North Yorker Hugo Marrello muscles in on protein bar field with gluten- and lactose-free product

Fannie Sunshine

North York Mirror  |  Feb 03, 2015

Hugo Marrello appears on Dragon’s Den Jan. 28.

When Hugo Marrello realized years ago he was gluten intolerant, he set out to make products free of the protein composite.

Problem was, when you remove gluten, you also remove protein, and that did not digest well with the North York resident.

So Marrello, an engineer scientist by trade, set out to make gluten-free and lactose-free protein bars, starting up company ProteinBake about a year and a half ago after a decade of research.

Pure protein isolate is added to all his products, keeping the ingredient list short and simple and without words that are hard to pronounce or added sugar, he said, adding he used to make his products in his home kitchen and now has a facility in Markham.

He stresses ProteinBake is not diet food, and people can still eat what they normally do. But he claims with the proprietary baking method of his products, protein stays in the body for four to six hours, meaning people often eat less food for the rest of the day without feeling hungry. He also believes he is the first person to successfully bake appetizing products using pure protein isolate.

Whey protein isolate is a dietary supplement and food ingredient created by separating casein and whey from milk. Whey protein is considered a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate are the three primary types of whey protein. Whey protein isolate is further processed to remove all the fat and lactose, and is usually at least 90 per cent protein.

His products have received positive feedback from doctors and professional athletes, as posted on his website.

Marrello, who credits his products with helping him lose 50 pounds over six months, said many people told him he couldn’t bake with protein isolate, but he was undeterred.

After years and “thousands of pounds of food into the garbage,” the 65-year-old has finally perfected his products, which include almond protein bars, sesame protein bars, protein cubes, fruit cake and muffins.

“Other protein bars have 27 ingredients,” he said, adding he has never tasted protein bars other than his. “When I can’t pronounce the words, I shouldn’t be eating the food. The real complexity is to make it simple.”

His almond bar has five ingredients: honey, almonds, cocoa, black currents and protein isolate. The same goes for the sesame bar, except sesame seeds replace almonds.

Marrello calls them universal bars, meaning people can use them anyway they want, as a snack or a meal replacement.

He explained why each bar has the equivalent of 17 grams of protein, even though the nutritional facts list each bar at five grams of protein.

“One hundred per cent protein is not the same as another person’s protein,” he said. “It’s like the three types of gas at the pumps. One hundred per cent protein used in bars and shakes is 30 per cent isolate and 70 per cent fat. The 100 per cent protein we use is 97 per cent isolate and three per cent fat. Five grams of our stuff is 17, 18 per cent equivalent.”

After losing such a large amount of weight so quickly, Marrello said his friends persuaded him to appear on Dragon’s Den to pitch ProteinBake.

Marrello’s pitch was part of the Wednesday, Jan. 28 show, which failed to get a deal.

Clad in a black overcoat and pants, he ripped off his clothes, leaving him in only short red shorts and shoes, revealing his slim down and muscle gain. He also appeared to insult Dragon Arlene Dickinson’s weight, which he said was all for entertainment.

And ironically, it was Dickinson he had hoped to partner with, noting her successful marketing skills.

All five Dragons declined to invest in ProteinBake; Marrello asked $500,000 for 10 per cent of his company, evaluating it at $5 million.

Marrello believes ProteinBake, which had $40,000 in sales last year, has the potential to be worth billions.

The morning after his segment aired, Marrello said his phone had been ringing off the hook and he’d made several thousand dollars in sales from customers across Canada, along with inquiries to sell his products in stores.

“The experience (on Dragon’s Den) overall was extremely positive,” he said. “They let me get my message across. I advise anybody who wants their product exposed to go on air. The experience is worth it.”

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Sponsored Events

ProteinBake sponsors a number of sporting events and charity groups. Below are some of the ongoing and past sponsorships we are involved with.

  • NCAA
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  • Mayfair ITF Futures 2014
  • Rogers Junior National Championships 2014
  • Chump Car World Series 2014
  • Wilson/Mayfair Senior ITF Tour 2014
  • Children's wish foundation


IndyCar Champion

You know what man, we train a lot, and as a result I have tried tons of this stuff before, as far as something this good for you, this beneficial post workout, pre workout, whatever, that is about as good tasting product as I have had, so I will be hitting him up for some more of this .

   - James Hinchcliffe


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