Business & Entrepreneurship

Revolutionizing the Energy Bar

Blake Sorensen ’11 makes snacking safe for those with allergies.

Blake Sorensen

After months of trial and error with a food processor, Sorensen developed a nut-free, seed-packed recipe and raised $20,000 in one day on Kickstarter. Courtesy of Blake Sorensen

Before he was a star athlete, Blake Sorensen ’11 was the “allergy kid.”

When he was growing up, his nut allergy meant that his mom had to prepare special lunches for him and his siblings. In college, it meant that the UW football team’s chef had to modify the usual offerings for him and his 120 teammates.

“It’s just the little things,” Sorensen says. “Anytime you go out to eat, or order a pizza, or you’re on a plane and someone’s eating nuts around you, you always have to be conscious.”

The nut allergy also kept him from eating snack and energy bars, which typically contain allergens. So, while pursuing his MBA at Indiana University, he tackled the problem on his own.

After months of trial and error with a food processor, Sorensen developed a nut-free, seed-packed recipe and raised $20,000 in one day on the Kickstarter website. In 2018, he officially launched Blake’s Seed Based snack-bar company. Four flavors of bars are now available in more than 1,000 retail stores, including Walmart and Woodman’s, and are purchased in bulk by several college and professional football teams (including the UW).

“I always have a box around the house — the problem is that everyone keeps eating them!” reads one Amazon review. “Those who buy special food for allergies understand how rare it is for a friend/family member to want to eat your special snacks.”

Eleven percent of adults and 8 percent of children have food allergies, according to the Food Allergy Research and Education organization, and the condition can be deadly. When he was three years old, Sorensen’s throat swelled shut after a meal, prompting an emergency room visit.

Knowing the stakes, Sorensen partnered with one of the only facilities in the country that could guarantee no trace of the eight most common food allergens. “They actually pat you down for nuts when you go in,” he says.

Sorensen’s work ethic and goal-oriented mind-set on the football field have translated to the business suite. A versatile linebacker and consumer affairs major, Sorensen led the Badgers in tackles his senior season and earned Academic All–Big Ten honors three times. Even as the pandemic threatens the company’s expansion to new stores, Sorensen believes its mission will soon make it competition for snack-bar giants.

“We’re solving a real need,” Sorensen says. “A lot of times we hear from parents or kids, but we just got an email from a 22-year-old who’d never had a snack bar. And now he can.”

Published in the Winter 2020 issue


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