When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers walked into their dressing room looking for a snack during the last two seasons, there were two options set out for them — Gatorade protein bars and GORP Clean Energy Bars.
Nobody was surprised to see a few boxes from the most recognizable brand in sports hydration and nutrition on the table, but many players — Americans in particular — wondered what the heck a GORP was.
Until they started to taste them, that is.
Made in the basement of Colleen and Grant Dyck's home in Niverville, GORP bars have carved out a niche in the dressing rooms of Winnipeg's three professional sports teams, and that's spilling over into general retail.
"We hope this will be our first million-dollar year. That's a giant deal for us, even though it's not that big of a number these days," Colleen Dyck said.
'We hope this will be our first million-dollar year. That's a giant deal for us, even though it's not that big of a number these days' -Colleen Dyck
GORP has the equivalent of four full-time employees and 15 to 19 casual production workers, all of which is essentially double from two years ago.
(GORP, incidentally, is an acronym from the 1960s that stands for "gold old raisins and peanuts.")
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. A fourth, ginger apple pecan, could be on store shelves by March.
Dyck also sponsors Mike McEwen's curling team, but she isn't about to rest on her local sporting laurels. She has already had conversations with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks after fuelling their players.
But that's not all. Dyck has signed on with Charity Life, the biggest distributor of natural health products in Canada and is hoping to start exports to North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois in the next six months.
"I'm trying to grow carefully and slowly. There are production challenges that come with more volume," she said.
So she's applying for loans to upgrade the equipment and planning to renovate an old farm shed on their property, which would more than double their production space from 1,600 square feet to 4,000 square feet and shift over from the basement a year from now.
Josh Mazzola, who has played every position for the Winnipeg Goldeyes over the last four years except pitcher, catcher and second base, first discovered GORP bars when they appeared in the Goldeyes' dressing room in 2012.
"They don't have the excess sugars that will go through your body quickly and cause you to crash. The carbohydrates and proteins, you need those in athletic settings for sustained energy throughout the game. You don't put low-octane gas into a Ferrari if you want optimum performance."
The Goldeyes didn't stock GORP bars for the 2013 or 2014 seasons, so when Mazzola walked into the dressing room for the first time this past season and saw them again, he made sure to move in before the pitchers did.
"I took a box and put it in my locker. Pitchers always come in and eat everything. We call them 'spread crushers.' They'll put the bars in their bag and take them to the bullpen. With 10 or 11 pitchers on the team, a box of protein bars goes pretty quick," he said.
Steve Sobczak, assistant athletic therapist and strength and conditioning specialist with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, said he's always on the lookout for new nutrition sources for the players before, during and after games and practices.
"GORP bars are a good source of protein, they have some carbohydrates and some good fat sources. They have energy you can use readily. They're not going to be slow digesting and they won't leave you with that big, heavy feeling after you eat them," he said.
"Being in football, which is a fast-paced game, we need that kind of fuel."
The peanut butter GORP bars are quick to go, but Gatorade bars are still the most popular in the Bomber dressing room, although their dominant position could be in doubt next season.
"(GORP) bars are gaining momentum. We have a lot of Americans on the team who are extremely familiar with Gatorade," he said.
Too small to afford a full-time salesperson, GORP's gospel is spread primarily by its customers, who helped get them picked up by Mountain Equipment Co-op, Red River Co-op's four Winnipeg grocery stores, Domo gas bars and the North West Company.
"We're just getting bars into people's hands and mouths. We have strange connections," Dyck said.
Updated on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 8:06 AM CST: Adds pic