SANTA MONICA, CALIF. — Surfing, losing 65 lbs and launching a million-dollar keto bar business are among Adam Bremen’s latest feats. The financial analyst-turned entrepreneur was born with Cerebral Palsy and has used an electric wheelchair for mobility his entire life.  

From an early age, he was taught that “life is about what you can do, and not what you can’t.” That’s the ethos behind Keto Krisp by CanDo, the line of low-sugar, low-carb protein bars he launched in 2018.

Mr. Bremen’s path into the food industry began with his weight loss journey. Not long after turning 40, he realized he was overweight and needed to make a change.

“Someone asked me to go to this event that helps people with special needs surf,” he said. “My friends and family were there, including my brother. I spent my whole life watching him play sports and cheering him on. On that day, he got the chance to watch me do my thing. It was really special. After that, I said, ‘If I was in better shape, I could do more things like this.’”

Online research led him to discover the ketogenic diet. He combined the high-fat and low-carb eating plan with a personalized exercise program, and the extra weight started melting away.

The biggest challenge was finding an on-the-go snack that fit with his new lifestyle.

“I was constantly in the store looking for different snacks that could keep me in line,” Mr. Bremen said. “Every bar I tried fell short. One day my brother said, ‘Why don’t we create our own keto bar? There’s clearly a need for a great-tasting snack.’”

Keto Krisp Bars

The pair teamed up with food scientists to develop a prototype. They landed on a formulation that includes MCT oil, coconut and almonds for a dose of healthy fats. With indulgent flavors and a satisfying crunch, the bars contain 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of sugar and no more than 6 grams of net carbs. They are sweetened with erythritol and stevia.

After perfecting the formulation, Mr. Bremen went door-to-door sampling the snack at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The brand secured distribution at a local health food store, then began selling on Amazon. From there it quickly graduated to Erewhon and Whole Foods Market in California.

That momentum captured the attention of Matt Clifford, co-founder and former chief operating officer at Barnana, a maker of plantain chips and other healthy snacks. The CPG veteran and entrepreneur joined CanDo as chief executive officer in early 2020.

“The credit goes to the velocities that these guys were seeing in Erewhon and Whole Foods,” Mr. Clifford said. “I joined the team during the pandemic, when everyone else was retooling and pulling back, but they had phenomenal buy-in from their retail partners.”

Mr. Clifford helped expand the brand into new regions, then nationally with Whole Foods, Costco and more, securing approximately 5,000 new doors during the height of the pandemic.

“We did all of that while our category was getting crushed,” Mr. Clifford said. “We’re 8% of the total nutrition bar category growth as of today. For a new brand, that’s a pretty significant number.”

Key to the brand’s success is appealing to both keto and non-keto consumers. Not all CanDo’s fans adhere to the lifestyle.

“If you look at the number of bars we sell, it’s virtually impossible for every single one of those people to be following a keto diet,” Mr. Clifford said. “People are buying our bars for the low-carb and low-sugar offsets, and they’re buying them because they taste good.”

CanDo’s lineup includes almond butter, chocolate mint, almond butter chocolate chip and chocolate raspberry, plus two plant-based varieties: almond butter blackberry jelly and peanut butter chocolate chunk.

Its latest innovation, a butter salt with collagen bar, combines the flavors of a butter pastry with notes of sea salt. It marks the brand’s first introduction of functional collagen and uses grass-fed butter.

“We’ve really put the pedal to the gas on the innovation front,” Mr. Clifford said. “We had three bars at the beginning of 2021. Now we have eight bars. The thing Adam and I are most impressed with is that every single one of our products has been accretive for velocity. I don’t think a lot of brands can say that.”