Tommy Barnhardt made a comfortable living as a punter over a 14-year NFL career.
Now hed like for everyone to get a piece of his pie. In 2009, Barnhardt launched his own line of healthy desserts that he says will help curtail diabetes and obesity.
Working out of his east Charlotte office, Barnhardt developed Guiltless Pleasures Desserts, which made around $150,000 in sales in 2012.
Guiltless Pleasures Desserts are powders the consumer mixes with a couple other ingredients, such as skim milk, to make desserts such as pies, parfaits, smoothies and ice cream.
On Jan. 5-6, Barnhardt will be making an appearance at the Greater Charlotte Health and Fitness Expo at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center in Concord.
We came up with a product that was low in calories, low in fat and very tasty. I thought, Im going to tackle this, Barnhardt said.
Spoken like a true football player.
A native of China Grove and a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Barnhardts long pro football career included one year with the Carolina Panthers, during the teams inaugural season. He was the third player the Panthers signed and, he says, was the first player to run on to the field at the teams first game.
From 1987 to 2000, Barnhardt played with five teams. He was a teammate of Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Daryl Green and played in Walter Paytons final game during his rookie season.
Barnhardt became aware of how diet tampered with a bodys overall well-being during his playing days. He was diagnosed as a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), but the only way he knew to moderate it was by eating candy bars and drinking a sports drink.
He says his condition worsened in the Florida heat when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-1998. Consuming so much sugar put more pounds on him, which forced him to pay team fines for not maintaining his required playing weight.
After retiring from football, Barnhardt says he took five to six years off and let his body recuperate. He moved to Matthews in 2007 to get closer to his family in Rowan County.
Barnhardt says he has always liked to cook but started to appreciate what people went through when they had trouble maintaining their desired weight. He didnt like the taste of low-sugar and fat-free foods he tried.
Tinkering with experimental foods in his own kitchen, Barnhardt targeted desserts on a trial-and-error basis. Often collecting ingredients at the local organic grocery store, Barnhardt had his eye on his pies.
Soliciting the help of a scientist acquaintance to help develop his product, Barnhardt got his break in March 2010 when he got to market his pie on the Home Shopping Network.
Eight months later, he was selling his desserts to nursing homes in South Charlotte. From there, a major food distributor picked up his line.
Were challenging the status quo in America, says Barnhardt. Were saying you can have a good food that will satisfy your taste buds without compromising taste.
Barnhardts company is launching an already-made frozen pie in 2013. He says hes also working on a recipe book of dietary foods that will include turkey meatloaf, ranch-style mashed potatoes made out of cauliflower, and asparagus soup made with almond milk.
Aside from teaching an occasional punting lesson and being featured in an instructional video that is available on the Internet, Barnhardt isnt involved much in football anymore.
At this point of his life, the 49-year old Barnhardt has a different recipe for success.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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