LAS VEGAS — Lisa Matar attended the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco to do research for an idea she had for a food business. In 2023, she was exhibiting at the show in Las Vegas promoting her idea as the founder of the Health Bear Food Company, Monte Sereno, Calif., a manufacturer and marketer of convenient oatmeal-based meal solution cups. From idea to reality, Ms. Matar’s business plan has evolved, because of the pandemic and other market forces that have made her adapt.
“My original plan was to sell on-the-go products at companies in Silicon Valley,” she said during an interview at the Winter Fancy Food Show in mid-January. “I saw this as more of a foodservice business, but that obviously came to a grinding halt with the pandemic, and we transitioned our efforts to Amazon and some other platforms.”
Today, the company has three stock-keeping units that are marketed and distributed throughout Northern and Southern California by UNFI. In addition to Amazon, Health Bear’s products are marketed and distributed by such online platforms as Pod Foods and Mabel.
The premise behind Ms. Matar’s business is to elevate oatmeal but in a convenient, no sugar application.
“I thought oatmeal was boring,” she said. “I kept wondering why everyone was copying each other? Can’t we be creative?”
Flavor varieties currently available include coconut, cardamom and dates; blueberry, almond and lemon; and plain.
“It’s not hard to look in your spice cabinet to see what you can put in your oatmeal,” she said. “That’s how it started – I wanted to offer different flavors using ingredients people are familiar with and that they probably have in their kitchen.”
While the flavors may be unique, Ms. Matar wanted to sell a product that was approachable.
“There are a lot of products out there might not be so easily a yes, you know?” she said. “This (Health Bear) is really simple to say yes to. Everybody eats breakfast and a lot of people want healthy food.”
With some competing oatmeal products being formulated with sugar, Health Bear is sweetened with monk fruit. Other ingredients in the formulations include chia, flax, hemp and pea protein, which means the products have up to 12 grams of protein, no sugar and are high fiber, said Ms. Matar.
It is early days for the business. Ms. Matar remains the only employee, but she works with a copacker, marketing services company and brokers. She also has not sought outside funding from venture capital investors.
The biggest challenge she faces is adding scale with limited resources.“What’s good about this brand is it’s convenient and flexible,” she said. “I can continue to expand in retail, I can focus on e-commerce or I can take the idea to foodservice. It’s basically a grab-and-go option that can fit in a lot of places and I need to figure out what will be next.”