Time is running out for two local medical professionals to get their invention on the shelves of Walmart stores across the country. And they need your help.
BariBowl is an innovative portion control food container developed by Land O’ Lakes-based physician assistant Dezi Zevin and bariatric surgeon Dr. Tiffany Jessee. It’s designed to help anyone managing their nutritional intake for a healthy life, and it’s quickly advancing through Walmart’s “Get it on the Shelf” contest.
BariBowl uses two 4-ounce dishes that can be subdivided right down to 1-ounce portions. It seems simple enough, and Zevin said she was surprised no one else had thought of it before.
“Dr. Jessee does weight-loss surgery, and I was her PA, and we talked about whether there was anything out there that would help patients keep track of their eating after surgery,” Zevin said. “I went home and researched it, and I found nothing. So she said we should come up with something.”
That was 2010, and later that year, both had created a company — BariWare LLC —and had a working prototype going. By 2011, they were manufacturing the BariBowl from a facility in Clearwater. The bowls come in pink, blue and green, and are both microwave and dishwasher safe.
So far, marketing and sales efforts for the BariBowl — which retails at about $20 — have been focused on doctor’s offices, especially those specializing in bariatric surgery. However, the product has a wide range of uses that go beyond that, whether it’s someone managing diabetes, trying to lose weight, and even body builders and athletes.
“I use this for my kids instead of going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s,” Zevin said. “I prepare their meals in the morning, and can use it throughout the day.”
Zevin says she can pack lunch for her kids, and then have a second one ready at the end of the day when she picks them up and takes them to soccer.
Since the product launched, sales have doubled year-over-year. Yet, getting into Walmart could push those numbers right through the roof. For that to happen, it’s going to take votes, however.
Walmart’s “Get on the Shelf” contest features a number of products evaluated by the store’s management staff, and then put up for a public vote to see what consumers might be interested in. The BariBowl was part of the contest last year, but did not advance. And with voting running through Sept. 2, Zevin and Jessee are hoping for a much different result this time.
And even if they do succeed and turn the BariBowl into a booming business, neither plans to give up their day job.
“It would be like a dream come true, and it would be a game changer for both our lives,” said Jessee, who was Florida’s first female bariatric surgeon. “We don’t have the financial ability to do much advertising, so to walk into a store and see your product on a shelf for a national chain, that is just unbelievable.”
Extra profits would be reinvested back into the company, Zevin said, to help them expand the BariBowl line to other complementary products. That could include a larger bowl for those who have to eat more but still want to portion food.
To vote for the BariBowl in the Walmart “Get on the Shelf” competition, visit tinyurl.com/nxsygt7.