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Lara Merriken, 45, Denver, CO
Lightbulb moment: While munching on a bag of trail mix during a hike in the Rockies one day, Merriken suddenly wondered why there wasn't a snack bar that contained simply fruit and nuts. "I ran down the mountain, rushed to my kitchen, took out my Cuisinart, and began experimenting," Merriken says. "I wanted to create flavors inspired by time-honored, traditional desserts, like cherry pie, apple pie, and banana bread." Yet her now-famous bars only sound indulgent: They're gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, kosher, and vegan.
What's in a name: "We came up with a different name originally, but there was a trademark conflict," explains Merriken, who was apprehensive at first about putting her name on the product. "We added the umlaut to make it easier for people to pronounce my name—'Lahra,' similar to the 'a' in the word 'bar.'"
Up next: Merriken has gone from paying her family and friends to taste test her products to having Lärabar sold in stories nationwide and in dozens of flavors. The newest additions are über, a bar made from whole fruits and nuts, and ALT, a protein bar made with pea protein.
Meet the geniuses responsible for creating the foods you just can't get enough of
Meet Justin, Amy, Lara, Peet, and the others responsible for the nut butters, frozen meals, bars, coffee, and other foods you love.