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Power Bar is the original energy bar. The brand is in large part responsible for creating a new multi-billion dollar food category. Power Bar was founded by Brian Maxwell, a world-class marathon runner who was born in England and grew up in Toronto. In 1983, Maxwell was running a British marathon when he suddenly ran out of energy three-quarters of the way through the race. He became dizzy and weak and finished in seventh place. He was very disappointed. Maxwell was sure that low blood sugar has contributed to his loss and was determined to find a way to combat this problem.


He came up with a snack food that could be eaten before, during or after a race. His product would be low in fat, high in carbohydrates and give the body an energy boost. In 1985, Maxwell was still running marathons and supporting himself with a low-paying coaching position at the University of California- Berkeley. There he met Jennifer Bidulph, a 20 year-old nutrition student and began testing recipes for high-energy snack foods.  

After three years and creating hundreds of formulations, they developed a unique low-fat energy bar with a balance of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein was born. Power Bar received mixed initial results. Serious athletes liked it because it met an important need-quick energy during competition. However the taste and consistency needed work. Maxwell knew his original product wasn’t perfect. But by getting feedback on early versions, he was able to modify it and improve it. His athletic friends tested the product and experienced performance improvements. Maxwell’s approach of purposely launching an imperfect product has been adopted by many well organizations recently as a new innovation tactic. Power Bar is another example of an innovation that was developed because a good product solution didn’t exist. Maxwell identified a job to be done and developed an innovative product to meet that need.

The bars quickly became essential equipment among top cyclists, runners and triathletes and their use soon spread to many other sports. Demand grew so much that today PowerBar products are distributed in over 35 countries and the PowerBar brand has become synonymous with nutrition, energy and optimum performance. Power Bar eventually became a $150 million dollar business by appealing to passionate athletes who needed an energy boost. In 2000, Power Bar was purchased by Nestle for $350 million.

After a break for the Memorial Day weekend and a slight case of writer’s block, I am back at it sharing stories about innovative brands. Please send me your feedback.

What is your favorite energy bar?