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Most U.S.-based cyclists and mountain bikers will recognize stroopwafels from one proliferative brand, Honey Stinger. Chief Marketing Officer Wendy Mayo says it all started when road cycling’s popularity was at its all-time high.
“Honey Stinger brought the stroopwafel to the US in 2011 in collaboration with Lance Armstrong after he enjoyed eating the Dutch version while cycling across Europe,” said Mayo.
Honey Stinger, based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, switched up the recipe and focused on outdoor enthusiasts, from golfers to mountain bikers. Instead of a brown-sugar-based mixture for the interior filling, Honey Stinger uses honey and other organic ingredients. But before the Honey Stinger stroopwafel, there were other products.
“Inspired by the Gamber family’s long legacy as a top honey producer in the United States, Honey Stinger was born in Steamboat Springs, CO in 2001. We launched our first product in 2003 – the Honey Stinger Gold Energy Gel — which brought the benefits of honey to endurance sports.”
Mayo is speaking of benefits like antioxidants, trace minerals, and probiotic properties, which are absent in refined sugars. For those who don’t know the Gamber name, Ralph W. Gamber bought three beehives at a farm sale in Pennsylvania in 1946 to start beekeeping as a hobby but over time it morphed into one of the largest honey businesses in the country. Gamber even created the ubiquitous plastic bear honey squeeze bottle.
The focus on more exercise-appropriate ingredients is based around Honey Stinger’s athletic target market. There is a focus on simple carbs and sugars, great for endurance sports. In 2016, Honey Stinger released gluten-free options after a push from consumers.
“Our sports dietitians we work with would definitely tell you that protein after a workout is a critical element to help rebuild and repair muscle,” said Mayo. “Our waffles don’t have much protein because too much before or during a workout can weigh you down—simple carbs are better for that.”
Though Honey Stinger is likely the most recognizable name for Americans when it comes to stroopwafels, the market has become more competitive with athlete-minded brands like Gu, Untapped, and Vafels creating their own performance-based, syrup-waffle snacks.
So, what does the future of mid-ride snacks look like? According to Mayo, we’re well past the days of desserts disguised as fuel.
“The days of candy bars and donuts as fuel are definitely over (although you can certainly still find those things at aid stations!)” said Mayo. “It’s about keeping things interesting for your taste buds yet still feeding your body in a way that’s beneficial. The science happening around athletic performance and nutrition continues to develop and consumers are getting more savvy about how nutrition affects their performance.”
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