The Story behind Sola Bars, the Nutritious Savory Snack Bar That Doesn’t Have to Be Sweet
Sola Lamikanra, the creator of Sola Bars, would often ask himself, “Why does a nutritional snack bar have to be sweet?” As Sola visited groceries, whole foods markets, and convenience stores and read the ingredients printed on food packages, he would wonder why he wasn’t seeing very many products that contained ingredients people are familiar with, that are used to cook with on a daily basis.
The SOLA Snacks founder and president spent a good part of his life researching and developing healthy food products. It wasn’t until he came up with a unique proprietary process to bind non-sweetened ingredients that the missing piece to the puzzle was found. He was finally able to offer health- and diet-conscious consumers what he himself had been looking for: a savory blend made up of only wholesome ingredients, without sugars, syrups or other additives to hold them together in the convenience of a bar. He created a flavorful bar that stands up on its own made with whole foods and virtually nothing else added.
From Global Agriculture to Health Food Science
A food scientist, food product innovator, and author and professor of food science and technology, Sola is intensely focused on how to deliver more healthy foods to people who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle and those who need to limit the kinds of foods they eat for health reasons. He has personal reasons for setting out on this path.
Growing up in the West African nation of Nigeria, having a sufficient world food supply was a big concern. Sola developed a strong interest in global food and agriculture at an early age. He took chemistry and math classes in his home country, graduating with degrees in those subjects at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, with the intent to do something to help ensure global food availability.
It wasn’t until he moved to England and pursued a Ph.D. in Food Science that he began to see the increased options in foods compared to what he was exposed to in Nigeria. He developed a particular interest in foods from a health perspective. It wasn’t a specialty he accidently stumbled upon. In Sola’s family diabetes was prevalent. His mother and other relatives were diabetic. His mother struggled with the disease for many years and eventually succumbed to complications from diabetes.
Wholesome Savory Snacking in a Meal-Bar
When Sola came to live in the United States, he continued a career in food science. He was Professor of Food Science at Florida A&M University and Director of Small Farm Development Research. He also served on the boards of directors of the Florida Grape Growers Association and Southern Grape Growers Association. Sola then went on to work as Lead Research Scientist for the USDA to conduct research that helped grow the U.S. fresh-cut fruit and vegetable industry before taking on the role of R&D Director at PepsiCo, where he was responsible for healthy snacks innovation. He is the author of several publications, books and patents. Sola has also led many international food and agriculture research and mentoring programs in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America, and Africa.
When Sola formed his natural food company SOLA Snacks, LLC. in Frisco, TX a couple years ago, his goal was to provide consumers with choices for unique healthy meal-like snacks made with consumer friendly, wholesome, and natural ingredients. The concept for his first product launch was to be non-sweet, savory, snack and meal bars for health-conscious consumers and the general public. More specifically, his idea was a trail-mix type food snack that was filling and wholesome in the convenience of a bar, something that could be eaten both as a healthy snack and as an at-home or on-the-go convenient mini-meal type bar. But he needed to find a way to bind the ingredients so they didn’t crumble – without using sugar or anything artificial.
He was also looking for a texture that would keep whole ingredients virtually intact. He didn’t want to grind almonds or peanuts or add starchy flours that would have to be baked, producing a doughy, cookie-like treat with higher levels of carbohydrates. He was aiming for low sugar and carbs, gluten-free, and non-GMO – the qualities vegetarians, vegans, diabetics, and dieters in particular wanted.
Everyday Ingredients with a Crunch
“I was aiming for crunch, not a soft cookie in terms of mouthfeel,” says Sola. “I also wanted a bar that was more than a snack, that didn’t have ingredients you can’t pronounce; I wanted only ingredients that a person is very likely to have in their kitchen pantry and use on a day-to-day basis.”
“I also wanted to keep the sugar and carbohydrates down because a diabetic-friendly bar was a big motivator for me. Flour increases carb content. Plus, low sugar and carbs are what many people are looking for.” Sola’s patent-pending binding process met the challenge.
“I see so many health conditions that call for better diets,” says Sola. “I see the tragedy of diabetes and excess sugar and carb-promoting diseases that people suffer with. I‘m honest and straightforward in what I tell consumers they’re getting: a wholesome, tasty snacking and meal option. I want to keep others from going through what my family and others with compromised health go through due to unhealthy food choices.”
It took Sola a couple years from concept to a finished product. “I knew I had to come up with something unique. The bars had to stand out in flavor as much as in health benefits,” says Sola. Sola’s anytime snack and meal bars contain peanuts mixed with seeds, herbs, and spices like cilantro, onions, sage, rosemary, nutmeg, ginger, cloves … Each of the 4 flavors forms crunchy, zesty bars, the product of an innovative binding process and thoughtful attention to texture and the blending of savory flavors.
Each Sola Bar contains only 1 gram of sugar, the lowest of any other snack bar in the consumer packaged goods category – and most of the sugar comes naturally from the ingredients themselves, not added, Sola likes to point out. Each bar focuses on a popular savory flavor: garlic, jalapeno, chipotle, and cinnamon with its complementary herbs and spices.