Protein bars have a reputation for being less than delicious. But the nutrition they can offer a workout or a dieter is unparalleled. So a lot of protein bar aficionados just power through the bitterness, chalkiness or intense sweetness.

But veterans Alex Witt and Ian Sparks want you to know that their company, Battle Bars, offers the same great nutrition but with higher-quality ingredients and better flavor.

What they also offer is the chance to learn about local heroes, many of whom gave their lives in the line of duty, be they U.S. troops, first responders or anyone else who set out to make a difference.

Each shipment of Battle Bars comes with one of those stories.

Witt, the current CEO of Battle Bars, says taste and dedication to fellow veterans is why the company exists. A Navy veteran, “serial entrepreneur” and owner of Chicago’s 10.40.10 Fitness gym, he came into the company first as its best customer. It was love at first taste for him. After trying every other bar there was, both in Iraq and in the gym, he knew Battle Bars were a winner.

Battle Bars CEO is a Navy veteran with a deployment to Iraq. (Courtesy of Battle Bars)

“Think about your favorite ‘crisp rice’ cereal treat in one of your favorite flavors,” Witt says. “There’s nothing artificial, and there’s the perfect amount of macros in each bar. That’s why our reorder rate is as high as it is.”

For the size of the company, the owners note its reorder rate is three times the industry standard, no small feat for a company barely two years old

Current COO Ian Sparks is an Army officer who co-founded the company with his brother Colin. His brother had extensive experience in the protein bar industry. So the two brothers tapped a bariatric doctor whose expertise is in weight loss but who also had experience in the protein bar industry.

“We also saw it as an opportunity to combine it with charitable giving and charitable partnerships,” says Sparks.

Their first bar, the blueberry-flavored “Blue Falcon,” was launched on the same day as Battle Bars’ partnership with Operation Enduring Warrior, a nonprofit that helps wounded American veterans and law enforcement officers through mental and physical rehabilitation.

“The passion was in how we can grow a charity along with us,” Sparks says. “Our tagline is ‘Fuel Your Fight,’ so what’s our fight? Who matches our need to overcome your difficulties in adversities? Operation Enduring Warrior was so great and lived up to that word for word.”

“Anyone can come up with a cool product, you know,” says Witt. “You have to have passion and a cool mission behind it, which we do. Our dream budget is to write a million-dollar check to Operation Enduring Warrior.”

Battle Bars co-founder and COO Ian Sparks is a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. (Courtesy of Ian Sparks)

Beyond Operation Enduring Warrior, the two wanted to be able to build the military-veteran community as well. They wanted to be able to get people who in their opinion should be recognized, but aren’t, into the news. Their solution is “Nominate a Hero,” an effort to recognize anyone who made a difference in any community, anywhere.

“We thought, ‘Let’s have people who visit our site nominate the local heroes in their community that the world doesn’t know about,'” Sparks says. “Let’s inspire people to tell the stories of anyone they know who has done significant acts that have changed our community for the better.”

Each hero’s story will be posted on the “Our Heroes” section of the Battle Bars website, and a nominated hero’s story is sent in every Battle Bars shipment.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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