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Energizing the Plant-Based Movement: Erin DeMarines' Journey from Athlete to Entrepreneur




In the latest episode of the Plant Based on Fire podcast, Erin DeMarines, founder of eFit Foods, shares her inspiring journey from a competitive athlete to a pioneering vegan food developer. With over two decades of plant-based living, Erin has translated her passion for healthy eating and fitness into innovative food products that resonate with both athletes and casual snackers alike.


Erin's venture into the food industry began with a challenge: transforming her grandmother's beloved cookie recipe into a nutritious snack. This endeavor wasn't just about tweaking ingredients but redefining what food could be.

"It was just that light bulb moment,"

Erin recalls, emphasizing how a simple family recipe evolved into her first product, the 3BAR energy bar, which is now recognized nationwide.


The transition from homemade batches to a large-scale operation was fraught with hurdles. Erin discusses the decade-long journey peppered with trial and error that finally led to the creation of a product that stayed true to her vegan values while appealing to a broad audience.

"You've got to have almost like an athletic background to be an entrepreneur,"

Erin states, drawing parallels between the perseverance needed in both fields.


Insights You'll Gain From This Episode:

  • Entrepreneurial Spirit: Erin's story is a testament to the grit required to transition from concept to market, emphasizing patience and resilience.

  • Innovation in Vegan Nutrition: Learn about the unique challenges of creating plant-based, gluten-free, and kosher products in a market dominated by traditional energy bars.

  • Marketing and Scaling: Insights into navigating the complex world of food manufacturing and scaling a niche product to national availability.

  • Future Endeavors: Erin hints at upcoming projects, including a vegan cookbook and expansion into new snack varieties, showcasing her ongoing commitment to innovation.


Erin's products stand out in a crowded market through a combination of high-quality, clean ingredients and a focus on taste.

"It tastes good, right? That is a big part of it,"

she affirms. Her approach underscores the importance of meeting nutritional standards and ensuring the end product is enjoyable, broadening its appeal.


For those inspired by Erin's journey, she offers sage advice:

"Whatever your dream is, especially in the plant-based space, do it."

She highlights the significance of collaboration in growing within this industry, suggesting that the plant-based market is expanding and thriving with opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.


This episode illuminates Erin's path in the vegan food industry and serves as a motivational guide for anyone looking to make an impact through sustainable, health-conscious business practices. Join us to hear more about how Erin DeMarines is not just making food but making a difference.


Listen to the full episode here!


Subscribe to the Plant-Based On Fire podcast on your favorite streaming platform today and stay connected with our ongoing exploration of the complex plant-based business world.


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>Episode’s Transcript

Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions.

Bryan (00:01.006)

Hello everybody and welcome to Plant Based on Fire, where we talk about plant based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in the industry. I'm your host Bryan and joining us today is Erin DeMarines. She is a vegan food developer, athlete, chef and entrepreneur. Welcome to the show, Erin.


Erin DeMarines (00:19.525)

Thank you, thank you for having me.


Bryan (00:21.838)

It is awesome to have you on here. I am a triathlete myself. I haven't done it in a year or two, but I hope to get back out there very, very soon. So I'm excited to hang out with you and talk today, but tell us, you know, just give us the highlights with like, what's the name of a couple of things you've got going on and then dig into like what inspired you on your journey to be this plant -based entrepreneur.


Erin DeMarines (00:50.853)

Oh, that's a such a great question. It's been a long journey, but yes, triathlons have been a huge part of my life as well. And that's where the name three bar, which is the name of my energy bar kind of came from because swim, bike and run. Those are the three legs of the sport. As you know, just funny because I had a dream about it that I was doing triathlon last night. So it's funny that we're talking about this today. The recipe for my energy bar started from my grandmother's cookie recipe that


Bryan (01:15.534)

Awesome.


Erin DeMarines (01:20.549)

I got from her when I was young. And it just kind of morphed into obviously something healthier than the cookie that I had gotten a recipe because I had been working with clients when I was living in Los Angeles and they were complaining that these cookies are, I was always giving them more making them fat. So they inspired me to get creative, like dig deep, get into my kitchen and see if I could come up with something healthier. And it worked. It was just that light bulb moment. I never.


thought I would be in the food business. I never went in that path as far as going to like a culinary school, but it really morphed into my passion for fitness and my passion for nutrition. So it ended up really working out well for me and my career.


Bryan (02:06.894)

I love it. I mean, it's such an important thing. I don't think many people realize how important the diet and the exercise is to being a healthy, happy life in general on that front. So you kind of walked us through the recipe here. So how did it go from this recipe with a few friends and stuff into this like full blown company?


