Out of frustration comes invention. Out of invention comes PocketFuel.
Mark Ribkoff, involved in the Hood River board sports industry for much of the 19 years that he and wife Heidi and their kids have lived here, shares a familiar passion for endurance sports with his business partner, Rod Parmenter.
“I’m involved in triathlons, standup paddleboarding, mountain biking, kiting,” Ribkoff says. “Every time we had an energy snack with us, it didn’t satisfy.”
If it happened be a paste product (think GU Energy products), Ribkoff says, it would invariably leave a sticky mess on his hands, or in his pocket.
“So I started looking for ideas,” he says. “Even though I come from a design background, I believed you can translate those skills to making a new product.”
The result? P0cketFuel, launched in February of this year.
“We figured, if one person uses it, there’s got to be other people out there who would use it,” says Heidi, whoworked in apparel design and now teaches yoga at the Hood River Sports Club and Columbia Gorge Yoga in White Salmon.
The set three bars for the new product: It had to be nutritious. It had to be portable.
“And it needs to taste good,” Ribkoff says. “If it doesn’t, nobody will eat it.”
The solution? Combine things already popular for nutritious snacking. Stored in flexible, refillable plastic containers with a screw cap, each recipe is built on an almond-butter base and employs dried fruits and seeds, along with pure honey and dehydrated cane juice, both of which double as energy sources and preservatives.
PocketFuel itself is a thick, extrusible snack, designed for easy dosing on the go, then perfect for stashing until the next craving for a shot of energy.
The packets hold 3 ounces each, and can be easily refilled from 24-ounce bulk bottles.
Because the product contains little water and an elevated level of sweeteners, it is shelf stable for up to 18 months.
For now, the Ribkoffs are blending and packaging the product themselves. They give huge props to Columbia Gorge Community College for providing access to its commercial kitchen on The Dalles campus.
“If they weren’t there, this wouldn’t have been possible,” Heidi says.
“The SBDC (small business development center) was very, very supportive,” Mark says. “It’s amazing — we’re very thankful and appreciative.”
Through the summer, they sold the product out of jars at the Gorge Grown Farmer’s Market. That direct customer contact provided invaluable feedback, Heidi says.
So far, PocketFuel is for sale at Shortt Supply, Mountain View Cycles, the Sports Club and 10 Speed Coffee (which supplies espresso for the Chocolate Espresso Kickstarter Blend. The other recipes include a Crunch Banana Blueberry, Chunky Coconut Cherry and Chia Goji & Honey.
In addition to web sales, they’ve gotten an enthusiastic response out of area, from the Food Front Cooperative in Northwest Portland.
Gary Koppen, head buyer for two Food Front outlets, says PocketFuel is “a great product, even in jars.” He says it’s got excellent, quality ingredients, and “tastes really good.”
Add in bulletproof refillable containers, and it’s hits the sweet spot for the hiker-biker crowd.
“The people who are into those things that I showed the product to said they were really interested in buying it,” Koppen says. “It’s got great potential, especially in the summer (when more people are involved in those activities).”
To finance their own production facility and expand marketing, the Ribkoffs plan a Kickstarter campaign in the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, consider two other compelling attractions of the PocketFuel line. The pouches would fit perfectly inside a Christmas stocking. And, at 3 ounces, they might be the ideal alternative to airline “snack service.”