Karie Boesiger and her mother-in-law Kris have a lifelong education in baking – starting with chocolate chip cookies and ending up entrepreneurs and business partners creating over 6,000 healthier alternatives packed with oats and nuts called The Backcountry Bar.
“I learned to love baking when I was a young girl,” says Karie. “My sister and I would vacation at our Grandma Margaret’s in Spokane. One of the activities she planned for us included our special baking days. We each chose what type of cookie we would wanted to make (and eat) and she assisted. Hand-mixing the ingredients was completely entertaining. We were not old enough to operate a mixer. I imagine we must have made a huge mess, but we loved every minute of it.”
After years of experiments and research and baking a lot of cookies for parties and friends, Karie earned herself the title of “Karie Jean the Cookie Queen.” The Boesiger women created The Backcountry Bar in 2005, originally called The Everything Good Cookie, and began the search for local coffee shops that might be interested in carrying their product. The Boise Co-Op was the first to sign on in 2006 followed quickly by St. Luke’s Hospital downtown Boise. The Backcountry Bar is now distributed to over 200 retail stores including health food stores like Whole Foods, food co-operatives, grocery stores like WinCo Foods (a long-standing customer), fitness and outdoor retailers, and coffee houses in Idaho, Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. You can also find the women each Saturday during the season selling the bars in a little booth at the Boise Farmer’s Market downtown Boise on Front Street.
The Backcountry Bar isn’t just a healthy alternative to a cookie; Karie and Kris think of their bar as a wholesome meal replacement. It’s a soft bar loaded with dried fruits, nuts, a variety of seeds, rolled oats and all natural peanut butter, with a gluten-free version also available. “Our future plans for the business include expanding the line with new varieties,” Karie explains. “We have started with test runs for a product that does not contain peanuts. Some dried fruits we have experimented with include blueberries, goji berries, and cherries. Dark chocolate is requested from many of our customers as well as utilizing other natural protein sources. It is fun mixing up the flavors and experimenting with complimentary taste combinations.”
The goal of Backcountry Bar was to create a bar for all kinds of lifestyles and people, whether you are a runner fueling for a marathon, an athlete skiing in the backcountry, a teenager needing a filling after school snack, or a busy mom racing between carpool, work and soccer practice. “Our motto is ‘Your Lifestyle, Your Fitness, Your Bar’,” Karie explains. “We wanted to create something that works for everyone.”
And it seems the Boesigers have succeeded in creating just that – as many of their customers have nothing but praise for the pre-packaged snack. ”I adore these! I buy them at WinCo and keep them in my birth bag. As a childbirth doula, I’m often away for long periods of time and need a great source of quick nutrition. The Backcountry Bar is one of my go-to items,” Macy Huberty tells us.
“These are so yummy! We pack them for all our trips,” shares mother and Boise artist Angela Stewart. “We even enjoyed them on a mountain in New Zealand, and I have a picture to prove it! We always keep a few tucked in the freezer so they are ready to go with us on an adventure… or when my always starving 6-year-old has a hunger breakdown.”
Kris and Karie have their hands in every aspect of the business. The bars are manufactured locally at the University of Idaho Food Technology Center in Caldwell. While their baking team has changed over the years, it is always a nice mix of new and old friends and family who love to work hard and enjoy being productive. When they began the business in 2006, they had a staff of 4 bakers with an output of 500 bars at the end of the day. Today they employ 10-15 people and produce 6,000 bars in one day.
This year marks the ten year anniversary of The Backcountry Bar, and the Boesiger women are excited to announce that Intermountain Division of Albertsons, one of the US largest food retailers in the United States, just signed on to carry The Backcountry Bar at their Pacific Northwest locations. They also have plans for business expansion, a growing pain for any small business entrepreneur. The women hope to move, eventually, from manufacturing it themselves and managing the current distribution to finding and securing a co-manufacturing facility that can maintain the quality of taste, texture and the home-baked product we maintain with the ingredients they use and love.