- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (AP) — The makers of Snickers think it’s time to melt the energy-bar and candy-bar concepts together.

So Masterfoods USA, formerly M&M;/Mars, is keeping an old name on a new product, Snickers Marathon, and is promising much of the same chocolate and gooey caramel flavor. Adding vitamins, minerals and a blend of protein might help get rid of one traditional ingredient for some buyers: guilt.

Candy industry experts think the bar will be a hit with a public that is becoming more health conscious but finds that some energy products taste like — well, not at all like candy.

Nutrition experts aren’t at all sweet on the idea. Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sees all energy bars as “fortified junk food.”

She said most people don’t realize that the term “energy food” simply means food with calories, adding that most Americans are overweight, don’t get enough exercise and don’t need the 200-plus calories in a typical energy bar.

The two-ounce Marathon bars come in chewy chocolate peanut and multigrain crunch, both with the Snickers classic trio of chocolate, peanuts and caramel. Former chef Bill Bellody, head of Masterfoods’ prototype and design group, said his staff spent about three years tinkering with the flavor.

The company is aiming the bar at active people and points to San Francisco firefighter Joe Horton, a father of three children who often works 96-hour stretches, as one of eight “marathoners” recruited to help evaluate the bars.

“It’s got a nice texture and I like the taste,” said Mr. Horton, who still runs, bicycles, plays basketball and skis regularly. “Other bars I’ve had before taste like chalk or have a chemical flavor to them.”

Product-line extensions are an old, time-proven tactic in the food industry. Mitchell Pinheiro, packaged-food analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, thinks candy companies can succeed in the energy-bar market by luring people who feel guilty about eating candy bars.

The drawback could be a drop in sales of original Snickers, Mr. Pinheiro said.

The big candy makers have some advantages over smaller health-food companies, including deep pockets and strong distribution channels.

“Mainstream marketers are moving into the category because of the double-digit growth,” said Stefanie Thompson, who covers candy and packaged foods for Advertising Age magazine. Examples include Kraft Foods Inc., Kellogg Co. and Quaker Oats Co.

And as the bars go mainstream, they are becoming more tasty, with chocolate coatings and the like, Miss Thompson said.

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