Larabars offer real food in convenient packages: exclusive interview with Lara Merriken

Sunday, December 05, 2004
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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The following is part one of an exclusive interview with Lara Merriken, CEO of Larabar, makers of natural food bars.

Mike: To get started, can you give people an overview of what Larabars are all about?

Lara: Well, basically a Larabar is what we call a food bar, and a food bar meaning that it's made with 100% whole unprocessed foods. We don’t use sweeteners or fractioned foods, so in other words the 'Cherry Pie Larabar' is cherries, almonds and dates, three ingredients.

Mike: Wow.

Lara: And so that speaks for itself. You're eating food, but you're eating food in a very portable, convenient form, because most of us are pretty busy! Our lifestyles are pretty intense, and people are on the go a lot. And they want convenience food. So the reason I created it is I felt like even if you are on the go and want convenient food, people deserve to eat good stuff. And stuff that actually brings benefits to you. And so that's how I ended up creating it. That's what makes us different is that there's only food in this bar. And the taste! The taste is really incredible because it's just so simple. You know, the cherry pie, it really tastes like cherry pie because it's made with real cherries.

Mike: Right! It does! And it is tart, just the way cherry pies should be.

Lara: Exactly! Because we actually use a tart, unsweetened cherry.

Mike: I saw that. I got very excited about reading the ingredients. I'm kind of an ingredients label geek. And when I saw your ingredients, I knew, “Oh boy! This is gonna be some good food! Gotta talk about this!” But I'm not sure that everybody else really understands how amazing that is to be able to have a food bar where you can pronounce all the ingredients, you know?

Lara: Yeah! I understand, I mean, I think a lot of times when they look at our label, they say, “Where are your ingredients?“ And if you look at our bar on the side panel, it's just three words! They're used to seeing these long words, words you don't even understand. So people actually look at the ingredients and they just stand there and go, “That's it?” And we say, “That's it!“

You know exactly what you're eating. It's like your child could eat this and understand what they're eating. And that actually speaks very profoundly to a lot of people that pick up our bars and try them. They're so excited about that.

Mike: I would think so. And so many of the other bars out there are labeled as so-called 'Energy bars'. Of course, my observation is that energy, in that context, always means sugar. So if it’s an energy bar, it's really just a candy bar. But your bars actually give energy in the healthy way. It's complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy, right?

Lara: Right. And the good oils from the nuts. That's why I combine fruit, dried, unsweetened fruit, and I say 'unsweetened' because fruit is naturally sweet in its own right, and you don’t need to add sweeteners to it. So we combine those dried fruits with the nuts and, nuts have all those really good beneficial pmega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the oils, and those are slow digesting. So the combination of them actually is not only energizing, but it's also sustaining. And they’re full of fibers so they work long-term. You know, you don’t get hungry an hour later.

Mike: Indeed! It seems like this is such a back to nature, fundamental approach to nutrition. Does it surprise you that nobody else came up with this formula first?

Lara: Well, (laughs) that question was asked actually, you know, people said, “I can't believe nobody's thought about this!“ There are a lot of people that eat natural foods that have eaten these types of foods for years. But for me, I felt like I was just passionate about it. I felt like here I am as a consumer and I'm wishing that something like this was out there. And I guess I just had enough passion and insight to say, “You know what? I'm gonna go for it and try this, because it's something I really believe in.”

And I'm sure other people have had some similar ideas that it’s basically the difference between thinking about something, and taking that action step and doing it.

Mike: And kudos to you for taking those steps.

Lara: I'm glad I did it!

Mike: Well, hopefully it's been very rewarding. Can you address that? How much growth have you seen since launch date?

Lara: Well, we started out in Colorado, in just a few stores. We started out with a local company called the Vitamin Cottage. And then our Whole Foods Market, and then soon to follow, Wild Oats. In April of 2003, and then last year we did about $400,000 in business, which was really exciting for us, because we figured we might do a fraction of that. And then this year, we are now sold in about 47 states, and we're heading towards $2 million worth of business. So our growth has been about 500%. And we don’t do any advertising because I feel like it's more important for people to have the experience of our product than seeing an ad. And so what we do is we focus on doing in-store demonstrations at the stores that sell our products, and we do local events where we give samples out to people and let them try it and we talk about it and the importance of the good food that's in the bars. And that's how we've really grown our company. So we’re very excited about our growth!

Mike: I would say so! And have you read... there's a book by an online marketing guru called Seth Godin. And it's called “Purple Cow.”

Lara: Yes! As a matter of fact, I have read that book.

Mike: Because it just strikes me that you have the perfect purple cow product in the food bar market.

Lara: I started this company, and then I picked up that book, and I thought, “I think we're a purple cow!” And not because I read a book to learn how to be one. I just used my instincts and what felt right for our company and our brand in terms of how to grow it and what made sense for us. So, it does feel like we're a purple cow.

Mike: And Godin also espouses the philosophy of avoiding institutional advertising. And sticking with word of mouth.

Lara: Well, I just feel that you know, there are so many bars in the market and most are, like you said, 'Energy bars' and I call ours a 'nutrition bar.' But there are so many of these on the market that people think, “Another bar!” It's almost exasperating, like, “I can't... there's another bar!”

And so I decided to just say, instead of, “Hey, there's another bar.” It's like, “Try it.” You're standing there and people haven’t experienced it. Then they can try it and make a decision like, 'Oh! I like this!' Or, 'This is enjoyable!' That's why I felt it was important not to even look at advertising at this point, because we felt that the experience is much more valuable in the long run.

Mike: Aren't you concerned that most people, if they aren't really educated about nutrition, are going to judge the bar only by the taste experience and not by the ingredients?

Lara: Well, that's part of why we're there is that we point out first of all, it's delicious! And look at what it's made of. And that sticks in people's minds, just exactly what it's made of. And they don’t forget that that's what we do. We say, 'Try this. And guess what? It's only made of cherries, almonds and dates!' And they just go, 'Wow!' And that's something memorable.

Continue with part two.

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About the author: Mike Adams is a consumer health advocate and award-winning journalist with a passion for sharing empowering information to help improve personal and planetary health He has authored and published thousands of articles, interviews, consumers guides, and books on topics like health and the environment, and he has published numerous courses on preparedness and survival, including financial preparedness, emergency food supplies, urban survival and tactical self-defense. Adams is an independent journalist with strong ethics who does not get paid to write articles about any product or company. In 2010, Adams created, a natural living video sharing site featuring thousands of user videos on foods, fitness, green living and more. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products ( and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also the CEO of a highly successful email newsletter software company that develops software used to send permission email campaigns to subscribers. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and enjoys outdoor activities, nature photography, Pilates and martial arts training. He's also author of numerous health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites and Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds. Known as the 'Health Ranger,' Adams' personal health statistics and mission statements are located at

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