a whole-food source. Our bodies are challenged to identify this as real food, and as a result, digestion is a challenge.

24Life: What’s next for Epic ?

TC: We are focusing our energy toward better utilizing the entire animal! [Epic also sells bone broth, animal fats for cooking and other meat snacks.] By seeking ways to use more materials from these brilliant creatures, we are better honoring these animals as well as producing some of the most nutrient-rich foods we have ever created. We call the Epic mission “The Whole Animal Project.”

Photo credit: thinkstock, iStock, CarbonBrain.