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Who is Mary Merheim?

Mary Merheim

I am the creator, founder and now CEO of Grandbar Snacks.  I live with my two little dogs, Bean and Sprout in a Grade 2 listed cottage near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I am an Elderly Nutrition Advisor and regularly give talks to groups, care agencies and voluntary organisations about the impact of good (and bad) nutrition on our senior generation. I also support clients on a 1:1 basis.

I love women’s cricket and actively support our local team.

My background is in teaching specialising in Autism, a role I enjoyed for many years. However, as the years passed I began to feel a different calling and during the Covid pandemic, I set up Dementia Doulas Ltd. This is a business that supports families trying to care for someone who has Dementia.

I also work as an End of Life Doula, supporting families in their own homes with end-of-life care. I believe that everyone is entitled to have a good death and I feel privileged to be allowed to help people in this way.

Grandbars, what are they and how did they come about?

In 2018 my dear father began to lose his appetite. He also became frailer and less enthusiastic about his passions and interests. His fierce desire for independence was still apparent but his motivation to do things for himself began to wane. He also started losing weight.  It felt like he was ‘fading away’ in front of me without anything being really wrong with him.

My dear father

So, I set out to find him something he would want to eat.  His usual preference for savoury food had changed to sweet things so this made things a little tricky. Standing in the supermarket it was hard to know where to start!  How could I find something he would want to eat when he himself couldn’t think of anything? Anyway, after much trial and error, the one thing he became excited about, and actually asked for, was millionaires shortbread from Boots!

The calorie content in Millionaires Shortbread was high, which was good, but that was about it.

 After much searching it became apparent that there was nothing on the market that was:

  1. High calorie
  2. Nutritional/healthy
  3. Easy to eat
  4. Delicious/tempting to someone who wasn’t really interested in eating

The solution was obvious! I realised that I was going to have to make something myself to tempt my father to eat.

So I did!

In my own kitchen!

As I researched what nutrients we need as we get older I was shocked to discover that there was, in fact, very little information out there. Even the NHS didn’t give facts and figures about the nutritional requirements needed in later life. 

It became apparent that there was a need for something that catered specifically for the elderly as nothing I came across fitted the bill. The products that I found were either aimed at weight loss or those who were active. Both of these types of products have completely different nutritional contents as they are aimed at a different market.

I studied nutrition in order to gain access to valuable articles and research so that I could be sure of adding exactly the right ingredients into the cake bars I was looking to make.

As I made the cake bars I tested out the flavours and consistencies on family, friends and clients and in doing so, I gained valuable insight into what worked and what didn’t.

Plate of ingredients

I also went through a couple of food processors and a lot of ice cube trays which were very handy to mould the initial product.

And so Grandbars began to evolve!

Word spread and the cake bars were suddenly in demand. So, I hired the church hall kitchen at weekends and began to sell the cake bars at local events and craft fairs.

In the end, I couldn’t keep up with the demand. In 2022 I knew that things needed to expand further so I found a small food production factory. Artists and packaging experts were commissioned and Grandbars was officially ‘launched’ at The Great British Food Festival in June and The Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival a week later!

Great British Food Festival Finalist

During the first few months of trading, Grandbar Snacks came 2nd in The Great British Food Awards ‘Healthy Boost’ section and 2nd in The Women’s Business Club ‘Start-Up of the Year’ 2022. Grandbar Snacks is currently in the final 3 for ‘Start-Up of the Year’ at the Gloucestershire Foodie Awards. Results are to be announced at the ceremony in late March 2023, which I am so excited about.

What is happening at Grandbar Snacks now?

As I said above, I am now the CEO of Grandbars Ltd with an amazing management team behind me.

There is always product development to do, refining the products further with plans for a variety of flavours. We are also looking at other product options too, watch this space!!

Having spent hours raising our profile at numerous events I realise that the cake bars have universal appeal.  The nutritional content means they appeal to athletes and because they are easy to eat and slow release (meaning you feel full for longer) they are also very popular with nurses and emergency services.  Some flavours are also very popular with children so their parents buy them for their lunch boxes.

As a result, we now have plans to market our cake bars to a wider audience.

As well as all this,  I am concentrating on writing presentations for groups such as the WI, planning which food and drink festivals to attend in 2023 AND choosing a sparkly dress for the award ceremony in Gloucester!

Mary Merheim

CEO and Founder, Grandbar Snacks Ltd


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