Raising the Barr
Parr Foods: It's more than just a company to 2010 ASU grad Alex McRae.
It's an opportunity.
When Parr Foods guru Jay Parr spoke to his entrepreneurship group, McRae knew he wanted to get involved.
"I initially approached him about doing sales ... then I volunteered to help out," he said.
What was it about Parr Foods that made it so intriguing he'd work there without pay?
There's the health aspect.
"I've been into that since I was a senior in high school," he said "I revamped my mom's whole kitchen to be organic."
And Boone Barrs are healthy. Made with as many local organic ingredients a possible, flavors like Dark Chocolate Banana (organic banana and dark chocolate chunks) and Walnut Dark Chocolate Cranberry (toasted walnuts, organic cranberries and dark chocolate) have crossed the natural foods boundary and become mainstream locally, on sale at places like beansTalk Coffee and Earth Fare.
And then there's the main reason McRae couldn't resist: Parr Foods' sustainability practices.
It's something on which owner and creator Parr will not compromise.
"There are no chemical ingredients, and we recycle and compost as much as possible," he said.
Ingredient leftovers like banana peels find a place in compost and, while there is waste, it's nothing compared with other businesses, Parr said.
"We throw away about one bag of trash a week," he said.
Considering they make about 1,000 bars a week, and restaurants Parr worked at averaged "a bag of trash every couple of hours," it's obvious where Parr's priorities lie.
A classically trained chef (Le Cordon Bleu Orlando, 2004), Parr went back to school to study sustainable development. Initially, he made Boone Barrs for his personal use while hiking.
Friends convinced him to transform his idea into an enterprise: The perfect mesh of his culinary background and sustainable interests.
He's not about cutting corners.
"The oats were milled in North Carolina ... and the whole wheat flour ... we try to source locally whenever we can," he said.
Shopping locally, using organic ingredients benefits the environment and is worth the extra cost, he said. When you look at how the company has grown, it's evident his customers feel the same way.
Parr started in a rental house, "baking them in a little bitty mixing bowl," and ended up at the building on N.C. 105 in Foscoe, with carefully weighed ingredients, five employees and an improved process that creates 32 bars a tray.
The company has come a long way since its inception in 2008 and has recently moved beyond "Barrs" to snack foods like trail mix and candied nuts, under a new logo. Parr is in talks with national distributors like Whole Foods.
As for McRae, his hard work paid off. After graduation, he was offered a full time job at Parr Foods.
For more information on Boone Barrs or Parr Foods, visit http://www.parrfoods.com.
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