Making Dreams Come TRUE
By Lauren (Steadman) Del Sarto
Michelle Steadman had a dream. She wanted to create the perfect raw superfood meal for her family: easy to eat on the go and packed with nutritious, organic foods. Little did she know that this dream would quickly lead to much bigger dreams which are all falling into place.
When friends and family couldn’t get enough of her truly delicious bars, she gave them a name, TRUElicious®. She then tried a local health fair where people came back for take homes, and sold out. It was then onto a larger expo in San Diego where all 1,500 bars were purchased. The feedback was so positive, she knew she had something special. Michelle started distributing TRUElicious® locally to health food markets, juice bars and fitness centers and set her sights on Whole Foods – nationally.
Michelle and Kevin in their new manufacturing facility in Indio
A year later, she received an email from a friend about a Whole Foods vendor fair taking place in the desert. She couldn’t believe it. Only one week away, they scurried to get a new logo, packaging design, and marketing materials. The store team members were impressed and Michelle got TRUElicious® into her first Whole Foods.
What she and Kevin accomplished next is truly amazing. Within four months, they found a location to take the bars out of their kitchen (they were the first in Indio to obtain an in-home Cottage Food Law permit) and into their own manufacturing facility; secured vegan, USDA organic, and gluten-free certifications; tackled building and production permits, state and local audits, microbial product testing, and insurance; and delivered on the stacks of paperwork and requirements from Whole Foods.
TRUElicious bars can be found at healthy stores throughout the valley and beyond
“I have a whole new respect for each individual product in their stores,” says Michelle. “Their standards are top notch and beyond anything we could have ever imagined.” Fortunately, both Clark’s Nutrition and Whole Foods helped them along the way. “Basically we built a model Whole Foods manufacturing plant, and now that we’ve accomplished that, I feel we could go anywhere.” In October, they secured their second Whole Foods in Westwood based on the strong sales in Palm Desert.
Whole Foods has a division called local foragers which seek out small operations like Michelle’s to bring them to market. They guided the Steadmans through the development of recall plans, manufacturing practices, and delivery practices to ensure no cross-contamination, to name a few.
“The last four months have been the most stressful of my life, but you have to dive in and learn along the way,” says Michelle who had never done anything like this before. “From this experience, I want to write a book about the process. Not that I would have ever been discouraged, but if I had known what to expect, it would have made the journey very different.” Referencing the growing number of homemade artisan products in the market, she adds, “We are a community, and I look forward to helping others with their journey.”
On a tour of their new facility (“family owned and operated with love”), Kevin, who manages production, proudly states that their new machine can crank out 250 bars a minute – what used to take them a day by hand. Michelle recalls that San Diego expo and those 1,500 bars which took forever to bake, package and label (their son Logan may be happiest of all as he was always part of the assembly line).
As they grow, Michelle and Kevin continue to keep it local. Their newly developed marketing campaign, “Be True,” features local health industry professionals including Kim Tang of Bikram Yoga University Village; integrated pharmacist Lori Arnold; naturopathic doctor Shannon Sinsheimer; personal trainer Omar Almanza; Pilates instructor Jessica Lenarth; and certified raw food chef Kelli Rose.
The best part is that we all get to share in Michelle’s original dream as TRUElicious® is the hands down best on-the-go meal you can find. Each bar is packed with 17 superfood ingredients like coconut, acai, maca, local dates, goji berries, chia seeds and cinnamon and provides a filling gluten-free vegan meal.
We congratulate the Steadmans on their accomplishments and growing business. Those who know them couldn’t be prouder or happier for this hard-working couple. When they sell TRUElicious® to the big guys, I will certainly make it a point to determine how we are related. (:
Meet Michelle Steadman on Saturday, November 15 at the Desert Woman’s Show. For more information or to purchase product, visit Truelicious.com.