Food and energy bar enthusiasts aren't just looking for natural ingredients these days — they're looking for ingredients in their natural state, uncooked and unprocessed. Like many raw food proponents, these consumers believe healthy fruits, nuts and vegetables can lose valuable vitamins and enzymes when subjected to the typical manufacturing process.
“Consumers are reading ingredients labels and really trying to find those pure foods,” said Dawn Jackson Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association who has seen raw bars showing up on more and more of her patients' food logs. “These bars do that very well.”
This seems to be an opening into the mainstream for the raw food movement, which has remained on the fringes for many years. Taking the helm are companies like Larabar, which shot up to $20 million in sales in 2006 and was acquired by General Mills this summer. The company currently offers more than a dozen flavors like “cherry pie,” “ginger snap” and “lemon bar” at a variety of national retailers, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
Sales of raw energy bars as a whole have grown 60% over the past two years, according to Mintel.
“Our product really appeals to a broad base of people,” said Lara Merriken, who founded Larabar in 2003 after being inspired by a hike through the Rocky Mountains. “Hard-core athletes eat it, but so do office workers and even children.”