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Fruit snack propels local company

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s strong link to endurance sports goes beyond running and cycling. The company that produces a popular energy-boosting snack for athletes is based here. Sharkies, Inc. recently moved into a 5,000-square-foot office and warehouse complex at the Auburn airport industrial park. For owners Dwight and Kelly Sinclair, who established the company in 2003, it is a natural fit for their lifestyle. Dwight Sinclair competed as a swimmer in college and he has completed the Iron Man World Championship Triathlon in Hawaii. “I’ve also done the Auburn triathlon run by Brad Kearns,” he said. Sinclair has been in the natural-food business for about 25 years. He was previously associated with Garden Burger, Clif Bars and Oregon Chai. “These are household names now,” he said. Sharkies continues the trend. The fruit chews are made out of an edible gel very similar to gummy bears, but are a much more nutritional alternative, he said. “A lot of runners eat gummy bears, but they’re not healthy,” he said. “They’re full of dyes, fructose and processed sugars. Sharkies is what we call a fortified gummy, which is an electrolyte. It is a wheat-free, gluten-free, fructose-free snack for active adults and children.” It’s also certified organic, he said. The line for adults is sold in four flavors. The children’s product comes in two flavors. “The adult line’s main ingredient is rice syrup. The children’s line is a little sweeter and made with tapioca,” Sinclair explained. REI, Target’s nutrition/pharmacy department, Toys R Us, Performance Bikes and Fleet Feet carry the product, as do area bike shops. Safeway will carry Sharkies beginning in February, he said. Auburn Bike Works has offered Sharkies for several years. “They have a variety of flavors that everyone seems to like, including some geared more toward young riders,” Bike Works owner Lisa Kodl said. “The texture is great. They’re not as sticky as some of the products. And they work really well to keep you going — they replace nutrients you’re sweating out or burning out.” Sinclair said sales tripled in 2007. Since then, the recession has had an impact, limiting sources of funding for growth. Currently, Sharkies has six employees with annual sales of “under $5 million,” he said. He attributes Sharkies’ success to the increasing emphasis on an active lifestyle. ”People are becoming much more aware of what they put into their bodies from a health standpoint,” Sinclair said. “They’re becoming more aware of what they’re using for snacks and on the go. We also have a huge cult following in the running community.” Sinclair, who is training to enter the next Iron Man competition, is a devotee of the fruit chews. “It’s a product that’s an alternative to the bars and gels out there and it also serves as a healthy snack for active people — weekend warriors, we call them.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.