I Invented Granola Bars

Dateline: 15 July 2007

Don't they look good! 
(photo link)

You can go to any supermarket in the country and find dozens of different kinds of granola bars. Granola bars are big business. I’ll bet millions and millions of dollars are made by granola bar makers. And to think.... I invented granola bars.

It’s true. I’m the guy. It was me. I invented the granola bar 32 years ago this month. And I can prove it.

Now, before I tell you the story and provide my evidence, I want to make it clear that I’m not writing this blog story to boast. I’m just stating a historical fact.

I was 17 years old when I invented granola bars. I didn’t invent an actual granola bar recipe. I just came up with the idea of taking granola and assembling it into bars. Prior to my coming up with this idea, there were absolutely no granola bars in the grocery stores. No one had ever seen a granola bar.

I came up with the idea of taking granola and assembling it into a “candy bar” formation one day while mowing my parents lawn. My parents had a very large lawn and we did not have a riding mower. So, pushing the mower gave me time to think. I remember day dreaming about my granola bar idea. I figured I’d get my mother to help me develop the bars and I could try selling them to health food stores.

Before you know it, in my imaginings, I had a big granola bar factory. I remember thinking I’d build the business up to where it was really big, and then I’d sell out, and I’d buy some farmland and be a homesteader. No kidding. That was my dream back then. I didn’t want to make granola bars my whole life. They would just be a sure way to get the money needed to get the land to get the life I dreamed of.

Then I read a magazine article about The Idea Marketplace. If you had a good idea and you wanted to submit it to industry, you could send it to The Idea Marketplace. Interested companies would read about your idea in The Idea Marketplace and contact you. They might give you some kind of royalty or buy your idea outright. I figured that would be a whole lot easier than actually making granola bars and building up a granola bar empire. So I composed a letter to The Idea Marketplace. Here’s what I wrote:



Dear Sir,

I am 17 years old and am a senior in high school. In the August issue of Success Unlimited I read an article about The Idea Marketplace. Sometime ago I was “struck” with an idea which has plagued my mind since. After reading the article in Success Unlimited it occurred to me that I should send my idea in to see if someone else thinks it’s as great as I do. It’s quite simple, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already been thought of. Nevertheless, it’s worth a try.

I am somewhat of a natural food enthusiast and am very pleased with the popularity of granola breakfast cereals. Granola is nothing new. It’s been around for years. It’s just that more and more people are becoming concerned with their health and are searching for more natural and nutritional foods. Thus, granola, which is natural, nutritional, and downright delicious, is taking the country by storm. My idea is simply that one of these corporations come out with a line of granola candybars. I can see no reason why such a product cannot be turned onto the market and made just as popular as the familiar chocolate candybar. (Which is not nearly as nutritious and naturally flavorful.) I have heard that granola is a multi-million dollar industry still in its infancy, so why not cash in now on a really good thing!

If you do find my idea worth printing in The Idea Marketplace, I would like my name and address to be printed and I am open to negotiation.

Sincerely yours,

Herrick Kimball


I typed the letter on my dad’s old typewriter. I made a copy with carbon paper. I’ve kept that copy all these years. Here (below) is a picture of the beginning of the letter. Notice the date: July 24, 1975. I thought of the idea before that but I consider that day when I put my idea in writing to be the official day that I invented the granola bar.

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I got a form letter back saying that my submission had been received and they would let me know if they decided to run my idea in The Idea Marketplace.

Months went by and I heard nothing. Then, lo and behold, I started seeing advertisements for granola bars. They started showing up in the grocery stores. All of which led me to believe that one of those greedy corporations saw my little ol’ idea in The Idea Marketplace, and snatched it up.

A year or so back I was at a church function, eating a meal, sitting across from my pastor, Dale Weed. We were talking about inventions. I said to him: “You know, I invented granola bars.” To which he laughed and said, “I know. I remember that.”

I was surprised when he said that. But then I remembered that when I was 17 years old, I worked up the road from my parent’s house at New Hope Mills for Dale Weed’s dad. Dale said he remembered me talking at the Mill about my granola candy bar idea. So in addition to written documentation, I have a witness who remembers that I invented the granola bar before they were ever in the stores.

All of this is on my mind today because I was on the internet this morning and I went to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. On a whim, I decided to search “granola bar.” To my surprise, there was an entry for granola. And there was also information about granola bars. No mention of the inventor was made, so I edited the entry. Check it out here

Then I called Marlene over to see what I had “just discovered” on Wikipedia. She was flabbergasted. My son Robert wondered what was going on. I had him read it too. Then my son James read it. Then my son Chaz read it. Finally, after 32 years, I was getting some recognition for inventing granola bars.

I dug out the letter mentioned above and gave it to my sons to read. They thought it was pretty funny at the end of the letter where I wrote, “I am open to negotiation.” Robert seemed amazed that I was a “natural food enthusiast” when I was 17 years old (a year older than he is now). And he made the comment that my writing style was the same back then as it is now.

