Editor’s note: At the time the print version of this story was published, the name of the company was Blake’s Nut Free. We have edited this web version of the story to reflect the company’s new name, Blake’s Seed Based.
BY SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
According to Food Allergy Research & Education reports, 15 million Americans have serious food allergies. From 1997 to 2008, nut sensitivity in children has tripled. Another 30 million people are indirectly affected by others’ food allergies.
Blake Sorensen understands. “I’ve had a nut allergy since I was 3,” Sorensen says. “I carry an EpiPen everywhere.” [An EpiPen is a hand-held device carried by people with severe allergies; the epinephrine delivered by the device is an emergency treatment for an anaphylactic reaction.]
Enter Blake’s Seed Based, a line of seed-based snack bars made without nuts, wheat, dairy, or soy.
The idea for Blake’s Seed Based grew out of a class assignment in the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “I came here to study entrepreneurship and wanted to start a business someday,” Sorensen, a recent Kelley School MBA grad, says. “I just didn’t think I would do it this soon.”
Sorensen, 29, teamed up with Alex Marijan, 30, for the Social Entrepreneurism class project. They were to develop a business plan, product, packaging, and website for an imaginary company that solved a societal need.
“I was unaware of this whole food-allergy segment,” Marijan says. “Just a little exposure to nut dust or particles could be deadly [to some people].”
Perfecting their seed-and-egg-based recipes required trial, error, and feedback from taste-testing classmates. The three clear flavor favorites were Lemon Berry, Dark Chocolate Banana, and Apple Ginger.
Things got real after an exploratory Kickstarter campaign netted Blake’s Seed Based $28,923 in just a few days. Fully funded, the pair found a Canadian company that could meet product specifications and demand.
Blake’s Seed Based officially began production in January and already has plans to release new snack bars and a trail mix. The company concentrates on online retail and direct sales to specific institutions. “The majority of schools are going nut-free,” Sorensen says. “Airlines are going nut-free. And there are a lot of people with food allergies in hospitals.”
Blake’s Seed Based is available locally at Goods for Cooks. For more information, visit blakesseedbased.com.