What would Lara do?
It’s not every day that the founder of one of our brands visits General Mills.
Lara Merriken, who started LÄRABAR in her Colorado kitchen in 2000, came to our headquarters last week to speak with employees.
In addition to sharing her story (audio), Merriken also met with the LÄRABAR team to learn about the brand’s upcoming plans and provide some input.
While she is no longer involved in the day-to-day workings of the brand, she’s still the face of LÄRABAR and serves as an advisor.
“Lara often serves as our point of inspiration,” says Rosanne Ranta, associate marketing manager for LÄRABAR. “We haven’t gotten so far as to make ‘What would Lara do’ bracelets, but it’s a question we often ask ourselves. The simple, real and joyful tone that we both project and protect on LÄRABAR comes from Lara. Our mission to make real food accessible to everyone is inspired by her. The way we approach strategy, advertising, and product development is all rooted in Lara’s philosophy when she was starting the brand.”
It’s an exciting time for LÄRABAR. Merriken told employees that watching the first commercial for the brand – which debuted in January – was amazing, considering advertising in its earliest days was primarily in the form of store demonstrations, samplings and dialogue with consumers.
“My thing was ‘How do I take this simple bar and communicate simply to people in a way they can digest?’” she says. “I had to create a language that was palatable by everybody. And I worked really hard to do that. It was all trial and error, but people responded and they got really excited and shared it with their friends. We went to events around Colorado and that’s literally how we marketed LÄRABAR.”
Merriken says that early feedback from consumers – and ongoing – has been instrumental in getting the brand to where it is today.
“I would test market people who really just didn’t care about natural foods. I thought if they can love this without any questions, I’m good,” she says. “My dream was to make it not just something for the natural foods realm – people might think that because our core consumer lives there – but I wanted to make LÄRABARs something that everybody could enjoy.”
As LÄRABAR grew in popularity, Merriken was approached by multiple companies interested in purchasing the brand.
She reminisces about her first visit to our headquarters and how she knew General Mills was the right fit for LÄRABAR, in this audio clip.
Merriken expressed gratitude to everyone on the brand team, and across the company, who have helped ensure LÄRABAR continues to succeed.
“I’m proud of all the people who put their energy into this brand and care,” she says. “The thing that really struck me about General Mills, besides the hospitality and the wonderful people, is that the brands that live in this company are brands that stay around,” she explained. “And I know that there are challenges right now. I know that the company has been through a lot with the changing tide of eating habits, but I just feel like this company is on its toes and is doing a really great job and moving into the future in a really positive way.”
Rosanne says the LÄRABAR team felt energized after meeting with Merriken, and hearing directly about where the brand has been and where she sees it in the years ahead.
“Hearing about Lara’s intentions behind the brand and product is incredibly impactful, because it is a powerful reminder of what the brand stands for and what people love and have always loved about it,” she says. “We will have the most success in continuing to grow this brand by staying true to what makes LÄRABAR special: its simplicity, authenticity and deliciousness.”
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