MISSION // RAISE THE BAR
A FORMER CHIPS-AND-SODA DEVOTEE, Merriken found the path to enlightened eating when her University of Southern California volleyball coach laid down a no-sugar mandate. "I suddenly had consistent energy and more mental clarity," recalls the 37-year-old Denver native. "No more of those crazy highs and lows." In 2000, a decade after retiring her kneepads, Merriken, an avid runner and hiker, had her "Aha!" moment: Apply the same sugar-free strategy to energy bars by concocting an all-natural, raw-food snack with no baking, processing, or preservatives. Three years laterafter countless hours whirring dried cherries, dates, cashews, and other raw nuts in her Cuisinartshe shipped her first batch of LäraBars to health-food stores in Colorado. They were an instant hit with endurance junkies looking for an organic, longer-lasting buzz: In less than two years, her company has become a $6 million business, with sales in all 50 states, Mexico, the UK, and Canada. Says Merriken, "Now I'm thinking about entirely new foods we can create with the same philosophy."