Blog post by Grant
I believe good nutrition forms such an important part of our lives. This encourages me to find ways of eating well when cycling, and learn about healthy foods which can be included in meals when not on the bike.
I had the good fortune to discover Veloforte just before heading to the Pyrenees on a cycling trip with my partner, Emma earlier this year.
The energy bars they offer are made from 100% natural ingredients, and are formulated to provide a sustained source of energy. The bars sounded exactly what we were looking for. Having used the Veloforte bars throughout the bike trip, both Emma and I found all three flavours to be delicious, and the energy provided by them really suited our cycling. The Veloforte bars will certainly be part of our future ride nutrition.
I was keen to learn more about the brand and the products. On contacting Marc at Veloforte, he welcomed the idea of an article and I was fortunate to have a fascinating conversation with him and his wife Lara, about the brand and their love of cycling.
1) Does cycling and creating food form part of your family history, or are these passions individual to you?
My family are from Italy, near Florence. Creating delicious food, family life, stylish products and high quality ingredients all form a large part of Italian culture. I have many fond memories of family meals, recipes being passed down through generations and always discovering amazing Italian brands and specialities. Add to that mix my wife Lara, (a multiple award-winning chef) and the food thing is pretty well covered!
Cycling came into my life later on. Since then it has become a dominant backdrop to everything we’re doing personally and professionally. I discovered cycling initially through a close friend who’d been riding for years, and it formed part of a long recovery process I had after a major operation. My love of being on the bike, and my understanding of the importance of building up endurance and strength, grew from there.
2) What inspired the creation of Veloforte?
A whole host of different things seemed to come together all at once. Firstly, I was training for the Rapha Manchester to London challenge in 2015 to try and regain my strength. I was looking for the right nutrition and yet everything in the shops was synthesised “gloop” and just tasted disgusting. All I wanted was something real, delicious, high quality and natural, not processed, dehydrated sludge.
Secondly, Lara was getting serious about developing her culinary success, having just been nominated for three awards at the Great Taste Awards. We should mention that prior to becoming a multiple award-winning chef, Lara was a Heart & Lung Respiratory Specialist.
So, when you add my training ambitions and frustrations, Lara’s medical and physiological experience and culinary success together, the idea to create a natural, hand-made nutrition brand seemed the obvious thing to do. So we created Veloforte.
3) Within the Veloforte website there is reference to an ancient Italian recipe called “Panforte”. Can you tell us a little more about this, and how it influenced the energy bars you offer?
Panforte nowadays is just seen as a speciality food from Sienna, in Tuscany. However, its history is much more rugged and intriguing. It’s an extremely old Italian recipe, dating back before the Crusades. It was used to power Roman Legions and fortify the Aristocracy through its use of herbs, spices and fruits. It was carried, stored and constantly updated with new ingredients and herbs from the growing Roman Empire. It’s as if it was the first energy food.
Panforte is something I have eaten all my life. It’s always been there, so it seemed very natural when we realised what it could become for us. It provides the baseline to our product, full of the natural fruits, proteins and minerals the body needs and we have set about refining it into an exceptional endurance food… the perfect real food for endurance cycling.
4) Did it take a lot of trial recipes for you to arrive at the products you wanted to create?
Yes. Loads. We had countless tastings and trials to achieve the right flavours and consistency. I’ve a bunch of ride buddies who help us to refine the product and be the guinea pigs!
It’s crucial that our nutrition is not only delicious, but also easy to consume on the bike, helping riders to stay motivated and keep morale high during long endurance rides. Most other products have a tendency to become claggy and over-sweet, often leading to terrible indigestion, bloating and fatigue.
Our ingredients are 100% natural and are prepared by hand with zero processing. Our nutrition is designed to provide sustained performance. This is a much better way to approach on-bike nutrition, helping build endurance potential and performance. Most other products offer quick sugar-highs, but these come with the sugar crashes too, hideous!
