General Mills unveils new confection range at Sweets & Snacks

by Monica Watrous
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Larabar Bites
 Launching in June, Larabar Bites are made with six or fewer simple ingredients.

CHICAGO — Larabar, a business unit of General Mills, Inc., is venturing into the confectionery category with the launch of Larabar Bites. Hitting shelves in June, the truffle-like bites are made with six or fewer simple ingredients, including dates, fair trade chocolate chips, almonds and coconut flour, and are packaged in a resealable pouch. Varieties include chocolate macaroon, mint chocolate truffle, double chocolate brownie and cherry chocolate chip.

Minneapolis-based General Mills, which acquired Larabar in 2008, unveiled the new product line at Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 24-26 in Chicago.

Sidd Singhal, Larabar
Sidd Singhal, associate marketing manager of innovation at Larabar

“Larabar’s mission is that packaged food can be real food, too,” Sidd Singhal, associate marketing manager of innovation at Larabar, told Food Business News. “Our mission with this product is candy and treats can be real food, too. You shouldn’t feel like you’re making a compromise, even for candy or treats.”

Founded in 2000, Larabar has become a top brand in the nutrition bar category, known for its simple recipes and offering more than 19 flavor varieties, such as cashew cookie and apple pie. Two years ago, the brand launched Renola, a line of a gluten-free nut, seed and fruit mix. Development for Larabar Bites began last summer, Mr. Singhal said.

“It started August of last year, and we spent the first three months just talking to people about what they wanted,” he said. “We looked at our entire flavor portfolio, and we tested 15 different flavors with people, some new flavors we haven’t done with Larabar before, and we found out what their top four flavors were, and those are the four flavors we have here today.”

Larabar Renola, General Mills
Two years ago, Larabar launched Renola, a line of a gluten-free nut, seed and fruit mix.

Though Larabar Bites are positioned as a premium confectionery product, consumers won’t find it in the candy aisle, he said.

“This will be in the nutrition bar aisle, and the reason why is when we talked to consumers, (we found) in the candy aisle even if we had this really premium product, people would still feel like when they walk down that aisle, there’s a health tradeoff,” Mr. Singhal said. “But when you’re in the nutrition aisle with Larabar and other premium wellness products, it feels like a better-for-you solution. We felt like that would benefit the brand.”

The products have 12 to 14 grams of sugar per serving, which Mr. Singhal said is “considerably lower” than many other confectionery products, and are coated with coconut flour rather than sugar or a glaze.

Larabar Bites
Larabar Bites will be available in chocolate macaroon, mint chocolate truffle, double chocolate brownie and cherry chocolate chip varieties.
“Other companies have other means of coating their products, but we wanted to choose a real natural solution that you can find and make at home,” he said. “If you look at Pinterest, people are already using dates and chocolate to make this themselves.  We want to provide them with a convenient solution and leverage our really smart food professionals to create delicious flavors.”

Lara Merriken, the founder of Larabar, remains involved with the brand’s product development, Mr. Singhal said.

“She was actually at General Mills a few weeks ago,” he said. “Whenever we do innovation, we get her input. She has a really strong voice with the brand and helping us think through what this mission is of bringing real food to everyone. What General Mills allows us to do is reach more people … and I think that’s why the partnership has been so successful.”
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