Tucson Based Energy Bar Startup RBar Experiencing Growth

Step into a number of local businesses, such as the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Goodness Fresh Food & Juice Bar, Exo Roast, or Whole Foods, and you might notice a small, eye-catching energy bar emblazoned with the name RBar.

What you might not be aware of is that RBar is a Tucson based energy bar startup experiencing serious growth. Packed into a small commercial kitchen in the former 17th Street Farmers Market, RBar shipped 4,000 bars in February and 18,000 in March. A recent rebrand, along with guidance from Startup Tucson’s offshoot program, Thryve, played a huge role in RBar’s explosive growth.

Started in 2010 by longtime Tucsonan Brian Cornelius, RBar, short for “our bar”, handles every aspect of RBar’s production in-house. This includes the uncommon practice of most smaller energy bar companies of wrapping and packing.

“You could have energy bars on the market fast using a copacker,” says Cornelius, when asked about the process of wrapping and packaging RBars internally, as opposed to using a third party.

Brian Cornelius describes the complex functionality of RBar's most recent purchase: a wrapping machine.

Brian Cornelius describes the complex functionality of RBar’s most recent purchase: a wrapping machine.

Cornelius, an avid athlete and former competitive cyclist, started out simply making his own trail mix for long rides. Taking things a step further after growing tired of dry, unpleasant energy bars available at the time, he began experimenting with his own own version, which other riders coveted.

Now, RBar employs three full-time and four part-time employees and offers five flavors, including Lemon Poppyseed, Prickly Pear Pecan, Double Chocolate, Cranberry Cashew, and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

“We currently have the capacity to produce around 20,000 bars per month,” said Cornelius. “More specifically, our production capacity is about 5,000 bars per week.”

Peanut Butter & Jelly RBar

Peanut Butter & Jelly RBar

RBar truly is a better bar. Significantly more moist than other energy bars and much more tasty, flavors such as Lemon Poppyseed and Prickly Pear Pecan, have a defining, balanced taste. And, RBar keeps things simple with no more than a handful of ingredients, such as dates, dried fruit, and nuts.

“Almost every energy bar on the market uses a date paste,” said Cornelius. “We used to use date paste, too, but have switched to blending whole dates into our bars. It makes a huge difference in the final product.”

No emulsifiers or preservatives are used. Although, Cornelius says he’d love to use organic ingredients exclusively, at RBar’s current scale, organic pricing is too volatile.

Prickly Pear Pecan RBar

Prickly Pear Pecan RBar

In addition to the growing number of locations RBar is currently found in across the state of Arizona, the company is about to launch into a dozen airports and has been picked up by Natural Grocers.

The explosive growth is exactly what Cornelius is aiming for.

“Our goal,” says Cornelius, “is to grow RBar into a national brand.”

For more information about RBar, including where to find, visit rbarenergy.com.

Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.

X