MONTREAL -- A new player here has joined the North American energy snack bar market with a product whose prime ingredient is oatmeal rather than sugar.
As a result, the muffin-like Natura Bar from Health Nut Foods has a shelf life of about four months (compared with 18 months for competitors) and must be refrigerated. It's also pricier than the competition, but at 90 grams (3.15 ounces), it's about one-third larger.
The product is the creation of Peter Tsatoumas, 30, and his 26-year-old brother James, who developed the Natura Bar about four years ago. Both are very athletic and weren't impressed with what was on the market. They also knew the food business, having worked in their father's bakery.
To make extra money, the brothers began making honey-nut bars in the basement of the family home. The Natura Bar was the fallout of a cookie experiment that went awry. They were trying to create a nutritious type of power cookie, but the end result was a product with a rectangular shape.
After about five months of testing different recipes, the right mix of honey, fruit juices and oatmeal was produced. At first, it was tough finding customers, according to James. Eventually, a health food store took a chance.
"A lot of the products on the market today contain fructose and glucose to provide longer shelf life and a short energy boost," he said. "Our bars contain whey, soy, milk protein and complex carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy, not long-lasting shelf life."
Each bar only contains an average of 7 grams of fat and one gram of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol and 252 calories.
Today, the company produces about 40,000 bars a week and sales have surpassed $340,000 annually. The bars are available in six flavors and are mostly sold in health food stores in Quebec and Ontario and Loblaw supermarkets in Quebec.
The company's biggest coup came in April at the NEFFA show in Boston, Mass., when a buyer from Stop-N-Shop dropped by their booth and was impressed enough to test market Natura Bars for six months in 50 stores. If sales take off, the bars will be available in all 225 Stop-N-Shop stores throughout New England.
Health Nut Creations is also producing a line of private-label bars for Food For Your Blood, a distributor of food supplements based on blood type in Alexandria, Va.