We recently met up with the Founder of Sable’s Foods, Alicia “Sable” Hunt. And we are very impressed and excited about what they are doing to provide nutritional empowerment for the Cancer community. Sables’ Food was started by Alicia Sable-Hunt, aka Sable, a Registered Nurse with an MBA (and an infectious entrepreneurial energy).
She explained to us that her commitment to the cancer community stems from over 15 years working as a bedside oncology nurse, clinical research nurse, manager of a leading orphan-cancer consortium, and consultant to disease-specific non-profit organizations working to increase awareness of cancers.
So we were very lucky to actually have the chance to meet an experienced cancer nurse –cum- entrepreneur and get some insights in how she took an idea and literally baked it into a full fledged nutritional bar company.
The Genesis. The Motivation for Starting Sables Food Bars for Cancer Patients
The idea for Nutritional Empowerment Bars was born from firsthand knowledge developed over many years of caring for cancer patients. As a long-serving oncology nurse, Sable witnessed the immense struggle cancer patients undergo in what she terms cancer’s “nutritional challenge”—the crucial need for proper nutrition during treatment coupled with the loss of appetite and digestive issues that often prevent patients from receiving the nourishment they need.
Discontent with the lack of flavorful yet nutritionally balanced options, for cancer patients, Sable decided to (and felt compelled, in a way) to direct her experience to find a better nutrition option, and to develop better foods for cancer patients.
The process of moving from an Idea to a Great Product
She understood that cancer patients needed foods that would meet their specific nutritional requirements while offering flavors and textures that would taste great and be easily digestible. She also wanted to offer them something portable, as Sable strongly believes that patients should be able to thrive while continuing with their daily lives during treatment and recovery. Championing this cause, in 2006, Sable actually stepped into her kitchen and began baking up a solution. And as they say, from there on it has been ‘A Labor of Love…and Experience’.
From the outset the goal was clear – to create the most flavorful nutrition bar on the market, as judged by those who mattered most: cancer patients. Making them flavorful required attention to flavor and texture but always keeping in mind the nutritional aspect of the food. And hence began the journey, over many stages.
Stage 1. Achieving the right flavor
As Sable explains, “in addition to their lack of natural, wholesome-tasting ingredients—most bars are not cooked.” Like homemade baked goods and fresh breads and treats, she decided hers would be. So she set up focus groups and baked the first batch. From here, she began the process of perfecting the flavor. Going back and forth between patients, caregivers, and her kitchen, Sable adjusted and readjusted the recipe until it was right (and I can vouch for that because I had the opportunity to taste both the tropical fruit and the berry nutritional bars)
Stage 2. Perfecting the Texture
Texture was identified as the second major issue for patients. Although delicious, granola and certain nuts can be hard on the mouth, throat, and stomach, causing digestion problems for patients undergoing treatment. In stage two of her endeavor, Sable once again balanced input from the patient groups with that of the specialists to devise a solution—a bar that retains its crunch, yet eliminates the discomfort of consuming granola and whole nuts.
Stage 3. Getting the Nutritional elements right
Once patients were excited about the taste and texture, Sable moved to stage three: balancing the nutritional content of the bars to contribute supportive nourishment. Playing with protein levels and meticulously mixing the concentration of vitamins and minerals, Sable consulted with her specialist groups to ensure the appropriate nutrient thresholds were reached. Protein is a key factor in the healing process, yet higher levels of protein compromise taste and texture. Therefore, finding the perfect level required the scrutiny of a scientist.
Stage 4. Pulling in the Professionals and Patients
When asked what makes Sable’s bars different from others, the answer is simple, as per Alicia.. As she explained, “Sable’s Foods was developed with insights provided by two primary groups: cancer patients who know best what they want to eat…and nutrition and oncology specialists who know what patients need to eat to support them through their journey and recovery. Pulling it all together was someone with the understanding and commitment to balance the, sometimes conflicting, interests of the two.”
Where to Next? A Commitment to Prevention and a Cure
Sable’s Foods’ journey doesn’t start and end with great-tasting, nutritionally sound bar. Sable and her team are dedicated to keeping the ultimate goal in sight. To this end, a portion of the profits from product sales are donated to non-profit organizations actively pursuing solutions to cancer care issues, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management. Or in simpler terms, “a bite of every bar” is donated to cancer research.
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