Raising the bar in the Comox Valley

Grocery program showcases local flavours

When you grow up outdoors, exploring and experiencing the most beautiful place on the coast, you need the right fuel to keep you going.

Luckily for Irah Vet and Cayleigh Rees, who thrived on hiking, biking, swimming and paddling Hornby Island, that feel-good fuel came from Irah’s mother’s homemade energy balls, which she produced on a small scale for Island natural foods stores.

Armed with that great product, the couple knew they could take it farther. “I always knew there was room to expand, and so we took the concept and applied it to a bar form,” Irah says. Hornby Organic Energy Bars was born.

What began as a small home-based enterprise soon outgrew the space and the two made the move to Courtenay several years ago. Since then, deliberate, planned growth has allowed them to build the relationships they need to be successful. Last year, they also earned 100 per cent organic certification, a key goal from the beginning. They’ve also expanded from the original peanut butter base to include several seed butter options for those with allergies.

Having the Comox Valley’s established organic food industry to call upon – local favourites like Eatmore Sprouts and Denman Island Chocolate – has been vital, as has support from local retailers.

“The energy bar market is so competitive today that getting that initial in and initial buzz from the Island community has been huge,” Irah says.

“I’m loving the challenges and constantly learning something new,” he reflects, noting both he and Cayleigh grew up in entrepreneurial families. He’s also enjoying the family connection with the business his mom started.

“I think she’s excited to see the growth we’ve achieved, and it’s given us a real appreciation for what she did.”

Island made: Island Good

Hornby Organic Energy Bars is one of numerous Vancouver Island producers and growers participating in Island Good, an initiative with four Island grocers to increase consumer awareness of Island-made and Island-grown food products.

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance pilot project, in all Island Country Grocer stores (except Salt Spring), Thrifty Foods, Quality Foods and 49th Parallel Grocery stores through August, aims to increase demand for products made and/or grown on the Island.

Shoppers can look for ‘Island Good’ stickers, posters and other signage highlighting these Island products in all store departments.

“We’ve been thrilled with the interest Vancouver Islanders have shown in the Island Good program since it launched and as we come into spring and summer, those opportunities to shop local, source local and eat local will be even greater,” says VIEA President George Hanson. “Shoppers have shown us that identifying Island Good options is important to them and we know that will lead to increased production, more jobs and more production capacity.”

Look for the Island Good tags, enjoy local food and support our local economy: It’s Island Good!

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