From the time I was a teenager, I’ve been a runner. In school, I was encouraged to run the 400 meters by my track coach who always told me I “ran like a gazelle”. As a grumpy teenager this comparison invariably annoyed me, although later as an adult when I saw gazelles in action on a trip to Kenya, I really understood what a compliment it was. As a teen, I just wanted to run short distances like the 100m (which I didn’t have the power or the build for).
But when I hit university, I started distance running. I would strap in my tunes (hugely important part of the process) and run around beautiful rural New Hampshire. I found it hugely relaxing, super addictive, and running became a lifelong habit.
Fast forward to London (middle-aged!) life in 2016, where I was working in a busy creative agency as an art director and producer. I was routinely running about 8-10km before work every morning when I decided it was time to run a marathon. I’m from Boston (USA), so after the marathon bombing in 2013, my very first reaction was that I just had to run Boston. But I somehow never realised it was an elite marathon (you need to hit the qualifying time for your age group in another marathon first). So, no pressure, I decided to run my first marathon with the aim of qualifying for Boston.
Although my fitness has always been pretty good (bar some back issues), I had been hypoglycaemic (and a vegetarian) since I was a teen. Low blood sugar and marathon running don’t exactly go hand in hand so I knew I’d really have to nail my nutrition if I wanted to make it through the training. After a serious look at my diet, I realised (finally!) that despite all the healthy food I was eating (mainly lots and lots of veg), I was getting it all wrong. It turns out, lo and behold, I was ‘protein deficient’. I had a lot of the classic symptoms. I was tired a lot, my hair and nails were always breaking, and my blood sugar was all over the place (aha!).
Short of eating chicken and almonds all day, I needed a way to get more protein into my diet. A lot more protein. I searched endlessly for decent high protein snacks to supplement my diet, but every protein bar/ball I found was packed with sugar. Most were also whey or soy based--I didn’t eat dairy and I was trying to avoid soy (it can disrupt your hormones). And almost all bars I found were really samey, date-based, and despite being full of sugar, didn’t even taste that good. I also ideally wanted a snack that was bite-sized so I could nibble en route to meetings. At work, I was managing up to a dozen campaigns at any one time so eating on the run was mandatory!
I gave up searching for my perfect high protein snack so I decided to make my own—and Nibble Protein was born!
With Nibble, my mission was to create a high protein snack that was not only lower sugar, but low on the glycaemic index, so it would keep my blood sugar stable. Many popular protein snacks use high GI sweeteners like brown rice syrup, which create a blood sugar spike then subsequent crash (which negatively affects energy, mood, concentration, and satiety). With no food industry (or food development) experience, this was going to be a steep learning curve!
Meanwhile, I was hitting my marathon training hard. I had been following Hal Higdon’s legendary training programme pretty religiously. I got up to my 20 mile run (2 hours 37min—hurray!), but on the following run, I herniated a disc in my back. I was out of the marathon and inconsolable. My physio estimated I would have run the Brighton Marathon in 3:20—well within Boston qualifying time for my age group which was 3:45. I was gutted.
So I was out of commission for quite a while, but the upside is it gave me a lot of time to research how to make this elusive snack! I learned everything I could about nutrition, food science and manufacturing and I consulted with anyone who might be able to help including cooks, food scientists and a friend and dietary expert, Gudrun Jonsson, the author of the international bestseller, Gut Reaction.
After making hundreds of batches of nibbles (most of which were in my kitchen), Nibble was finally cracked! We launched with our first retailer, Ocado, in September 2017.
Instead of using dates, Nibble Protein is made with antioxidant-powerhouse, low GI dried plum purée. Dried plums have over 40% less sugar than dates, they’re the food ranked #1 in antioxidant power, and they have a really delicate taste so Nibble flavours really pop. With 1/2-2/3 less sugar than most other snack bars/ balls, each piece contains just 1g of sugar or less. Made with slow-digesting pea protein, all of our award-winning bites are vegan and gluten free.
Inspired by my niece Julianna, our newest range, Nibble Brownie Bites, are still packed with protein (18%) and dried plums, but they taste like naughty, indulgent little brownies. And they come in at under 100 calories a pack. Our Nibble Brownie Bites have just launched in Sainsbury’s “Taste of the Future” bay.
Nibble is available from leading retailers including Ocado, Whole Foods, As Nature Intended, Amazon, and Harvey Nichols. Nibble Brownie Bites (RRP £1.50) can also be found in 69 selected Sainsbury’s.
About the author: Erin Moroney is the founder of healthy snack brand Nibble Protein. She is back running and due to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon next year for Nibble’s charity partner, the Mintridge Foundation. The Mintridge Foundation is a registered charity that helps get kids into sports and wellness. Working with pro athlete ambassadors, Mintridge goes into schools and provides mentoring and training for youths (ages 4-18).