Erin DeMarines (02:32.133)

Well, it started in my kitchen. That was back in 1997. So that's 27 years ago. And I was making them the cookies. And then when this client inspired me to try it, then she was started to buy them. So then she told her friend and her friend and her friend. The next thing I know, I was making them every night. And eventually I got, eventually I got a food scientist involved and,


Bryan (02:53.806)

Heheheheh


Erin DeMarines (02:59.205)

got a factory to make them, but that took about 10 years. There was 10 years of me really experimenting and a lot of trial and error and just, you know, how does that work and how does shelf stability work? And I was trying to keep everything organic. And obviously I wanted to be vegan and plant -based because that's true to my, to myself and to how I eat. And that was pretty early on for that, you know, the, the energy bar market and being a vegan or non -Way


Bryan (03:25.934)

Mm -hmm.


Erin DeMarines (03:28.261)

protein was not very prominent back then. It was just people just didn't understand like, well, if it doesn't have whey, then where are you getting the protein? Which a lot of people still wonder when it comes to certain foods or when it comes to vegans. You know, everybody's always asking, where do you get the protein from? Yeah. So.


Bryan (03:40.782)

That's right.


Bryan (03:49.326)

Oh, for sure, yeah.


That's right.


Erin DeMarines (03:53.989)

I got a factory and then I started really just, you know, get it growing it into the stores and the markets. But it took a long time. And that an entrepreneurial, you got to have a, you got to have almost like an athletic background to be an entrepreneur, right? You've got to have your know how to really train, what it takes time, it takes patience, it takes grit, it takes a lot of things. And you know.


Bryan (04:01.678)

Yeah.


Bryan (04:16.59)

Mm -hmm.


Bryan (04:22.062)

Yeah. And they say, yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, we're just trying to get the podcast going has taken years on that front. So for absolutely like, I guess I mentor a lot of businesses and that, you know, these starting points to get into the food production is, is very similar stories in a lot of ways. They have their great grandmother's recipe or the family recipe, or, you know, they've been experimenting and creating this recipe themselves in their.


friends all love it. And then when you go through that process of trying to commercialize it, you realize, oh, I've got to figure out how to keep it stable on the shelf and, and sealed and everything, you know, massive amounts of ingredients, how do you keep the bugs out of them when you get into the, to the commercial production and stuff. So I'm just curious, you know, what, what was one of your biggest challenges as you were developing and bringing this vegan product to the national market? I mean, this is available.


Nationwide, right?


Erin DeMarines (05:22.853)

Yes. You know, I think the biggest challenge is always going to be, you know, funding, right? I mean, getting people to invest in you and your business is probably the hardest part, but also like manufacturing. Like I had no idea that there was only three manufacturers in the United States that could do gluten -free, vegan, non -dairy. They used to be kosher. So I had the rabbi come in and bless it.


Bryan (05:37.07)

Mm -hmm.


Erin DeMarines (05:50.437)

So I mean, there's all these little things that you have to learn and you're left with really three. And so they control you more than you would probably like them to. So now I've found a new manufacturer on the East coast. That could be the first one I've ever had that's even on this coast. And I think the way that we are working this relationship is more of a partnership and I feel really good about it. So the hardest part is probably the funding and the manufacturing.


Bryan (05:52.206)

Yeah.


Erin DeMarines (06:20.613)

But, you know, it just takes time. Eventually you'll find the right one. But yeah, it's been a long road. And a lot of tears.


Bryan (06:30.318)

Yeah, well congratulations on, yeah, absolutely. Well, congratulations on your perseverance and seeing it through. I know me and all the other vegans certainly appreciate you plowing the way and making that market appear. So how does 3BAR sort of stand out in this crowded market of energy bars or nutrition bars and stuff? I think there's these sub -classifications coming out now. Talk to us about that from your perspective.


Erin DeMarines (07:07.045)

I mean, we're probably right now the only product that has adaptogens, organic protein, just a really clean, a clean slate of all the ingredients, no preservatives, but high protein and really good quality ingredients. And it tastes good, right? Like that is a big part of it. And now that they are...


Bryan (07:35.118)

Yeah.


Erin DeMarines (07:37.093)

more bites than bars. I think that is a little bit easier for those who don't want to eat a whole bar or those who want to eat a half a bar before they work out or after they work out. And it gives me a little bit more flexibility to have different variations of the product, different formulas, different flavors. So it's definitely morphed into...


