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Growing Up Granola

How the granola bar has evolved with the tastes of consumers (not to mention the tastes of one hungry advertising professional).

By Kari Johnson, Account Manager

Let’s talk about granola bars. Everyone has a favorite brand and flavor. Some like a crunchier bar, others want chewy. Some need it sweet, others like it nutty. Maybe you’re not a regular granola bar buyer, but on those rare occasions you want to buy a box, you find yourself in an aisle stacked end-to-end, top shelf to bottom, with little boxes of granola bars.  Which is a good option? And just as important, which actually tastes good?

I grew up on the classic “Chewy” bar. That Quaker Oat guy was like another grandpa to me. But at some point in my relatively young life, people started trying to decipher food labels and the “Chewy” bar stopped living in the pantry at my house.

Around that same time, a new snack came into my life: Nature Valley Granola Bars— Energy that goes where you go. I was into it. The ads featured people hiking and being active outdoors. I was an impressionable high school athlete, and I truly believed it could be me scaling the mountain eating a crumbly granola bar without losing a single oat.

Then I went to college. We were reading food labels more and more. Remember when hydrogenated oil was all people talked about? I still remember the day I read the Jiff Peanut Butter label for the first time. Ugh. Nature Valley granola bars were no longer my go-to snack. I no longer believed in the woman hiking and snacking. I needed something better.

That’s when I met KIND Snacks. KIND had “ingredients you can see and pronounce.” They had a KIND movement and a KIND foundation with KIND causes. And all with snacks included! I fell for it. I loved KIND snacks. I was buying a box—or more—of KIND bars every week. I felt I had found a cool brand before anyone else in the world. I was kind; therefore, I was KIND®.

Lately, there are an increasing number of brands out there calling themselves (more-or-less) a “nothing but the bar” granola bar. Better ingredients, better flavor, better for you, etc. But what could be better than being KIND?

Meet LÄRABAR: The Original Fruit and Nut Snack Bar®. It’s “Food made from food.” I’m a young professional, relatively new to the real world. My stomach still grumbles daily at 10:30am and then again at 3:00pm. (I’m a girl of routine, ok?) My sister told me about LÄRABARs and I fell in love fast. They are good, yes. But they also have like three ingredients in each bar—all of which I say proudly and confidently.

But when did the woman hiking in nature’s valley stop speaking to me? And exactly when did I actually start believing that I could be that colorful person grocery shopping while a catchy tune played over the loudspeaker reminding me that I’m choosing the better option?

People are always going to snack. Granola bars figured that out fast. And to match the progression of the rest of the food market, they worked quickly to get rid of the BS inside them. But they also had to convince their audiences that they don’t need the BS. And that feels right. (Or maybe that’s just because it happens to fit perfectly with the philosophy of the agency I work for.)

Now the only real problem is I desperately want a chocolate chip Chewy bar. You know, for old time’s sake.