Youth sports are more hectic than ever.
Simply getting kids to the never-ending parade of practices, games and tournaments on time can be a big challenge for parents.
And getting them properly fueled for those activities? That's another headache unto itself. But Zeek Bar is looking to change that. The company has created what they call "the first and only sports bar made specifically for kids."
Zeek Bars are the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Reid and Kassidy Pearson. The two grew up playing youth sports and got into coaching shortly after graduating college. It was then when they noticed how many parents were struggling to find convenient methods for fueling their young athletes.
"We saw parents coming up to us with questions about what their kids should be eating when they're playing youth sports. And if you look at the concessions stand, it's kind of a joke. The foods offered there are pretty poor options for fueling young athletes. So we decided to create a nutrition bar that'd be designed specifically for kids playing sports," Reid Pearson recently told STACK.
But what exactly makes Zeek Bars better for youth athletes than a random bar off the shelf?
For one, most bars are formulated with the nutritional needs of adults in mind. Compared to a youth athlete, an adult can stomach massive amounts of protein, sugar and calories without issue. But for kids, too much of these things can cause trouble. The Pearsons worked closely with sports nutritionists to ensure Zeek Bars have the right nutrients in the right amounts for youth athletes.
"It's the right nutrition profile for kids, not adults. If you were to grab a bar off the shelf of your grocery store, it's probably going to have too much protein or too much sugar for a kid. That can lead to digestive issues and all sorts of other performance issues," Pearson says. "This bar is designed for kids that play sports. And the sport piece is not something we just use for marketing—it was fundamental in the design from the first step."
A bar with too much protein or too many calories can weigh down a youth athlete during activity and cause stomach trouble, while too much sugar can lead to a debilitating crash in the middle of competition. Zeek Bars are specifically designed to be consumed 60 to 30 minutes before competition or activity.
"We really looked at making it ideal for that window prior to competition. Whether it's after school before they hit the practice field or in between games or events at a tournament, we wanted to be that bar that would really meet kids' needs so they can go perform their best," Pearson says. "You don't want to have a bar that's 500 calories—that's going to take a long time to digest. We looked at ingredients. Whey protein is the fastest-digesting protein there is, so it gets in the kid's system quickly."
Second, Zeek Bar strives to produce bars with ingredients parents can actually recognize. The two varieties they currently offer—Chocolate Chip Brownie and Cookies 'N Cream—contain 11 ingredients a piece. Considering some kid-focused bars contain upwards of 30 ingredients, that's an improvement. Those ingredients are also a lot more familiar than what you'd find in most bars, with inclusions like milk protein, honey, coconut, almonds and cocoa butter. "We wanted every single ingredient on our package to be something parents can recognize and feel comfortable with," Pearson says.
Aside from perhaps tapioca starch and tapioca fiber, I'd say they hit that mark.
But all this work would be for naught if the flavor wasn't on point. While adults may be willing to choke down something less-than-tasty in the name of good nutrition, kids will do no such thing.
"We know kids aren't going to put up with something that doesn't taste great. They might eat it once, but if it doesn't taste absolutely fantastic, they're not going to want to eat it. We believe that kids should actually want to eat healthy foods," Pearson says. The company offers a "Picky Eater Promise" where they'll refund your purchase if a youth athlete doesn't care for the bars.
After sampling both available varieties, I'm a fan of the flavor. The bars are sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and boast a soft, chewy texture. Nailing that texture was perhaps the company's biggest hurdle during their development process. "Our bars are very soft—particularly the Cookies 'N Cream—and we did that on purpose. We want kids to be able to eat it really easily. We didn't want something that was going to be dry, chalky and difficult for them to get down," Pearson says.
You can learn more about Zeek Bar and purchase the product via the company's official website.
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