While many leading nutrition bars pack anywhere from 12 grams to 25 grams of sugar per serving, Mediterra’s Olive & Walnut and Sundried Tomato & Basil bars are formulated with only 3 grams to 4 grams of sugar per serving to create a “truly savory” experience, said Paul Pruett, CEO of the New York-based company.
“We are trying to redefine the meaning of nutrition bar” by using savory ingredients such as capers and chives along with nutrient dense vegetables such as green bell peppers and tomatoes instead of sugars and sweet fruit, he added.
He noted some companies currently offer salty and sweet bars, but those still rely heavily on sugar for flavor. Likewise, other firms have tried in the past to launch savory bars, “but no other nutrition bar has done it as well” as Mediterra, which gives the firm hope that it can capture consumers’ attention in a very competitive space.
Pea protein crisps held the key to low sugar success
A major challenge for creating truly savory bars with low sugar that has held back competitors in the past is making a bar that tastes good and sticks together with the right texture without the benefit of sticky sweeteners, said the company founder Telemaque Lavidas.
“Bars typically have a lot of sweeteners, which from a point of view leads to better taste” and texture, but Mediterra’s savory bars have a fraction of the typical amount of sugar, which made formulation “a big challenge,” he said.
“Formulating those savory bars was not easy,” agreed Pruett who has experience developing and marketing other bars including ZonePerfect Nutrition Bar. He noted Mediterra “went through months and months of form revision to get to the point where we thought they were just right.”
The secret to the company’s success was including pea protein crisps, Pruett said.
“Those pea protein crisps were critical” to creating a crispy and chewy bar without the extra sugar, he said.
The pea protein crisps have the added benefit of boosting the bars protein and fiber to a total of 6 grams each per bar – which ties in nicely to two other trending consumer demands.
Savory, not salty
Even though the bars are savory, they are not salty and their sodium levels are in line with competitors, Lavidas said.
“We didn’t have to add much salt, just a little sea salt, because the savory flavors came from the ingredients,” which includes herbs and spices such as rosemary and chives, Lavidas said. These flavor enhancers are often used by companies trying to reduce sodium without compromising taste.
The 1.4-ounce Olive & Walnuts bar has 190 mg of sodium and the Sundried Tomato & Basil bar has only 70 mg of sodium. Comparatively, a 2.4-ounce Clif Cool Mint Chocolate bar has 140 mg of sodium and a 1.76-ounce peanut butter Balance bar has 170 mg of sodium.
Making the Mediterranean Diet accessible
The savory bars are part of a larger line of nutrition bars launched in June that are inspired by Lavidas’ childhood memories of meals in his homeland of Greece that followed the time-tested Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle are extremely healthy, but can be difficult and time-consuming to learn and follow, Lavidas said. His color-coded bars make it easy for people to consume the whole grains, fruits, vegetables, yogurt and olive oil that comprise the diet.
In addition to the savory bars, which are color-coded green and designed for the end of the day, the line includes two Sesame Energy Bars coded with terra-cotta brown stripes and two Yogurt & Oat Bars indicated with “Aegean Sea-blue” stripes, according to Mediterra.
The Cherry & Pistachio and Apricot & Pistachio Yogurt & Oat bars are ideal for breakfast, while the Orange & Honey and Pistachio & Honey energy bars are designed for before and after exercise or as a mid-day snack when energy levels drop, Lavidas said.
Like the savory bars, these bars are unique to the category because they are the only ones dedicated to the Mediterranean Diet, Lavidas said.
But it was not just the exclusivity that inspired the launch, he said. Lavidas explained he wanted to educate consumers about the health benefits of the diet.
“I wanted to start this business to help consumers live better and have a healthier lifestyle and to support health from nutrition rather than medication,” he said.
Fast uptake encouraging
The rapid acceptance and distribution of the bars by retailers since the launch has far exceeded both executives’ expectations.
“We feel blessed at this point that Mediterra is being embraced by so many so soon,” Pruett said. “The savory bars in particular are successful.”
He noted the bars are available at select Sprouts specialty stores, Vitamin Cottage, Target and other retailers.
Mediterra is supporting these partnerships with temporary price reductions, in store demonstrations and in store advertising, Pruett said. In addition, the firm is working with Target to create an exclusive five-pack mixed variety sampler.
Once the firm establishes a strong enough distribution base with retailers, it will begin marketing directly to consumers, Pruett said.
Encouraged by its success so far, the firm also is already developing new yogurt and savory bars, which Pruett says are “90% there and they taste delicious,” but must remain a secret until launch.