Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets players GORP down Manitoba-made snacks

Niverville woman produces healthy bars in basement

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The Winnipeg Jets' marketing slogan "fuelled by passion" is a lie.

Well, sort of.

Sure, the team's fans are a big source of inspiration, but when the players need to eat and truly fuel their bodies, they're filling up on peanut butter, apples, raspberries, hemp and coconuts.

Those are some of the ingredients that go into GORP Clean Energy Bars, which have become a staple in the Jets' dressing room. GORP is a product of Colleen Dyck's kitchen in Niverville.

Dyck started experimenting with some healthy snacks to give her energy about eight years ago when she was training for a triathlon. She found she had trouble digesting most of the products that were on grocery store shelves at the time.

"I needed a really good source of protein after my workouts, so I started fooling around in the kitchen," she said.

(GORP, incidentally, is an acronym from the 1960s that stands for "good old raisins and peanuts.")

After much trial and error, she came up with some tasty recipes and then spent a number of years tinkering with their ingredients at the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie. (She wanted to extend the shelf life so she could commercialize them without adding any preservatives.)

When she and her husband, Grant, built their new house, their plans included a 1,600-square-foot kitchen in the basement where the GORP bars are now produced and packaged.

The full operation is driven by two full-time employees and another 10 part-time workers.

Dyck said her goal is to buy as many of the ingredients as she can, including flax, hemp, oats and honey, from local producers. She has no choice on some others, such as coconuts, which must be imported.

Three different flavours -- coco, hemp and almond; peanut butter and apple; and peanut butter and raspberry -- first hit the market in the summer of 2012.

Shortly after, Jets assistant athletic therapist, Brad Shaw, who also lives in Niverville, picked up a free sample during a local half-marathon his wife was running in. He liked it and decided to take some to work.

"The players were looking for an all-natural bar as an alternative. We brought them in and they went over like wildfire," he said.

Shaw even provides delivery service to the team as he picks up orders from Dyck's house on the way to work in the morning.

He said eating habits have come a long way since the days of players scarfing back pizza before overtime.

"The players are going the all-natural route now. They don't want synthesized stuff in their bodies. They want what's growing out of the ground," he said.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said he and his teammates are always looking for healthy supplements to take before games. "Once you have a pre-game meal and a nap and you don't feel you've got enough in you, it's nice to have a healthy snack," he said, noting he looks for a lot of healthy fats and protein in an energy bar.

Winger Eric Tangradi said he'll often wolf down a GORP bar in between periods.

"You're looking for some quick energy. Some nights you don't feel you have it inside and (the energy bars) are one of those things that help you. You take a couple of bites in between periods and it gives you that extra boost," he said.

GORP bars have just been put on Mountain Equipment Co-op shelves across Canada. They are also available in select health stores and independent gyms in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 B10

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