Bryan (08:01.55)

I love that concept of the bite -sized things, because you and I know as triathlons, we have to have our little belt of snacks of some sort. So being able to just have a few of those handy to say, look, I want to pop a couple in and chew them up. So I think you're onto something there for sure. So you're trying to cram all the nutritious stuff in there and the performance that you're looking for and the packaging and the sizes and stuff.


Erin DeMarines (08:10.437)

Yeah.


Bryan (08:30.83)

How do you balance all of those together, especially with taste? People want it to, you know, we're in America, we need it to taste really good. First and foremost, who cares about anything else? But you're trying to blend these all together. Any secrets for us there?


Erin DeMarines (08:46.085)

I mean, since it started with my grandmother's cookie recipe, you have to really focus on the flavor first. And I mean, who doesn't love dark chocolate and peanut butter? Who doesn't love almond butter, dark chocolate and coconut? You have to go with flavors that people like. If I were like to do something that was maybe so healthy that it was just fruits and something, I just don't think it would be the right fit. Would I eat it? Probably not.


Bryan (08:54.958)

Yeah.


That's right.


Erin DeMarines (09:13.989)

and I am a very healthy person, but I really want something that's flavorful and almost makes me feel like I'm having a little dessert, but with a ton of energy, a ton of protein and the adaptogens to help our bodies with stress and what we put ourselves through on a daily basis, whether you're an athlete or just a busy mom or dad, we all need that. So you have to really think about what people are going to gravitate to, right?


Bryan (09:39.246)

I agree.


Erin DeMarines (09:42.597)

Chocolate and peanut butter is certainly a popular flavor.


Bryan (09:44.366)

That's right.


Bryan (09:48.27)

I absolutely love it. Yeah, you can't go wrong with those two. Those are the magical combo for me as well. Now I've been doing this for Charlie 13 or 14 years now, something around there. I have to get an exact date figured out sooner or later, but you've been in this plant -based world even longer than that, 20 plus years. How has that influenced your approach to business and product development?


Erin DeMarines (09:55.077)

Absolutely.


Erin DeMarines (10:17.061)

Well, I think I was a little early on. I think I was almost too early, right? Like nobody really knew what was really talking about vegan energy and bars back in the 90s, right? That's more recent. So when you know something, when you are as knowledgeable as myself about nutrition,


and you know that the world will catch up to you eventually, you just have to stick the course, right? You just have to plow ahead. Every roadblock, you look at it like a speed bump and you just keep your head down and you just keep going because when you know the truth and the science behind nutrition and how our bodies adapt much better to a plant -based diet and how much it's better for the earth and the sustainability factor of all that, you just have to kind of...


let some of that negative, the naysayers just sort of just drift away and just really just stay true to what you know, right? Really stay true to your North Star. And that is my North Star, right? That is my goal in life to get as many people as I can to get healthier and walk that plant -based path because it is a much better way to live. Not just for you personally, but for the sustainability of our earth.


Bryan (11:25.966)

That's right.


Bryan (11:46.798)

Absolutely, absolutely. And you have not only created the three bar and have that out and about here, but you also have a vegan cookbook, right? Is that what can readers expect from your cookbook?


Erin DeMarines (12:03.749)

Well, it's still a work in progress, but I'm a really big believer in how can you just incorporate easy plant -based recipes without having to go to a bunch of grocery stores to get it, order a bunch of stuff online? What do we have in our house that we don't even maybe think of it we could put together? And a lot of times that's just a huge bowl of a bunch of different vegetables and some protein thrown in there. But how do you bring that all together and make it taste good?


Right? How? So a lot of times that's the seasonings, the way it's prepared. Sorry about the dog. He's my assistant.


Bryan (12:36.91)

That's right.


Bryan (12:45.358)

That's okay, that's okay. I had one podcast where my cat walked right by, so I'm totally good with that.


Erin DeMarines (12:54.661)

Yeah.


Bryan (12:59.342)

So what is on the future roadmap? Any new products that you have that you can share with us that are in development?


Erin DeMarines (13:08.869)

Yes, I actually really, I really focused on this one product lately that seems so different than what I'm doing now. But I would love to do some more hearty stuff, like some plant -based mashed potatoes in the freezer section. Like that is like, there isn't any, right? And then like, I want to do a, I have a healthy popcorn snack on the market called plant powered pop, but.


Bryan (13:29.902)

Great.


Erin DeMarines (13:37.029)

kind of on hold right now because the three bar bites are just taking up a lot of my time. But I would love to do more of that kind of stuff like snack foods, crunchy, salty, you know, just things that you can have in your house that you don't feel guilty if you're sitting at your desk having a few handfuls of. I would really like to do a rice crispy treat that's healthy because I have a kid who loves healthy, you know, not the healthy stuff.


