By Natasha Cousin

"It would be criminal to bake these,” ViaBar owner Christiane Gossen tells me. We’re in the government inspected commercial kitchen built into Christiane’s High River home, and she’s answering my questions while rolling ViaBar mixture into custom pans with precision. Heating the bars would break down the omega-3 oils, she explains, which are full of the “good” fats that may lower the risk of heart disease, depression, arthritis and more.   

"I like making healthy foods,” says Christiane, her dimples sinking in deep as she smiles. Like many entrepreneurs, Christiane started making the product nearly a decade ago because she couldn’t find what she wanted on store shelves: a portable snack with raw ingredients that wasn’t loaded with sugar. After infinite test batches, Christiane says she chose brown rice syrup and unrefined cane sugar as binders, but uses as little as possible to hold the bars together without adding a ton of sweetness. This allows the wholesome ingredients like sunflower seeds, flax, chia, almonds, cranberries and coconut in 10 different bar flavours to shine through.

Now cleaning gigantic mixing blades in the industrial stainless steel sinks, Christiane explains that none of the ingredients in the bars are what she calls fake. They use whole grains, real orange and lemon oil, organic coffee, etc. "You could plant one of these bars in your garden and it would grow,” says Christiane. Conspicuously absent from the ingredient list are protein isolates (there is a vast body of published research studies showing how unhealthy too much protein can be, she says). And with no milk or allergens except raw almonds in three of the bars, they are vegan-friendly and gluten free. “The bars are made based on how our family eats,” Christiane says.

ViaBars are also only sold in Alberta, although Christiane says she could sell them in other provinces. “I’ve always tried to focus on Alberta because I know there’s a strong market here,” she says. “I take care of all my own customers. I want to be local. I love Alberta.”

As I leave the tantalizing coffee and chocolate smell of the kitchen (I happened to visit on a day they were making Mucho Mocha), my stomach begins to rumble. Luckily Christiane comes to my rescue, running outside with some ViaBars for me to snack on. I gratefully tear into one as I drive away, and it’s portable perfection: soft and chewy but not crumbly, scrumptious without being too sweet and altogether satiating.

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