So there you have it. Now you know who invented granola bars. It was me. I came up with the idea, them big corporations took it from me, and I never got a cent.

And I’m still trying to come up with the money to buy a farm…



UPDATED INFO: 11/23/07 

Today I went to the Wikipedia entry for "Granola Bar" and discovered that someone changed the entry. They have changed it to say that some guy named Stanley Mason invented the granola bar. Well! The nerve of them! This just goes to show that you can't trust everything you read on Wikipedia. Stanley Mason is probably the guy who made all the money with my idea. ;-)

21 comments:

Herrick Kimball said...

Hey! I went to the Wikipedia link I provided and my changes were no longer there.

Either those greedy granola-making corporations switched it or I didn't do it right.

The first sentence under GRanola Bar is supposed to say:

"Granola bars" were invented by Herrick Kimball of Moravia, New York in 1975, and have become popular as a snack.

TNfarmgirl said...

Well, I just checked it and it was there....and I can say that "I knew you before you were famous" ;)

Blessings,
Cheri

Marci said...

I just checked and it was there. WOW.... I am a believer. You are an inventor after all!!

Ron and Ginny said...

When I looked at it, it was not there. I clicked a link on the page and when I hit the back button, it was there. However, after surfing around, I came back and it was not there, but I clicked the link and backed up and it was there... (?)

Lynn Bartlett said...

What a neat story, especially since it's true! Maybe some day there will be an entry in Wikipedia for the inventor of the "Whizbang Chicken Plucker" as well as the inventor of a new type of bread product! You have a very creative family.

Ann said...

That is so hilarious. I remember eating them in what was probably the late '70s.

rob said...

Those nuts over at Wikipedia think that Stanely Mason invented the Granola Bar;
http://www.nysun.com/obituaries/stanley-mason-84-prolific-inventor/26170/

There is no proof offered, so I think you have a great case, if you wanted to pursue it. ;)

Bonfire said...

He more then likey patented or copyrigted the idea so therefore he gets the credit. In the eyes of the goverment he who registers first gets the credit till the courts say otherwise.

William Cross said...

You could sue wikipedia using the evidence you have, force them to list you as the rightful inventor, and if you won, you should be able to get enough royalties from the corporations to buy the farm you want. :)

Anonymous said...

My husband had something similar happen to him. He's the one that came up with the "hot Ketchup" idea. He contacted Heinz about his idea, since he ALWAYS eats Tobasco with his Ketchup (heck my dad does, too). He talked with someone about the idea, and they said they weren't accepting any 'new ideas' right now. Dang, about 8 months later, what do you know, Tabasco Ketchup comes out, from Heinz!!! We learned our lesson about sharing your good ideas with companies with the hopes of gettins some credit!

Anonymous said...

http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/mason.html

gypsymama04 said...

hey just wondering if you have a granla recipe to share!! gr8 job with the blog!!

Anonymous said...

I think the moral of this story is that you don't send off your product (basically an idea) and then ask for money. Probably better to sell the idea first...essentially, you gave it away.

Avrum said...

Today we have , "No Competition Clauses", and "Confidential Agreements", to protect new inventors and small Biz people. In my small town folks can get an attorney advice for 25-50 Bucks for a consultation, money well spent. My buddies and i used to eat Granola bars while hiking on our weekend trips from College, Thanks to you !

Granola Bars said...

You should log back into Wiki and change the information. You deserve your credit!

Anonymous said...

Stanley Mason was my cousin's grandfather and he was the first person to actually take the granola (invention credited to someone else) and put it into a bar shape. He invented a lot of items still used today. He put ingredients together and formed it into a bar. You could attempt to take credit for the idea if you could prove you had the 'idea' before the invention of it was actually in the works but you didn't invent it.

Anonymous said...

Eli Whitney did not profit from his invention of the cotton gin. His patent had wording that was easy for others to 'engineer around' and the courts did not uphold Whitney's claim until the patent had only 1 year of life left. So Eli developed a method for standardizing the manufacture of muskets, and made a fortune. Keep inventing, Herrick!

Timothy Takemoto said...

I was eating the traditional British "flapjack" or oatmeal bar, sometimes containing raisins and apple, as a child in the 1970. According to their wikipedia article the flapjack or "muesli bar" dates back to the 1600s or at least 1935. So I fear there may have been prior art.

Herrick Kimball said...

Timothy,

Interesting. I suspect there is always prior art to some degree with most every new idea. But granola bars were nowhere to be found in American supermarkets back in July of 1975. Thanks for the insight.

elmtree said...

Hey! Just checked out the wikipedia page and it said that some guy named Willie something invented them! So I changed it to say your name and put the link to your article about it for the citation. :) Don't know how long it will stay that way since it sounds like it has been changed a few times already but I thought I would try. :)

Anonymous said...

My wife made granola bars, totally from scratch, and sold them at the Wednesday Market, in Lewisburg, PA, in 1968.