How brüks bars grew from homemade health food to snack success story

Husband and wife Sean and Brooke Muldoon fell in love over a shared passion for baking and cooking. Neither expected it would lead to a professional adventure in food entrepreneurship.

The couple met in 2011 in New York City and connected almost immediately over a shared love of food and wellness. When Sean started graduate work in exercise physiology, his commitment to nutrition led him in search of a ‘real food,’ clean, nutrient-rich snack to sustain him.

That proved to be a challenge: Due to food allergies, Sean lives by a disciplined gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan lifestyle. The couple was tired of buying nutrition bars in the grocery store. So they came up with an idea.

“We kind of turned to each other and said, ‘Let’s try to do this for ourselves,’” recalls Brooke Muldoon via phone from Seattle. “We really wanted to see if we could create something different.”

In their home kitchen, they created the original recipe for the company that would become brüks bars. They crafted the original batches just for themselves. Then they started making extra to share with others.

Within a month, they started to receive orders from friends and colleagues.

“It was at that point that we had a lightbulb moment, and we thought that maybe we had something special here,’” Muldoon recalls.

They were right. You can now find brüks bars in more than 150 retail locations across 16 states. And on Sept. 29 of this year, the company added a powerful new account: Amazon.

Following Sean’s graduation from grad school in 2013, the couple relocated to Charlotte. Sean accepted a position as a strength coach for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Brooke quit her job in marketing to commit fully to brüks bars. They moved production from their home kitchen to Carolina Commercial Kitchen. And in August 2013, the Muldoons started selling them to friends and family and in local coffee shops.

The next year, they were selling bars in 35 local retail shops and shipping nationally. In 2015, sales doubled. At the end of that year, the Whole Foods store in Cary, N.C., started carrying the bars.

“Getting into Whole Foods was a dream of ours, and we’d always stayed in touch with the SouthPark store, sending gentle email reminders or dropping by with product,” Muldoon shares. “Getting into the Cary store really elevated the business.”

Within three months of pitching to Whole Foods, 13 locations in the Southeast were carrying brüks bars.

2015 also marked another important milestone for the couple – they got married.

The following year, the number of retail locations and sales doubled again. And the recent partnership with Amazon is likely to keep the company on that path of exponential growth.

Today, Brooke serves as the company’s CEO; her husband, Sean, is CSO – Chief Strategy Officer. The couple relocated to Seattle when Sean accepted a full-time job with Seattle Sounders FC, and that move has proved serendipitous.

They had been looking for a new facility in which to produce the specially crafted, hand-packed bars that respected their commitment to gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan process and product. They located a facility in Washington State that had been producing similar goods for approximately 20 years, and that shifted the business from a food production company to a manufacturing company.

Charlotte still plays an important role in the company. brüks bars COO, Pete Smith, remains in Charlotte, overseeing the process of fulfilling orders with bars produced here. And the Muldoons consider the QC their second headquarters.

“Charlotte is where our bars were born; it’s where we became food entrepreneurs,” Muldoon gushes. “It’s also where we started to get the support and advice we needed to grow the business. The SCORE mentoring program [supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration] was critical for that.”

Despite their strong growth in recent years, the Muldoons are keeping it real.

“I see my job as the person who needs to move the needle forward, but with respect to who we’ve always been,” Muldoon notes. “It’s easy to compromise, but we believe in creating a quality product and that comes from being proud of our product and knowing exactly who we are.”