Bryan (14:06.638)

Yeah.


Erin DeMarines (14:06.693)

So I'd love to go down that path too, as long as it tastes good. So yeah, and with the -


Bryan (14:12.366)

That's right, that's right. I love it. I support those endeavors.


Erin DeMarines (14:16.549)

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I just am bewildered by walking through the grocery store. I don't know if you've done this lately and you just walk down some of these aisles in the frozen food and it's like, there's a lot of healthy choices now. I'd like to see a little bit more like, cause some people really, you know, like that meat and potatoes. So if we can have, we've got beyond meat and all the different burgers. What about some of the other things like the mashed potatoes, you know, things that maybe.


There isn't a non -dairy version. So yeah, that was my, one of my.


Bryan (14:49.614)

I support that very much so in the sense because it's like there's some TikTok video I was watching about how the old school McDonald's recipe for potatoes was pretty simple. They did them in animal fat and that's what helped make them taste so good. Now there's 500 kinds of chemicals in them to get rid of the animal fat and lower the cost and all that stuff. So I support your path for healthy, good frozen potatoes on every level. That's going to be exciting to see.


Erin DeMarines (15:20.133)

I have a question for you.


Bryan (15:20.398)

And I'm just curious if, yeah, please go ahead.


Erin DeMarines (15:25.413)

So tell me, and I didn't get a chance to ask you this before, was how did you start, end up starting your podcast?


Bryan (15:34.702)

I started the podcast by, uh, by luck, I guess, uh, or chance, uh, a gentleman, rich Reynolds, who's a fellow vegan and he says sportscaster radio personality type person, uh, reached out to me through the website. I've just been blogging for years and years and years, and he reached out to me and said, uh, I would love to do the real many plants podcast. And I'm like, okay, let's do it. So we dug in.


And then just life took its twists and turns and I saw how easy it was and I said, like, let me do the business side of it. So that's how we created Plant Based on Fire to try and help support and promote businesses like yours and raise that awareness and hopefully give a bunch of tips and tricks out there for other entrepreneurs that want to head down this path. They can watch these episodes and say, oh, I should reach out to Aaron or whoever and get some advice on X, Y, and Z or partner with you.


So that's sort of how I got inspired. But I've been blogging for, I don't know, 10 plus years on my journey. So yeah, that's what got me into this.


Erin DeMarines (16:43.493)

I love that. It's really important that you are following in the path of something that you're so passionate about.


Bryan (16:53.166)

Absolutely. And it's so inspiring to hear, uh, you know, people like you and your story and your journey on that front. You know, we all have gone through these similar things here. And I think that brings me around to another question for you is really like what mentors or support networks have you leaned on throughout your journey that have helped guide you.


Erin DeMarines (17:14.949)

And I definitely have a few mentors in my life that I constantly am in touch with. And you have to be able to have a few of those, right? Because a lot of times entrepreneurial life is not easy. And there's been times when I've thought like, I don't know if I can still do this, but you know, you just, again, I think I had mentioned this earlier is you just look at everything.


as a speed bump. And when it seems impossible, you just, you have to get through that moment and then just keep moving forward. And I think that that grit is a, is a big thing for entrepreneurs, right? You have to be able to just work through it and not look at it like a roadblock and have people in your life that are willing to maybe sit down with you for a few minutes and have coffee with you and just talk through some things.


And no one in my life has ever told me you should stop. So why should I stop? I'm doing, living what I want to do and helping a lot of others around me. And I think that's a pretty awesome job.


Bryan (18:20.302)

See you later.


Good.


Bryan (18:32.91)

I agree completely and I commend you. I see no reason for you to stop until, I don't know, what's our goal. Our goal is 100 % vegan planet, but if we can get to 95%, I'd be happy on that front. I guess I want to pull it back to the athlete side of this a little bit, just because I'm intrigued. I'm always intrigued by the athletes because they take the more extreme approaches, I think, to certain things. So how do you...


push in and overcome some of the stereotypes about vegan food and athletics.


Erin DeMarines (19:07.845)

Well, again, it always comes back to the protein. Like I hear this question still on a daily basis. And, you know, I mean, it's, it's a question that is silly as it seems to me. I understand how some people just don't, they, they only equate protein with animals and there's so many protein sources in the plant -based world. And I think it's, it's just an educational piece, right? We need to.


help them to understand that protein, I mean, look at a gorilla's body, all they eat is grass. I mean, look at a horse's body, right? They live on primarily oats. And if people could just understand that you can get protein from other sources and wrap their brains around that a little bit, I think, but again, it's the educational piece. So with athletes, you're always having to make sure they understand that this is always a...


cleaner protein, better recovery, way more nutrients, and obviously sustainable, right? So these are important things that athletes should be aware of because recovery is a huge part of our jobs, right? You're out there training for a triathlon or whatever sport that you do, your recovery and how you keep reaching those goals and pushing through some of the limitations might be your diet.


