News Column

Raising The Bar Again

October 2002, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Tim Dougherty


Ten years after co-founding Balance Bar Co., Michael Sanchez is returning to the business of nutrition.

This time, his venture has a distinctly Latin flavor.

Mr. Sanchez, whose earlier company is now part of Kraft Foods, is launching Arriba, Nutricion Por Vida, a product line geared toward Hispanics. The first offering is an energy bar for athletes and other nutrition-minded eaters.

Like Balance Bar, Arriba is as much a reflection of Mr. Sanchez’s approach to health as it is a business initiative. Born the youngest of six children in the small town of Beaumont, about 20 miles north of Palm Springs, California, Mr. Sanchez was prone to sickness as a child. After reading a biography of Bruce Lee as a teenager, he took up martial arts, became an avid runner, and carefully monitored his food intake – with dramatic results.

Arriba Bars

Mr. Sanchez later discovered the nutrition science of Barry Sears – who would go on to introduce the Zone Diet – and incorporated Mr. Sears’s energy bar prototype into his regimen. So taken was he with the results that he launched Balance Bar Co. in 1992. The company went public in June 1998 and was sold to Kraft two years later for $268 million.

Today, Mr. Sanchez lives in Santa Barbara with his three children, Angelina, 17, Michael, 14, and Mnisha, 8.

HB: What is the status of your new venture?
MS: We just completed our pilot phase, which is the precursor to our official launch this month [October]. The pilot phase entailed the development of the product, brand name, logo and packaging, flavor analysis, and moderate distribution in Southern California, between Santa Barbara and San Diego. We wanted to test the viability of the concept in our backyard before moving forward.

HB: Do you envision Arriba as a nationally available product line, or will it be limited to regions with significant Hispanic populations?
MS: We envision ourselves as an international company. However, our distribution will begin in areas of the United States with significant Hispanic populations. We will begin with a parallel launch in California and Florida before moving on to Texas, New York, and Illinois, which together account for 75 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population. Upon accomplishing our distribution goals in the United States we will shift our focus to Mexico. In Mexico, nutrition-focused distribution outlets such as Nutrisa-Produtos Naturales and GNC are eager to carry an American-made nutrition product line dedicated to the Latino population. We will move on to Spain and other Latin countries as demand dictates.

HB: How is the Arriba bar different from currently available nutrition products?
MS: Arriba is fully dedicated to Hispanics and, more importantly, to Hispanic health needs. Our products will be high in protein, with lower glycemic responses to help keep blood sugar stable. According to the American Diabetes Association, a startling 27 percent of Hispanics suffer from adult onset diabetes. Most of this can be managed and even cured through proper nutrition and eating habits. Current nutrition science has shown that keeping blood sugar stable helps keep us in a fat-burning metabolism. This is great for both elite athletes looking for an energy edge and average people wanting to lose weight healthfully.

HB: What other products do you plan to offer?
MS: We are introducing two Arriba Bar flavors, Manzana Rica [apple cinnamon] and Choco-Coco [chocolate-coconut] this fall, followed by Mango and Dulce de Leche in the new year. We are also developing convenient powdered drink mixes that we hope will appeal to Hispanics.

HB: Are you funding Arriba’s startup or do you have investors?
MS: Yes, I have funded the startup costs, but we are considering investors to help us grow and develop other products. For example, I am co-founder of Signature Heath Partners, a company that produces custom vitamin packs. Visitors to the site can get an online assessment that takes into account age, gender, ethnic background, lifestyle, and prescription medications. Based on this, the site formulates a vitamin/mineral nutrition prescription. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in this technology. In a strategic alliance, Arriba Nutricion will work on translating the site for Hispanic consumers. Though this is not a part of our immediate marketing plan and focus, it is something we plan to add to our product line as revenue allows.

HB: Do you consider Arriba Nutricion Por Vida a public-service gesture, a business venture, or both?
MS: It is a business venture first. However, one of our key objectives, aside from providing information in Spanish, is to ensure that all information is accurate and educational. Our charitable efforts will also be Hispanic-focused. We want to be on the proactive side of getting our people healthy and thriving!

HB: How do plan on handling marketing?
MS: Our focus will be Hispanic-focused media exclusively. Spot television, radio, and consumer magazine advertising will be employed in areas of marketing and distribution focus. We are committed to marketing messages that elevate the Hispanic image beyond stereotypes.

HB: How big is your staff?
MS: We are currently running lean with 11 employees, including a vice-president of sales and a vice-president of operations, but we have plans for future hiring. We will also consider outsourcing where appropriate.


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