The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Powerbar

1983

The commercially sold Powerbar     Photo: Courtesy of Powerbar

Brian Maxwell, an Olympic marathon runner, hit the wall 21 miles into a race and couldn’t finish. After this event, he started searching for an energy supplement that endurance athletes could eat before and even during events. When he couldn’t find something suitable, he and his wife-to-be, nutritionist Jennifer Biddulph, started working on snack bar recipes that would taste good and be easy to digest. That’s how the Powerbar came to be.

To start, Maxwell and Biddulph mixed and sold their creation out of their Berkeley, California, kitchen. Eventually they were able to convince a local candy maker to let them use the factory machinery on the nights and weekends to make Powerbars.

With a large supply built up, the duo attended every running race in California and many others outside of the state in order to hand out free, unlabelled, unwrapped Powerbars to athletes—with a comment sheet attached. Maxwell bought a van and stenciled #7 on it so that it appeared that he had a fleet of Powerbar vans on the race circuit, even though this was his only one. Leveraging his own reputation as an elite marathoner, he convinced athletes to try his samples. Popularity soared after an endorsement from Greg LeMond, who used Powerbars during a Tour de France victory.

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