How LÄRABAR got its start
In the spring of 2000, Lara Merriken was hiking in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado when she had an idea that would change her life.
“I had gotten into eating raw foods and fruit and nuts, and this light bulb went off for me at the top of the mountain and I thought, ‘How come someone hasn’t made a really clean, simple food product made of just fruit and nuts but that really tastes indulgent and delicious?'”
That mountaintop idea was the inspiration for LÄRABAR – a simple, all-natural nutrition bar with unique flavors and few ingredients.
“My intent was to create something that anyone could enjoy, not just a health food lover,” says Lara. “So I started to comb the aisles of the grocery stores looking at ice creams and cookies and desserts, and I would emulate those flavors while I was creating LÄRABAR.”
She started making her bars in her home, and had friends and family try them.
“Corporate headquarters at this time was my own kitchen and my Cuisinart,” she says. “I did probably thousands of bars, made them by hand for my friends and family, before I actually invested in manufacturing equipment.”
When it came time to name her bars, it was easy – people kept asking about “Lara’s bars.”
Much of her spare time in those early days was spent on research and development, when she wasn’t busy working for Whole Foods Market. She helped open a store for the chain in Denver, and was a buyer in their nutrition department.
That relationship with Whole Foods eventually helped get LÄRABAR off the ground – the store agreed to stock her bars in Colorado.
Friends and family helped her make and package those first 500 bars. Rolling pins and pizza cutters helped form the bars. It took 15 hours!
Those bars appeared on the shelf on April 14, 2003. They were a quick hit. More than one million were sold in the first year.
The first five LÄRABAR flavors were Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Cashew Cookie, Banana Cookie and Chocolate Coconut Chew. (You can see Lara make a homemade version of her Cocoa Mole bar, here.)
In 2008, LÄRABAR joined General Mills and has since become a category leader in the single-serve natural health bar segment. Lara remains with the brand, as its creative director.
Editor’s note: Look for more posts in our “Origin Stories” series in our History category.
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