A healthy business

Their passion became GoodBar, an alternative product for like-minded parents wishing to avoid over-processed, over-sugared snack foods.

(photo credit: NOAM DAHAN)
A locally sourced, raw, organic and seasonal energy bar delivered to your door by an Israeli drone: That’s the dream of Adam Neril and Yehuda Hilqiyah of Safed. The immigrant business partners describe themselves as “two joyful, nature-loving fathers who want to provide their children with nourishing treats.”
They channeled this passion into GoodBar, an alternative product for like-minded parents wishing to avoid over-processed, over-sugared snack foods.
Available in Israel online, in selected specialty stores and in the GoodBar Cafe & Boutique in Safed – but not yet via drone – the energy bars contain wholesome ingredients like locally grown dates, rolled oats, almonds, sesame seeds, flax, natural sea salt, chia seeds and honey.
The two men might seem like they’ve been friends forever, but they arrived in Israel from opposite sides of the world and only met as adults.
“I came to Israel for the first time on a summer tour with the Jewish Federation,” said Neril, a California native. He knew he’d have to return because, “My soul became attached to Israel and I wanted it back.”
After making aliya in 1999, he immersed himself in an intensive ulpan, studied in a yeshiva and finally settled in Safed with his wife, Yaffa. Their children are six and two years old.
Hilqiyah grew up in eastern France and was a university manager for nine years. His wife, Leah, worked for the Israeli Embassy at the United Nations headquarters in nearby Geneva.
It was a comfortable life.
“When we had children, everything changed and we decided to move to Israel. We knew it would be hard economically, but we did it in the spirit of Zionism and wanting to live our lives as Jews,” said Hilqiyah, a father of two sets of twins under the age of seven.
Arriving in 2013, Hilqiyah worked in data science for about two years before the family moved to Safed out of a love of the Galilee and a desire to be near friends such as the Nerils.
“Adam had this idea for a healthy business and began to create recipes. I put my hands on the management side and made a business plan,” Hilqiyah explained. “Our friends were the tasters. And our children became addicted,” he added with a laugh.
They began selling GoodBar products online in December 2015 on a website in English, French and Hebrew. The brand name also has resonance in more than one language, as bar is used in biblical Hebrew to refer to grains and cereals.
Like any start-up venture, GoodBar involves considerable financial risk, long hours and large helpings of planning, vision and creativity.
The proprietors see it as an exciting challenge.
“The common denominator we want for this company is a kind of purity, a new way of thinking,” said Hilqiyah. “We want to give people something good for their soul. Watching the reaction of a customer bite into a GoodBar with whole, preservative-free fruit that we dehydrated ourselves is so satisfying.”
The shop sells desserts, juices and smoothies meant to complement the GoodBars, which come in flavors that include coffee hazelnut, lemon ginger, apple cinnamon, winter spice and peanut butter. A chocolate series and a coffee series are coming soon.
“So that customers can see the quality of the ingredients that go into our products, we offer in our store the very bulk ingredients we use in our bars,” said Neril.
The partners’ wives have taken over the product-development side of the business and their children remain very much involved in taste-testing. “If one of our kids says a flavor is icky, it’s icky. If it’s yummy, it’s yummy,” Neril explained.
He feels they have received a helping hand from above and many helping hands from below.
Whenever they were scrambling to find the appropriate equipment and space to grow their business, the right people and opportunities appeared at the right time, he said.
Yet starting a small business is never easy.
“Having a business and being able to make a living is an accomplishment for an oleh hadash [new immigrant]. This is a life challenge and we fight for it every day,” said Hilqiyah. “It’s a fragile company and we are learning constantly, but we know from our research that the products we have are so wanted in the market.”
“The Safed community has received us really warmly,” adds Neril. “A lot of regular customers stop here on their way to study or work, and we get a lot of tourists. Every day we meet extraordinary people.”
Within five years the partners believe Good- Bar could be a nationwide franchise and even export its artisanal products to specialty stores abroad.
“We will always keep the headquarters in Safed. The food industry is concentrated mainly in the center of Israel so it seems crazy, but we want it flowing from Safed,” Hilqiyah insisted.
Neril also envisions reducing the company’s carbon footprint by adopting sustainable packaging and delivery methods. And he hopes to branch out into community projects such as gardening, hoping to introduce nutritious but lesser-known kinds of produce to fellow Safed residents.
“We can leverage the machine-learning tools available today to make a healthy lifestyle accessible to all Israelis,” he said. “People don’t have to feel like slaves to the supermarket but can become empowered to grow their own vegetables and make their own healthy snacks.”
Hilqiyah wants to encourage other Jews to take the plunge he and his wife did when they made aliya, despite material comforts in their countries of origin.
“I find such a variety of souls and so many treasures in the Jewish people we meet every day that cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” he said. “There is no future for someone who wants to evolve spiritually outside of Israel. This is becoming more and more evident.
The future is in Israel.”