Out of the Box Bakery sells a trio of paleo-friendly bars. “They’re not going to derail your diet,” says owner Amanda Smith. (Michael LaPierre/www.mikelapierre.com)

“These are the best!” squealed Casey Dlott, 29, popping a bite of CharmedBar’s Apple-rageous into her mouth. Even if samples hadn’t been up for grabs at Glen’s Garden Market in Dupont Circle,  a few of the snacks would have ended up in her basket. She’s already been buying them by the box: “It’s the trifecta. All-natural ingredients, filling and delicious.”

There are quite a few more adjectives that can be added to that list, says CharmedBar co-creator Debbi Ascher, who has struggled with digestive issues for decades. She developed the bars — with her friend and Gaithersburg, Md., neighbor Jen Burnstein — because she could eat only foods free of gluten, grains, soy, dairy and refined sugars.

Finding something that fit those criteria and that she could stick into her purse? Forget about it, Ascher says. So, a year and a half ago, when the duo baked up their first batch of bars using nut butters, fruit, coconut and spices, they wondered whether other people might want to try them, too.


The need to cut out gluten and dairy led to the launch of both CharmedBar, pictured, and Kate Bakes, another local bar maker. (CharmedBar)

Turns out the answer was yes. CharmedBar’s lineup quickly won over D.C.-area shops and grocery stores, including Whole Foods. Now that they’ve transferred production to a West Coast co-packer, the $3 goodies are rolling out to stores across the country (and Canada).

It would be a crazy story — except for the fact that other local bar-makers are experiencing similar success.

Nearly as ubiquitous is Ever Bar, which launched in 2014 and is already in 80 stores, boasts founder Alex Hempfield. The University of Maryland grad wanted to raise awareness of hemp.

“I was tired of the lies being told to the public,” Hempfield says. (And yes, that’s also why he legally changed his last name two years ago.)

He spent a year playing with 2,000 recipes to develop a bar that could showcase hemp’s nutritional qualities and taste great. The resulting Ever Bars are now “handcrafted” in Gaithersburg.

Two other growing companies, Kate Bakes (gluten-free, vegan bars) and Out of the Box Bakery (which specializes in paleo-friendly treats), share a Northern Virginia kitchen space.

As D.C. becomes increasingly health-conscious, such community ties matter, Kathleen Hodge says. That’s why, to promote the launch of her Mission: Bars next month, the brand is offering free yoga every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Lululemon in Georgetown.

“There’s definitely a bar scene here,” Hodge says. “But we all have a different take on what we’re doing so we can co-exist.”

D.C.’s bar scene

  • Gal pals Debbi Ascher and Jen Burnstein didn’t cut any corners with CharmedBar. But their three flavors — Apple-rageous, Cran-dipity and Cherry-licious — come in a distinctive round shape.
  • “Handmade in small batches” is the motto of Kate Bakes, a lineup of six gluten-free, vegan bars. This week, owner Katelyn Sornik plans to introduce a new flavor made with pulp from green juice.
  • Sornik shares kitchen space with Out of the Box Bakery. Amanda Smith’s paleo-friendly biz also makes cakes and cookies, but the top sellers are the grab-and-go bars, designed to fuel a workout.
  • The not-so-secret ingredient in Ever Bar is hemp, “a powerhouse of nutrients,” says Alex Hempfield, who’s developed three flavors: Almond N’ Cranberry, Green Power and Blueberry Cashew.

You can soon bite into Mission: Bars, which are headed to stores after a crowdfunding campaign. With quinoa, coconut and chia, they’re ideal for athletes, says co-founder Kathleen Hodge.

 

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