After years of high-performance cycling, Tucsonan Brian Cornelius recognized a problem: Half of the dried fruit and nut mixture he packed for fuel fell on the ground before making it into his mouth. Hungering for his food to sustain, rather than deplete, his energy, Cornelius mashed the dried fruit and nuts into a compact bar, solving his problem and creating what would one day become R Bar: an energy bar made of seven (or fewer) whole ingredients.
R Bar launched in 2010, after Cornelius’ cycling friends echoed their desire to buy his fruit and nut bars for their own sustenance. The philosophy behind the lemon poppy seed, PB&J, double chocolate, cranberry cashew, and prickly pear pecan flavored bars? “[The bars] could be made at home … that’s how all products should be,” Cornelius said. And the ingredients that R Bar uses are high-quality: the pecans come from the Green Valley Pecan Company; dates from Southern California; and many of the ingredients are organic. While you could go to the store right now and find the seven ingredients it takes to make an R Bar, Cornelius insists that buying R Bars is more cost effective. “We want our bars to be affordable. Any bar over two dollars is ridiculous,” Cornelius said. Indeed, purchased directly from R Bar, each bar costs $1.75 in a 10-pack (the company doesn’t control prices at individual retailers).
Aside from using only whole ingredients (i.e. whole dates rather than date paste), many things set R Bar apart from other fruit-and-nut bar companies like Lärabar (which is owned by General Mills). R Bar falls in the category of middle production, which Cornelius calls “just-in-time inventory.” Every bar is made in small batches, ensuring quality, and shipped out within two weeks of being made, ensuring freshness. While their current factory, a small building on 17th Street, would allow them to increase production in the future, R Bars will always be made in small batches. Unlike many other energy bars, R Bar’s branding “shows what you can do with the bar,” Cornelius said, “not who you have to be to eat the bar.” With R Bar’s gender-neutral branding and motto of “do more,” Cornelius hopes to encourage every type of person to go farther, powered by this wholesome snack—whether that’s walking their dog or biking up Mount Lemmon.
As R Bars make their way into more Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, and airports across the state and country, the company’s goal to help people do more is being realized. Here in Tucson, Tucson Unified School District offers R Bar’s PB&J bar alongside a parfait to students for a healthy breakfast; Arizona’s national parks carry them for hikers and climbers; and local wildland firefighters pack them in their lunches for fuel during the draining wildfire season. Tucson, from its mountains to its people, continues to give Cornelius the “desire to show up every day,” he says, to make energy bars that help his community do more.