There is a new energy bar pardner in town and their name is equal to a measure of energy–an ERG.
The bars are being made by hand in Traverse City, Michigan, a little oasis for summer and winter sports where Madonna, Bruce Willis, and Michael Moore have vacation homes.
But another energy bar?
“Honestly I made my first batch of ten bars at home because I was sick of all the other bars out there that tasted like cardboard or plastic,” said Dennis Bean-Larson who created the first ERG bar in his kitchen.
After a couple false starts and seriously destroying their home blender, Larson came up with an initial recipe that he said he thought was pretty good. “I’d wrap 10 bars up in Saran Wrap and take a couple along on bike rides, give some to a couple friends and they said they were really good.”
Since then he and his wife Katy have found a commercial kitchen, and in May of this year they passed inspection for a Wholesale Food Manufacturer’s License with the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
“Our bars are packed with good stuff, our primary consideration was for a bar that tasted good, didn’t have preservatives, and was made with REAL food,” said Larson.
The energy bar market has become big business in the past 10 years, and from 2007 to 2011 alone the U.S. bar market grew by 71% to $1.7 billion.
And though the cycling energy business is heavily dominated by a handful of big names like Balance Bar and PowerBar, as the market matures, there is more room for organic bar makers like ERG.
High in nut and dried fruit content, the ERG translates to a better slow-burning carbohydrate, fat and fructose content when compared to the regular bars that more resemble candy bars than energy snacks.
The ingredients are evocative of Bircher-Muesli, a healthful breakfast cereal that originated in Switzerland that delivers healthy slow
burning energy instead of the high sugar high followed by a crash you will experience with sucrose-based bars.
Additionally, simple sugars and carbs break down almost immediately to fat, whereas slow burning sources are converted to energy. That difference was highlighted years ago by nutritionist Adelle Davis who pioneered the idea that saturated, hydrogenated fats and excess simple sugars lead to poor health such as heart disease, obesity, and other health complications.
Packed with 450 calories of organic cashews, walnuts, raisins, apricots, peanut butter, peanuts, and other goodies, the bars are wrapped in see-through cellophane, which the creators say people really like because they can see what they are getting.
For that reason, the ERG has won endorsements from cycle-cross competitor Brad White of the United Healthcare Professional Cycling Team, and elite freestyle cross-country skier Jeff Koch.
Koch, who used to be a professional cyclist for the Plymouth team and now skis about 25 hours a week, said the bars do not freeze in the winter, like other bars do.
“I enjoy the taste of Dennis’ bars, and just the fact that their ingredients are 100 percent organic and not packaged in China,” he said.
“A lot of the other energy bars there is no difference between them and buying a Snicker’s bar,” he added.
Coming from a background in cycling, the Larsons have launched other businesses , including the Fixed Gear Gallery, a line of soft, cycling centric clothing and accessories, as well as the occasional bike frame.
As with many people involved in cycling who need to supplement their love of cycling with other sources of income, the couple are also licensed real estate brokers.
The Larsons’ move may be part of a new wave in the market’s development into fresher ingredients that more closely resemble their original natural state.
Recently Clif Bar ventured into a more densely packed bar consisting of fruits, nuts and spices called Gary’s Panaforte, with packaging that features a retro photo of a cyclist making it up an Alpine pass.
Aside from their translucent packaging and 3-month shelf life–assuring that what you are eating is actually fresh–the ERG bars come in four flavors, Cashew-Raisin, Apricot-Peanut Butter, Apple-Ginger, Choco-Cherry, and Pecan-Date.
We did a taste test, and we agree with Jeff Koch that our favorite was the Cashew bar, followed by the Apricot-Peanut Butter.
They price at $2.50 each at retail, or $2.39 a bar directly from ERG, and if you order a minimum of $20, you don’t pay shipping. Go to Erg.com or go to one of the 40 regional stores that carry the goodies.
For more information contact: Dennis Bean-Larson 1200 West Eleventh Street Traverse City, Michigan 49684 231-342-1546, www.fixedgeargallery.com, www.erg-bar.com, www.powdercoatstudio.com, http://www.facebook.com/fixedgeargallery, Twitter, @fixedgearwizard