Dietetic Career Spotlight on David Ingalls, Co-Founder and CEO, Zing Bars
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on JULY 15, 2016
You can accomplish anything and start your own successful product company just like David Ingalls, MS, RD. Through hard work and innovation, David found a niche when he saw a great need for his clients. He answered that need by developing Zing Bars and is now selling them in stores nationwide. Read on to learn about his career path. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
Personal health challenges in my twenties and early thirties. I had chronic fatigue and didn’t find any relief from mainstream medicine. None of the dozen doctors I saw ever mentioned nutrition. Back in the early 1990s, it was difficult to even find a nutrition counselor so I began reading and educating myself. I was my own guinea pig, not always with the best results (like becoming anemic on a strict vegan diet with not enough sources of iron). But slowly my condition improved, as did a sense of empowerment. I realized I had tremendous control of my own health and wellbeing and became motivated to share the power of food and nutrition with others. I had been a liberal arts major in college so I needed to take all the core science courses before even applying to a nutrition program. But I loved them all, even organic chemistry, and I still refer to my bio chemistry textbooks frequently.
Your Company and Job Title:
Co-Founder and CEO, Zing Bars
– Facebook: facebook.com/zingbars
– Twitter: twitter.com/zingbars
– Instagram: instagram.com/zingbars
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you:
We are a small company with only 8 full-time employees so I do a little bit of everything, much of which doesn’t include dietetics. Meeting with investors, pioneering new sales channels, product development, contract negotiations with vendors, brokers and customers, marketing, branding, editing all web, print, advertising and PR copy, cleaning the office and watering the plants. As you can imagine with a product developed by dietitians, we constantly highlight the nutritional aspects of Zing Bars, like the low-glycemic carbs, heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats from nuts, and benefits of fiber. At the end of the day, I’m the “domain expert” and continually emphasize health and wellness as our core mission, both in the products we produce and in our company culture.
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
It was a natural extension of my nutritional counseling practice. Every day I was advising patients to eat small, frequent meals, including 1-2 wholesome snacks comprised of low-glycemic carbs, quality protein, healthy fats and at least 3 grams fiber. I worked in a busy, multi-disciplinary clinic in Seattle (Seattle Healing Arts Center, (http://www.seattlehealingarts.com/) and the clientele essentially mimicked the broader population, over half of which is either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Blood sugar disregulation was rampant and people needed healthy snacks to help control hunger and provide consistent energy throughout their busy days. I went to Bastyr University which is the country’s leading natural medicine university and there was a huge emphasis on whole foods nutrition. Hippocrates’ famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” was a constant refrain. I would continually suggest snacks such as smoked salmon lettuce wraps, hummus and carrots or almond butter with an apple. In Seattle’s fast-paced, high-tech urban milieu, people had difficulty preparing food and following through on these recommendations. In regular communication with fellow Bastyr grads, we lamented the lack of follow through and knew, “If there was just a convenient, packaged product that fit our requirements, our patients would have a much easier time with compliance.” One of my colleagues had been involved with a bar company a few years prior and we thought, “Why not us?” We developed three flavors initially and sold them out of our counseling offices. Many of our colleagues in Seattle sold them as well, and it started as a small, side business for us. Unbeknownst to us, some of our patients asked local health food retailers to stock Zing Bars. Back in 2008, gluten free was a novelty and retailers were looking for products with clean labels, higher fiber and protein and no additives. Zing Bars fit the bill and suddenly we were getting calls from local natural foods retailers, smoothie shops and boutique gyms. It was all an organic extension of the recommendations we were giving to our patients and our desire to make healthy eating habits easier to adopt. I was the one with previous business experience so began taking on more responsibility until l closed my practice last year and began working full time at Zing Bars.
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
I was born with excellent word processing and spreadsheet skills! Obviously, modern living requires basic skills that we learn along the way but are becoming more and more innate. I’ve also had a crash course in business and been fortunate to work with a business consultant-turned CFO/CMO/COO (Chief Financial, Marketing, Operations Officer) who has been an amazing mentor. I guess what comes naturally is a facility in connecting with others and seeing the big picture. I like to keep it positive and have had to learn ways to reduce the stress and trust that things are going to work out (even when all outward signs often indicate the opposite).
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Follow your passion, dream big and believe in yourself. I’ve actually had to learn all three of these as they don’t come naturally and our culture so often feeds on fear and doubt. As dietitians most of us have the passion piece. We didn’t get into dietetics for the big pay day, but because we love it. I’m encouraged by all the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit I see in the field of nutrition and dietetics these days. Whether innovative food products, or blogging, snack boxes, traditional media, private practice, or cooking, our society is starved for accurate nutrition information and wholesome products and there’s so much more opportunity in the field than even 20 years ago.
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
A private chef to prepare our family meals and do the dishes for us! Thankfully my wife is a great meal planner so we generally eat well, but the shopping/prep/cooking/clean up takes a ton of time. Imagine having it all taken care of…ahhhhh.