Tanka, a Native-owned business, invented the commercial bison bar. But Epic took credit, built an empire on a foundation of misleading claims, promised ranchers investment that never materialized, and left an industry struggling in its wake.
To hear the processed food industry tell it, the bison bar—the trendy, protein-dense snack now ubiquitous at high-end grocery stores across the country—has a clear, undisputed origin story. It was invented in 2011 by Katie Forrest and Taylor Collins, vegan endurance athletes who turned to meat to power their punishing training regimen. They got hooked on grass-fed bison, started making unusual bars from meat, dried fruit, and seeds out of their home kitchen, and quickly incorporated their obsession into a business. As co-founders of their new company, Epic Provisions, Forrest and Collins were smart and idealistic and naïve in all the right ways. Demand grew so quickly it’s almost as if they stumbled onto their defining moment: an acquisition by General Mills, to the tune of $100 million, that would launch countless imitators and have major implications for the American bison market.