The only thing that cousins Alex and Cesar Frota love more than running is fueling their bodies with healthy, whole food.
“We are sports lovers,” says Alex. Natives of Brazil, the two run marathons, swim, and play volleyball, football, soccer, basketball, and tennis. “I had a coach who told me I’d never be great at any one of them, because I played them all,” laughs Alex.
But as they grew up, married and had families of their own, they also grew more concerned with healthy eating and powering their workouts with whole, clean foods. That was especially true when it came to dessert.
Alex always loved the idea of fruit bars as a healthy, refreshing treat. “Fruit is king in Brazil,” he says, and because of warm temperatures and active lifestyles, a fruit-based dessert seems natural. But finding options that weren’t full of refined sugar and artificial ingredients could sometimes be challenging. That’s when he discovered the bars made by Chef Renzy Bernardina Jr., affectionately known as Junior.
Alex loved Junior’s fruit bars so much that he installed a freezer chest—the kind you see in stores for holding frozen treats—in his home, and he stocked it with 1,000 bars every month. “Our house was a very popular hangout for the neighborhood kids,” he recalls.
But the cousins, Alex in particular, also had a deep love for the United States, and especially Central Florida. Having visited every year from the time he was 18, Alex decided to purchase a vacation home. He traveled extensively for business, and was always was drawn back to the United States. “You can still come to America and succeed, if you work hard, are determined and you have a great idea,” he says.
He brought his wife and children to stay for six months. Six months turned into six years, as their passion for Orlando grew. Alex began to consider ideas for a new business venture. Nearly a year of research with Cesar’s assistance pointed to a product that they already loved as a hot, emerging trend: frozen fruit bars.
“We researched for nine months, and determined that frozen fruit bars were a great product,” says Cesar. But they also noted one thing missing from the American market: fabulous-tasting bars made with only the cleanest of ingredients. So they contacted their friend Junior, who set about making the most wholesome product he could formulate. The result is a line of bars that are made with spring water, unrefined sugar and the freshest whole fruits and ingredients possible.
Coming up with the best flavors for their American customers has been a fun challenge, as Alex and Cesar continue to test and refine offerings. They learned early on that Brazil’s most popular flavor, acai, fell flat in taste tests when it was sampled solo. “We tried it here, and people didn’t like it because it’s bitter,” says Cesar. “So we mixed it with berries, and it’s wonderful, an explosion of flavor.”
They took another gamble with avocado bars. Alex and Cesar had grown up enjoying avocado as a dessert, when their grandmother would puree whole avocado in a blender with a little sugar and milk. But they knew eating the fruit this way would be foreign to American palates. “It was a big bet because Americans love avocado, but they tend to eat them in savory preparations, rather than in sweet dishes.”
They gave it a try, and the hunch paid off. Sales of So Fruitty’s avocado bars represent the line’s biggest sales growth.
So Fruitty flavors include coconut, avocado, acai and mixed berries, mango, strawberry, strawberry banana, lime, kiwi, watermelon cinnamon and cacao. In addition, So Fruitty also offers two bars containing whey protein: one flavored with coconut, the other with cinnamon. “Because we are runners, protein is important,” Alex says. With 10 grams of protein, the bars are more than just delicious. They’re nutritionally balanced.
The concept of balance is especially important to Alex, Cesar and Junior. The bars are just the right portion to satisfy, and most of the sugar comes from the fruit. There is sugar added to the bars, “but only enough to balance the flavors,” Cesar explains. The goal is to allow the fresh texture and flavor of the fruit to shine through. Likewise, they don’t add any artificial colors, and they never use fruit purees.
The partners are confident that they’ve found a winning product. As they continue to expand their retail footprint throughout Central Florida, they’ve set their sights on other markets as well.
It’s clear they’re here to stay and are excited to see what’s next. “I’ll never give up this company,” says Alex. “Our best ingredients are our passion and our love.”
Find So Fruitty Frozen Fruit Bars at markets including Whole Foods, Lucky’s Market, Earth Fare Seminole, Hoover’s Market and Sprouts in Tampa. A complete list of flavors and retail locations is available online.