Lara from LÄRABAR on the sale of her company
Last week we blogged about the sale of LÄRABAR to General Mills. We also blogged about the concerns that a few community members had about the sale. Will the company change? Will the product change? Is this good or bad news?
I knew there were a lot of opinions floating around, but Lara, the founder of LÄRABAR, was one person the community hadn't heard from directly. So I invited Lara who was aware of these feelings the community had to blog on WLIR about her thoughts on the sale and her vision.
We live in an age where most businessmen (and women) are so distantly removed from their actions that they often have no idea (or choose to ignore) the true feelings of the community that supports their products. I want to go on record by saying regardless of how you feel about the sale, Lara Merriken is not one of these people. She's in touch with her community, with her products (she created the original bars) and she knows the important role her company plays in the growing health awareness that is impacting so many.
On to the interview. I took the best questions I could find on GI2MR and WLIR and sent them to Lara. Below are her answers.
Dhrumil: LÄRABAR is the most successful raw food bar. Your products are in so many stores and you have such a wide reach. So why did you sell?
Lara: I started LÄRABAR because I’m passionate about healthy eating and how it can enrich everyone’s life—not just the lives of those deep-rooted in the raw and natural foods communities. I believe the whole world, people from all walks of life, should have access to wholesome foods.
There is no better company on the planet than General Mills to broaden the access to LÄRABAR worldwide. We feel proud about the job we’ve done growing our business, and we’re equally proud that General Mills has recognized the magic of LÄRABAR and, through its tremendous resources, wants to take us to a higher level and a greater reach that we could have never achieved on our own.
Reaching people is what it’s all about. Natural, organic and raw food should not be a luxury for only a certain group of people. At LÄRABAR, we’re committed to sharing knowledge about positive food choices, improving not only the lives of people who enjoy our products, but also the lives of farmers who grow the quality ingredients that go into our products. That commitment will never change.
D: A few vocal voices in the community have raised questions about General Mills specifically. They feel that their products are not in alignment with the raw food movement and by selling the company to them you're "selling out." What does General Mills bring to the table that empowers the mission of LÄRABAR. Why go to General Mills or why did they come to you? Did you ever consider going to other companies?
L: LÄRABAR, over the years, has caught the eye of a number of large companies. But it was General Mills who really “got it” and “got us.” In the end, the caliber and integrity of its people really won us over.
It’s impressive to consider that General Mills has been around since the 1800’s, and you don’t stick around that long without understanding and, more important, respecting the ever-changing needs of your consumers. In 1999, General Mills launched a new division of its company called “Small Planet Foods,” dedicated to natural and organic foods. You probably have seen its brands in grocery stores: Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm. LÄRABAR will be part of Small Planet Foods, and we’re thrilled to help expand more natural and organic food offerings available in stores.
D: Did you ever have any concerns that selling to a public company like General Mills would jeopardize the LÄRABAR product line?
L: No concerns whatsoever. I believe “stewardship” is a better word than “ownership” in describing the involvement of General Mills with LÄRABAR. This is my baby, and I would not have turned it over to just anyone.
D: Many people are concerned that without your energy the company's mission of "Simple. Pure. Delicious" could be jeopardized. In what way will you be involved with LÄRABAR moving forward from here?
L: Over the last couple of years, my days have been largely spent on the business side of running LÄRABAR. With General Mills at the helm, I’m excited to get back to my roots and re-focus my energy on the very creativity that made LÄRABAR what it is today: Simple. Pure. Delicious. In fact, my new role is Creative Director of LÄRABAR, and I’m as committed as ever in creating wholesome, innovative and delicious new products moving forward.
D: This is the first major sale of a primarily raw food company to a larger public food company. You and your team are paving the way and a lot of people don't know whether they should be happy or concerned because this is all so new. Do you see this as a growing trend? Do you see more mainstream companies wanting to get involved in raw food products? Is this good for the overall health of the country.
L: Consumer awareness about the importance of good food choices really began to grow about a decade ago when retailers—both natural and conventional—started understanding and catering to the wave of the future. And what a great thing! I’m humbled to know that LÄRABAR is truly making a difference in the quality of people’s lives; the more people, the better.
Is this a growing trend with other companies? I hope so!
D: LÄRABAR has been you baby since 2000. You first came up with the concept of LÄRABARon your daily hikes and now you're selling millions are bars a year. I'm sure this has been a wild ride. That being said, what's next in the evolution? What's the goal from here and is that goal any different from when you first started?
L: My mission has always been—and always will be—to inspire people to make positive decisions that better their lives and the lives of those around them. I really feel like the “wild ride” has just begun.
Big thanks to Lara for joining us here. I hope you'll continue to keep us updated on the journey of LÄRABAR. My mom, who eats half raw, enjoys the taste of LÄRABAR and always asks me to pick them up for her when I got to Whole Foods. I know that routine won't stop.
Lastly, before I conclude this post, I have one personal comment I'd like to share on the matter for those involved in the business of raw:
If you love what LÄRABAR is up to and excited about their journey, this sale should make you want to hustle even more than you are right now. If you feel other than happy about this sale, you should still be motivated to hustle.
A perfect storm of the internet, the green movement and the growing concern of disease is creating an awareness about raw food that will soon reach a tipping point. And that means we need everyone to kick up their game. Bring it like you've never brought it before. Like or don't like how LÄRABAR did it? Do it your way and help build a new health paradigm. Focus your energy on action.
The most important thing we can do is continue to share and grow. Community connection is one of the most valuable assets the raw food community has and it's important to continue to encourage that energy to flourish. I appreciate everyone for sharing their thoughts and I'm very honored to be party of such a great community.