Mike and Mary Bennett consider themselves pretty typical New Zealanders. They admit they are both a bit overweight, along with 65% of Kiwi adults who are in the same category or obese, and Mike has type two diabetes. With New Zealand’s high obesity levels many Kiwi adults are at risk of developing the disease.

The Bennetts came up with the idea for their Wunderbites muesli bar range when Mike was diagnosed with type two diabetes. “That was a real shock,” says Mike, “so we started to pay attention to what we were eating and learned a few things along the way, particularly the 10:10 rule.”

“Health experts say that, if you want to watch your weight (the main risk factor for diabetes) and control your blood glucose levels (the main problem with diabetes), a simple rule is to choose foods that have under 10% sugar and under 10% fat as well as a high level of fibre, a low level of saturated fat, a low glycaemic index (GI) and low sodium (salt),” Mike adds.

“To follow the 10:10 rule, we had to learn how to read a nutritional information panel (under 10% means under 10g in the 100g column), but we found that quite hard,” says Mary. “On some products, the nutrition information is hard to find, hard to read and hard to understand.”

“We’ve developed the Wunderbites range because we couldn’t find some products we were looking for. For instance, we wanted to find a satisfying snack bar that meets the 10:10 rule, but it didn’t exist ... until now,” says Mike. “Wunderbites are the only mainstream snack bars that meet the 10:10 rule, and our packs provide clear, simple nutrition information.”

With no previous experience in food production or retail and armed with the FSANZ nutrition panel calculator, the couple started experimenting in their home kitchen about five years ago. Food scientist David Knoef from Formula Foods in Christchurch was brought on board to develop the bars, and after much nutritional testing and trialling, the range is now handmade by the team at Montana Bakery in Christchurch.

“We launched our product range in May at the Wellington Food Show – we won a competition for the best start-up with the prize of a free stand and signage,” says Mary.

“We’ve had a great response from customers at the Food Shows we’ve done and at in-store tastings,” adds Mike. “They’re people who are looking for healthy food options, are into sport, are watching their energy intake, have health issues or want their children to have healthy stuff in their lunchboxes and for after-school snacks.

“Customers give us great feedback too,” says Mary. “They really like how Wunderbites bars taste – Raspberry & Almond is a clear favourite – and they love the fact that the bars are made locally. They love the nutrition concept and the packaging, and people congratulate us on what we’re trying to achieve.”

The current challenge for the couple is growing the number of stores they are in. “Gary Baker at Wellington City New World and the team at Thorndon New World gave us a fantastic boost at the beginning, and we’ve expanded to 46 stores in the six months since then,” says Mike.

But the couple have their sights set higher, including expanding into breakfast cereals. “There is definitely demand for our product, even though it’s priced at the higher end of the category,” says Mike. “We’re sponsoring sporting events around the country and doing some strategic media as well as in-store tastings – all with the aim of building customer demand and persuading grocery buyers that we’re worth supporting!”

For more information visit www.wunderbites.co.nz

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