In 2000, Lara Merriken was 32, recently divorced, and considered going back to school when she saw something missing in a market space that was already oversaturated with brands like Chewy, Nature Valley, and Special K. She wondered how she could make a tasty, nutritional grab-and-go snack out of simple ingredients, spurring the innovation that lead to LÄRABAR.
With just a CuisinArt and a rolling pin, Lara set out to make a nutritional bar that would please the masses. Instead of focusing on classic nutritional bar flavors, she opted to create flavors that mirror our biggest obsessions: Sweets! Cashew Cookies, Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Banana Cookie, and Chocolate Coconut Chew were the first five flavors introduced in LÄRABAR’s lineup of snack bars.
Lara sealed her first order of 500 bars by hand and entered the market space with a strategy based on offering samples in store, giving her the chance to collect market data, educate people about her product, and foster a personal connection with a health-minded community. Eventually, she became one of the top 5 selling items in the Denver Whole Foods where she began.
Lara’s attention and care for the ingredients that went into LÄRABAR changed the features consumers paid attention to when shopping for groceries. No longer was the most important factor influencing purchasing decisions the number of calories, amount of sugar, or carbs. Instead, consumers began caring about the ingredients.
Five years after its creation, LÄRABAR became a top-selling brand and eventually sold to General Mills, where Lara still works today as Creative Director. The brand hasn’t changed the product formulation or the packaging except for slight tweaks over time, remaining true to the core values that lead to its success.
“Not only has LÄRABAR been a success, but it’s created a huge, huge legacy that’s far bigger than its actual size,” says Michelle Meyer of General Mills.
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