Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Heard, understood, acknowledged: A toothsome U.S. Army secret is about to go civilian.

It’s sweet. It crunches. It remains fresh for three years. And come June, the HooAH! nutrition bar arrives on store shelves nationwide for red-blooded Americans who fancy a special-forces snack.

Developed as a high-energy combat ration for Army Rangers and U.S. Marines almost a decade ago at the Army Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts, the HooAH! name and formula officially have been licensed by a trio of California brothers who know a good thing when they see it.

“Everybody respects the military, and everybody wants a part of the cutting-edge technology,” said Christian D’Andrea of Los Angeles, who bought exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute the bar with brothers Mark and Paul.

“Retailers are really pumped,” Mr. D’Andrea said.

The brothers have replaced the bar’s camouflaged wrapper with a star-spangled version to catch the eye of consumers at 15,000 stores nationwide — including Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and CVS. It’s the nosh, the brothers say, “to help you soldier on.”

Along with soy protein, dried fruit, chocolate and 17 vitamins and minerals, the HooAH! bar is chock-full of military tradition. The name itself is derived from the Army acronym “HUA” — “heard, understood, acknowledged.”

Of course, the official bar is labeled “HooAH!” for Army troops on one side and “Oorah!” on the other side, meant for Marines, who prefer “Oo” to “Hoo.” Currently used by special forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bars will be part of the servicewide Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE) system of field rations next year.

There’s serious science behind it.

“We wanted to provide a quick increase in blood glucose, then a slow release of energy. Very key in this is the lipids. They give it shelf life, texture, taste and energy,” said Jack Briggs, the researcher who developed the HooAH! formula to improve performance of fighting troops during intense military operations.

“The current formulation has an ideal amount of fat to provide a stable, palatable food that has a firm but crunchy texture,” Mr. Briggs said.

The C rations and K rations of previous generations contained chocolate bars and raisins for an energy fix. The Army, in fact, long has provided ingenious food for troops under fire — including special rations for downed parachutists, jungle and mountain troops and lifeboat survivors.

The HooAH! bar actually has a predecessor: World War II’s emergency Field Ration D, a 600-calorie chunk of chocolate, sugar, dry milk and oats that was not particularly popular at the time.

These days, the Army’s Combat Feeding Program has expanded to include self-heating packaging and more variety. The military HooAH! bar is available in apple-cinnamon, chocolate, cran-raspberry, peanut butter and raspberry flavors.

Alas, the commercial version has just two flavors. At 280 calories, 10 grams of protein, 8 or 9 grams of fat and 40 grams to 42 grams of carbohydrates, the HooAH! is aimed at athletes, outdoorsmen and others who dote upon wellness or energy bars.

Considered the fastest-growing food category in the United States, sales of various breakfast and energy bars weigh in at about $2 billion per year, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Entrepreneur Mr. D’Andrea — a Harvard graduate and former Eagle Scout — thinks the bar will be a hit in Republican-friendly “red states,” which tend to harbor a heavy population of hunters and fishermen.

Money alone does not drive him, though. The company donates a portion of the $2 retail price to Army relief programs, provides free bars for wounded soldiers and has shipped 7,000 HooAH! bars to tsunami survivors. They also can be ordered online at

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