By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
May 01, 2005
Developed by the Pentagon's Combat Feeding Directorate, the 280-calorie bar is arriving at stores across the country, the latest entry in the mushrooming "wellness"-bar market.
Last year alone, Americans bought $1.9 billion worth of energy, granola, breakfast and nutrition bars that claim to pack a healthy punch wrapped in sweetness.
But the HooAh! snack - named after the Army's signature cheer that expresses soldiers' most heartfelt acclamation - comes with its own cachet.
Created in 1996 at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., the bar was designed to give a quick but long-lasting boost to troops at war. Army field tests with soldiers showed that HooAh!s produced 17 percent greater physical endurance than commercially sold energy bars. The troops also avoided much of the dramatic "sugar crash" that comes from treats with fewer complex carbohydrates than the HooAh!s.
"When we formulated it for energy, we wanted to provide a quick increase in blood glucose and then a slow release of energy," Jack Briggs, HooAh! inventor and senior food technologist, said in a statement.
It took the Natick center three years to create the better energy bar. It had to come up with a product that could keep its moisture for a minimum of three years at 80 degrees F, and would be appetizing to the varied palates of soldiers.
Even the name had to be acceptable to the troops, who voted for HooAh! - which is military parlance for "heard, understood, acknowledged." Because Marines have their own cheer - Oorah! - the label for bars included in Meals Ready to Eat packages will carry both terms.
HooAh!s are the latest in a string of military-created products - M&M candies, dry cake mixes and freeze-dried coffee, for example - that have made the jump to civilian store shelves.
A year ago, a Los Angeles firm approached the military with the idea of producing HooAh!s for commercial distribution, and the Pentagon signed on. To sweeten the deal, the D'Andrea Brothers company will earmark a small portion of the $1.99-per-item price for the military to use in further soldier safety and diet research and development.
At its Web site - www.hooahbar.com - the firm also offers a discount to customers who want to send a box of the goodies to U.S. soldiers overseas.
For now, stores will offer just two varieties, apple-cinnamon and chocolate crisp. Unlike the military packages, which come in woodland camouflage patterns, the civilian variety features a design of red, white and blue.