Back to the future

by Charlotte Atchley
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Step inside Baking & Snack’s time machine and venture back to the late 1960s. At the time, the U.S. space program was in full swing, and The Pillsbury Co.’s food technologists were busy engineering space-friendly food for astronauts. Spurred by its success and the public’s fascination with the popular Apollo space missions, the company launched Space Food Sticks. The product is believed to be the first commercially marketed protein bar for the mass market.

Advertised as a “nutritionally balanced between-meal snack,” Space Food Sticks were available on grocery store shelves in a 14-count box with flavors such as peanut butter, caramel and chocolate.

“Space Food Sticks were the precursor to today’s energy bars,” said Eric Lefcowitz, owner of Retrofuture Products, Port Washington, N.Y. Mr. Lefcowitz, who now owns the Space Food Sticks trademark, revived the once-popular snack in 2006, nearly 20 years after it vanished from store shelves.

“Space Food Sticks were really ahead of their time because of their balanced nutrition of carbohydrates, protein and fat,” Mr. Lefcowitz explained. “The phrase ‘energy bar’ had not been coined yet. Instead, the product was marketed as a ‘between-meal snack’ that would provide energy.”

For nearly 10 years, Mr. Lefcowitz worked to replicate exactly the cylindrical shape and formula of the original snack.

“It’s been tough finding a manufacturer who has the extruding equipment to recreate the shape,” he noted. “I would love to get back to the original look and taste.”

Currently, a reformulated 12-count box of Space Food Sticks is available for purchase on-line at Mr. Lefcowitz’s web site, www.funkyfoodshop.com and at www.amazon.com. They also are sold at Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Johnson Space Center, the Museum of Flight, Disney World and American Museum of Natural History. Mr. Lefcowitz also oversees the Space Food Sticks Preservation Society at www.spacefoodsticks.com. The site includes vintage television commercials, a memories archive, an original newspaper advertisement and an official NASA press release regarding the use of Space Food Sticks in space.
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