And I think people don't understand how important the diet is. It's 80%. It's 80%. That is huge. And 20 % of us what we do. So you really need both of it to create this whole piece, this whole body, right?


Bryan (20:51.566)

I agree completely. I moved a whole bunch of mulch this weekend and I am sore like you would not believe.


Bryan (00:03.662)

So I think we just finished talking through the stereotypes piece of it. So we'll throw a little commercial break in here, Klaus and team. And then we'll say, I'll just kick us back off. So welcome back, Erin. Thanks to quick commercial break there. I want to dive in just to sort of head us to the finish line here. What advice would you give someone looking to start their own plant -based business?


Erin DeMarines (00:32.861)

Do it. The world needs more people like us. Do it. Whatever your dream is, your passion is, especially in the plant -based space, do it. Because we are moving in that direction. As hard as it seems sometimes that we aren't, we really are. I mean, if you look at the market growth, it's there. So do it. And again, as you had mentioned in the beginning about collaborating with people, I think that's a huge piece of it too.


Bryan (00:34.638)

Hehehe


Erin DeMarines (01:02.653)

Like I was sort of a solo entrepreneur for so long and now that the space is growing, I see I have a lot more people that I'm able to work with and collaborate with. And I think that's really awesome because you're probably helping somebody else. So if you're thinking about starting a plant based business, do it. We really, we really would welcome that. And we really want people out there doing that.


Bryan (01:26.574)

I love it. I agree completely because I see a plant -based future in the next hopefully 20 years for a good majority of us. So where do you see the future of plant -based foods and entrepreneurship heading? What role do you hope you get to play in it? What's in store for the future?


Erin DeMarines (01:48.253)

I mean, I have such a creative side of my brain that I love to use as far as when it comes to food. So I feel like I've got this good foodie personality, but this plant based personality and I'm kind of bringing them together. And I would really just love to do more outreach and help more restaurants. And I'm also certified as a vegan hospitality consultant. So I'm working with local restaurants and I love that part of it too, because.


every vegan or plant -based human should have a seat at the table. We shouldn't just be accommodated. We should be really like welcomed and there should be something for us at every meal. We shouldn't feel like we have, oh, it's a food allergy or just a preference. It isn't. It is better for everybody. It's better for the earth. It's better for our bodies. It's better for our health. And if you really think about that,


Every time we go to a restaurant, we're always dissecting the menu. Like, what can I piece together? Right? So my role as a vegan hospitality consultant is really important to train chefs to understand how to put these ingredients together, how to separate them from the others, how to make something out of vegetables and tofu that tastes good. And, and I, and I love that piece of it, right? Like get their mindset, their chefs, they, they love to get creative, right? But they need some guidance.


So I think that's gonna be more of my next role, but I'll never stop creating plant -based snacks. I mean, I think I'm just a foodie. I love to eat and I love to train and I love to eat plant -based food. So I think that just goes all together with my future in the plant -based space.


Bryan (03:31.406)

So I think I heard some people out there that need to reach out to you to help get some of your consulting pieces going too. So what can we do as a community to help you? What are the best ways to get in touch?


Erin DeMarines (03:44.285)

Instagram is a great way Erin at Erin de Marinas. My website is efitfoods .com and those are probably the easiest ways or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Those are the easiest ways. But yes, I really am loving this new role as the consultant and working with some local restaurants. We have an arena here that I'm working with and a few other businesses that are looking to again, not just accommodate vegans, but just to have something that.


They can order off the menu without having to ask, can you put this together, this together, this together? Just have something cohesive, a whole meal, something that's more substantial than a salad.


Bryan (04:27.054)

That's right. Absolutely. Or the good old go -to at the restaurant's pasta. That's right. Yeah. Exactly. Well, Erin, it's been a pleasure catching up with you. I know we've gotten to chat in the past and we wish you much luck and success and we look forward to seeing more of your products hit the store shelves nearby soon. So.


Erin DeMarines (04:32.605)

Right. Or plain baked potato and some steamed broccoli. Boring.


Bryan (04:52.398)

That is all the episode. That's all the time we have for this episode of the Plant Based on Fire podcast. Again, thanks Erin for joining us and sharing your insights and experiences. Until next time, everybody keep that fire burning.


Erin DeMarines (04:59.805)

Thank you.


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