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The HOOAH! Bar -- Military Technology You Can Eat
The HOOAH! Bar -- Military Technology You Can Eat

 

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March 14, 2005

by Mark D'Andrea

The U.S. military created GPS.
The U.S. military created radar.
The U.S. military created the Humvee.

Each of these technologies first proved its mettle tactically and was then introduced into the public sector, where it set the new standard.

Now it's HOOAH's turn.

What is HOOAH? It's the energy bar the military spent years designing because its soldiers demanded a higher standard of performance and nutrition. It’s the energy bar that’s fueling force recon Marines and Army special forces right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now it’s starting to fuel civilians nationwide.

Like GPS, radar, and the Humvee, the HOOAH bar is taking its place in the pantheon of products born in the military and made available to the public. But unlike the Humvee, HOOAH! is a piece of military technology that costs less than two dollars. And it can be eaten.

HOW THE BAR CAME TO BE

The HOOAH! bar was the brainchild of the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command, Natick RD&E Center, commonly referred to as “Natick.” Natick is the Army’s research facility in charge of developing shelter, clothing, armor, and food, and their achievements include co-developing Kevlar body armor. Recently, Natick nutritionists were responsible for evolving military food from the dark ages of the C-Ration to the high-end cuisine of the modern MRE.

When Natick identified a tactical need to supply special forces with an energy bar, no ordinary bar would do. Run-of-the-mill commercial energy bars didn’t meet their strict requirements. So they set out to create the HOOAH! bar.

In the late 90’s, after years of R&D and years of working with Ranger regiments to test potential bar designs in the toughest environments around the world, Natick had a bar that did what it was supposed to do: “improve the physical and mental performance of soldiers during sustained operations and under all climatic conditions… speed their recovery from fatigue… and improve a soldier’ ability to make decisions and respond to a situation under stress.” The HOOAH! bar was born.

HOW THE BAR GOT TO THE SHELVES

In 2003, Christian D’Andrea was at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona producing a documentary on military freefall school for the Discovery Channel. He was discussing filming logistics with an officer when the officer pulled out a HOOAH! bar. D’Andrea asked what it was, and he was told it was the world’s greatest energy bar, designed by the Army. “When I asked the officer where I could get my hands on one, he joked, ‘You can’t; you’re a civilian,’” recalls D’Andrea. “I smiled and said, ‘Well, that’ll just have to change, won’t it.’”

D’Andrea and his brother, Mark, shifted the focus of their company -- D’Andrea Brothers, LLC -- to the HOOAH! bar. “It’s something I’d want to eat,” says Mark, “and we knew other people would, too.” So they approached Natick about a partnership.



The D’Andrea Brothers found themselves up against several other larger companies who also wanted the rights to the HOOAH! bar. After more than a year, the D’Andrea Brothers prevailed. The designers at Natick were proud of the HOOAH bar and the work they’d put into it. They wanted to choose a partner who also respected the bar’s military pedigree and shared their desire to help the soldier. After all, the word HOOAH is an Army standard and an Army tradition. “It’s also an Army trademark,” adds Christian. “Handling it with respect is paramount.”

HOOAH GOES PUBLIC

So the Army has an energy bar. It’s one thing to put it in rations. It’s another thing to put it on shelves at the 7-Eleven. The commercial energy bar market is swamped with brands, with new ones being added every day. How does HOOAH! plan to compete in such a saturated market?

“HOOAH! comes with its brand differentiation already built in,” explains Mark. “It’s made by the military and used by the soldier and people understand that’s what sets it apart. We like to say it’s the Hummer of energy bars… if Hummers got 60 miles per gallon.”

The bar became available to the public in its silver, red, white, and blue packaging at the end of 2004. The D’Andrea Brothers are making it available selectively, at first -- prioritizing military, law enforcement, outdoorsmen, firefighters, and Boy Scouts. And the response to this edible military technology has been “terrific.” “People love the bar,” says Christian. “They also love the name. Anybody who’s in the military or in a military family knows all about the word ‘hooah.’ Everybody else recognizes it from Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.”

In the coming months, HOOAH! will be introduced to more general commercial markets nationwide, beginning with a rollout in convenience stores, grocery stores, and gyms reaching 13 million customers in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Of course, not every American consumer loves the military angle. During a promotion at a famous gym in Venice, California, one customer explained that she didn’t trust anything made by the military. The D’Andrea Brothers make it clear that they aren’t interested in trying to win that kind of person into the fold. “The HOOAH! bar is pro-soldier,” says Mark. “But some people are always going to get hung up on their anti-military bias. Fine. We don’t want their business. One part of being ‘hooah’ is that you’re proud of the armed services.”

WHY HOOAH! IS DIFFERENT

The HOOAH! bar is designed to give a healthy boost, then sustain it evenly without the energy spike and crash of other energy products. One of the keys to the HOOAH! bar’s “steady energy” delivery is its emphasis on complex carbohydrates rather than simple sugars; the body absorbs and uses complex carbohydrates more evenly than it absorbs simple carbs.

Steady energy is something one would expect a top-flight energy bar to provide. But heightened alertness and improved ability to make decisions and respond to a situation under stress -- that’s something new. One of the things the bar was meant to address is a fatiguing warfighter in the field whose marksmanship is deteriorating. “Apparently it also helps cure hangovers,” adds Christian. “A lot of folks have told us that. But we haven’t yet confirmed it in the lab.”

And what do the soldiers think of it? “Well, that’s one of the things we like the most about the bar,” explains Mark. “Its nutrition helps the soldiers do their work. But it’s also something they just flat-out like. What surprises a lot of people is how good the bars taste. That was one of Natick’s main goals. As they say, good nutrition doesn’t matter if the soldier won’t eat it.”

SUPPORTING THE TROOPS

The HOOAH! bar does something else that no other bar does: it supports the troops. First, it supports them by being the best performance nutrition product, helping them function at their peak. Second, the bar is also a fundraiser. A portion of the proceeds from every bar sold commercially is returned to Natick Soldier Center to help fund the Army’s research into enhancing soldier safety, diet, and quality of life.

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© 2005. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

 



 



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