We have three different flavours and this gives our riders the chance to experience different tastes and textures throughout the day. Each triple pack is supplied with a re-sealable bag to assist in the bars being cut into cubes and eaten in bite size pieces too. The best part about our nutrition is that it feels good to use it!
5) The Italian Dolomites are a place I love to visit and ride. Do you enjoy cycling in Italy?
Yes, very much. Both Lara and I are currently on holiday in Italy. We have been riding a sportive around Puglia, and enjoying the countryside and coastline. It’s an incredible country with some of the most captivating roads and routes. And they love our bars there too!
6) Are there other people involved in Veloforte? If so, are you able to tell us a little about them and their roles?
There are currently around ten people involved in Veloforte in some way or another. They help us to bake, prep, design, promote and manage the orders – helping us to establish a very customer focused service. When you provide the finest real food endurance nutrition available, you need to insist on having the very best customer service possible.
The bars are all handmade, making activities such as forming the mix of ingredients, cutting, wrapping and boxing an ongoing process. It’s very labour intensive, but that’s also part of the fun and our skill.
We offer bespoke Stage boxes to suit customers’ requirements too. For example, we have just announced that we are the exclusive Nutrition Partner to the HRO Maserati Race Team, so we’re delighted to have a growing customer base of discerning palettes and requirements – we’re happy to help them get the finest nutrition they need.
Our other Stage Boxes have become popular for Sportive and Challenge events too, such as the NC500, Prudential Ride London, Etape du Tour or similar. Our customers come to us asking for bespoke nutrition and we help them to develop what they need based on factors like their weight/ ability and the profile of the hills on the day etc.
7) Is there a particular aspect of cycling you prefer? To race, the mountains, sportives?
I really enjoy long endurance orientated cycling, Rapha’s Manchester to London was an event I particularly enjoyed recently. There are other more challenging events too, such as the Virgin Strive, the Transcontinental and the Cent Cols which look really interesting to me. I’m desperate to do one of those someday soon.
Lara particularly enjoys the Sportive type cycling events, where the challenge of the day comes from covering a particular distance, and riding with friends.
8) Do you have a personal favourite in the energy bars you offer?
My favourite is the Classico. For Lara it’s the Di Bosco, my Mum likes the Ciocco.
9) Are there any forthcoming events where people can come and meet Veloforte and try the products?
Yes, there are a number of forthcoming events. We have a few things planned for the UK and across Europe. We are about to do a 100 miles sportive on the Isle of Wight and others will follow too. This is something we are quite excited about as we are looking to partner with people and create events in some fabulous places in Europe, and potentially beyond.
Of particular note we have been very closely supporting the Virgin Strive Challenge this year. It’s a challenge that takes 26 days over thousands of kilometres including hiking, riding, swimming, climbing and more. It’s an immense challenge and we’re delighted to have been appointed their exclusive Nutrition Partner.
Going forward, we want to develop an ever more personal approach with customers and help them get the best from our products. To enable this, we are forming a group of brand ambassadors, racers, bike designers and trainers. The ambassadors will be at events, both taking part and talking to people about the products and helping them to understand how much more effective real food performance is compared to anything synthesised.
10) Are there any future products which you would like to tell us about?
Yes, a number of new products are planned. We will be adding two additional flavours to our range of energy bars. Coming very soon.
Right now though we have launched our Velo-Bites… they’re everything people love about our bars, pre-cut into Bites. Easy pickings!
It’s what our customers have been asking for, it makes taking in bite-size morsels really easy, and a mix of flavours can be dropped into a bag, in readiness for a ride. We are also about to announce our Velo-Balls range too… they’re delicious, amazing “bonk-balls”. Look out for those very soon.
Accessories to complement the Veloforte bars are also planned for the future, but you’ll see these later in the year. We want every rider to have access to the finest real food endurance nutrition available, and to help them experience what 100% Real Food, 100% Real Power feels like.