Fringe Food Co is the undisputed nutrition bar for surfers. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
Whether pre-surf or post-surf, you want a snack — something quick, easy, and nutritious.
Did you know that the snack options available today can not only be bad for you — they can actually make you feel worse when trying to paddle out or recover after a long session?
With large marketing budgets and creative packaging, many so-called nutrition bars for outdoors enthusiasts — including surfers — are marketed as "good for you".
But when you scan the ingredients, you realize what you’re eating for nutrition, fuel and recovery is equivalent to a Snickers bar.
Wouldn't it be great if there was a healthy bar that tasted good, and is geared for surfers?
This is exactly what Hunter Schaeffer thought. An avid surfer living in Delaware, Hunter couldn't find a transparently clean nutrition bar for surfers. At the same time, he discovered the incredible benefits of functional mushrooms — they can help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, improve brain function and much more.
Hunter took it upon himself to combine the right ingredients to create something healthy, something tasty, and something packed with superfoods that can benefit a surfer’s overall health.
After making these bars in his kitchen, Hunter took them on surf trips, and his friends loved the taste. They eventually asked if they could buy some from him, and that’s when Fringe Food Co. was born.
Fringe bars are packed with adaptogenic mushrooms, plant based protein, and superfoods, designed to fuel your adventure — and keep you charging.
We sat down with Hunter to talk about the creation of the bars, the surf scene in Delaware, and how he’s able to get so much mouth-watering flavor — that’s actually good for you! — into a Fringe bar. — Cash Lambert
American Surf Magazine: Hunter, let’s first start with your surfing story. What’s your first surfing memory, and how has surfing evolved for you since then?
Hunter Schaeffer: In sophomore year of high school, I was living about an hour inland. I had a Lacrosse coach who talked about surfing all the time, and a friend and myself asked him to teach us. One day in the Fall, he took us down to Maryland to surf, and it was a 6-foot storm swell, perfect conditions, barreling waves — it was the first time I had ever paddled out!
It took me 45 minutes to even get out, and I spent two hours launching myself over the falls, just getting smashed.
"It’s interesting, because even though I got worked, just feeling that power of the waves made me so stoked for more."
After that, a good friend and I would surf up and down Delaware and Maryland as much as possible. Towards the end of high school, I did a trip to Puerto Rico. At that point, I knew surfing was going to be a major part of my life forever.
Hunter's idea for Fringe Food Co was birthed in Delaware. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
When you think of surfing in America, Delaware isn’t the first location to come to mind. Talk us through the unique surf scene there.
Delaware is overlooked, but we do get good waves. It’s all about finding the right spots on the right days. We don’t have a vast coastline of waves, which means you gotta work for it. There’s more effort and therefore more reward.
We don’t overlook any waves on any day. If there’s whitewater, we’re stoked to go surfing. Even if it’s February and it’s 35 degrees outside, if it’s 3-4 feet and offshore, everyone in the local community will be out there.
Before Hunter discovered mind-body medicine, along with the benefits of functional mushrooms, he thought he would have to give up his passion — surfing — due to a back injury. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
Talk to us about the genesis of Fringe Food Co. Why did you start making nutrition bars for surfers?
It actually started with me making these bars for myself in my kitchen at home. I’m an active person — I love fitness, surfing, anything and everything outdoors. I’m also into nutrition, and I tried every bar out there today, but I couldn't get behind any of them. One product may be branded healthy, but there’s oils that’s bad for you in it. Another may have a ton of refined sugar or artificial sweetener.
"There wasn’t a product out there that was transparently clean, and in my opinion, it was a huge hole in the market."
Around the same time, I was struggling with back pain. It stopped me from being active, even to the point to where I sold my surfboards. I thought I would never surf again without getting back surgery. I discovered the world of mind-body medicine, and along with that, functional mushrooms. Functional mushrooms can help your body adapt to stressors and strengthen that mind-body connection.
For me, it’s been pretty profound to the point to where I’ve seen my pain subside. Learning more about this mind body connection, and functional mushrooms being a part of that, changed my whole mental state, and next thing I knew I was back surfing again.
"I wondered how I could harness the benefits of these adaptogens that made such a difference for me into a clean and tasty nutrition bar."
In my kitchen, I gathered my plant based ingredients, paired them with adaptogens in the form of mushrooms and first made them for myself. Then, I began packing them for surf trips, and handing them out to friends after surfing. I even gave them to friends who were big into yoga. After a while, people starting coming back to me saying 'can we buy these from you'? That’s the genesis of the product itself.
Talk to us about functional mushrooms, because they seem to be a big part of the Fringe product.
There’s a lot of studies that back this, and in my opinion, functional mushrooms are some of the most powerful and medicinal foods on the planet. All the mushrooms I use in Fringe are considered adaptogens.
An adaptogen is a food or substance that once you ingest it, it helps your body adapt to stressors and maintain balance. For example, if you have inflammation, it can reduce it; if you have a virus, it can boost your immune system.
Not only is a Fringe bar tasty; it's loaded with adaptogens to help your body now and in the future. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
Which Functional Mushrooms are formulated into the Fringe bars?
They are Reishi mushrooms, which help boost your immune system; Cordyseps, which boost oxygen uptake in blood. Cordyseps are great for surfers to consume before surfing, since it helps with endurance and stamina. Lions mane, which is a powerful nootropic that helps with focus and memory, is great for the brain; Turkey Tail, which can help reduce fatigue.
Overall, there’s a laundry list of powerful benefits with mushrooms. The main benefits are reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of cancer, they're good for heart health, good for your gut, and good for immune system.
"When I was learning about functional mushrooms, I realized it could be a powerful thing to have in your diet. They are usually edible through powders and extracts, but those taste horrible on their own. That's why, with Fringe, I wanted to formulate them into something that tasted good and was something you can take on a consistent basis."
It’s pretty incredible that Fringe Bars have zero added sugar as well.
I’ve seen brands try and trick people with great packaging and messaging, but in their product, they use a ton of refined sugar.
The simple solution for me is dates — dates are the only sweetener you'll find in Fringe bars.
We blend the dates, which creates this creamy texture that serves as foundation for the bar itself.
"Fringe is transparently clean and all natural, with an exponentially higher added functional benefit with the mushrooms — and no added sugar."
Pick your flavor. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
Talk to us about Fringe's environmental impact. We understand that's a priority for the company.
Fringe is a 1% For The Planet Member, pledging to donate at least 1% of annual revenue to environmental non-profits. I am making my contributions to Save The Waves Coalition to support their work in protecting marine ecosystems around the globe.
"Environmental responsibility and sustainability is a major social mission for Fringe. I personally feel that it is so important to appreciate, take care of, and protect the natural areas we enjoy."
Like we said, the perfect nutrition bar for surfers. Photo courtesy Fringe Food Co
If you could give others advice who are looking to start a business in the surf and outdoors space, what would you say?
I would say look at all the other successful brands in the industry, identify why they are different, and don’t do what they are doing. If you do, you’ll blend in with everyone else and get lost.
"You have to be unique and different, and that’s a big part of Fringe. The look, the feel, the ingredients, who it’s made for — surfers — is all different from other companies in the space."
And that’s where the name comes from, too — Fringe means to get away from the mainstream and embrace those outer areas where true adventure lies.
Where can we find Fringe bars?
Right now, Fringe is primarily a direct E-commerce brand, so the best place to find and buy them is FringeFoodco.com.
You can also find them on Amazon, and be on the lookout for them in larger retail stores soon.