Combat Feeding started from scratch, looking for the right combination of simple sugars, complex carbohydrates and fat. The military HooAH! bar consists mainly of corn syrup, rice crisp blended with corn for texture, dried fruit, partially hydrogenated cottonseed or soybean oil, maltodextrin, flavor-specific ingredients and vitamins.
"When we formulated it for energy, we wanted to provide a quick increase in blood glucose and then a slow release of energy," said Jack Briggs, senior food technologist and inventor of the HooAH! bar. "Very key in this is lipids. They give it shelf life, texture, taste and energy. At the time of initial development, our studies had shown the HooAH! bar to be superior to anything else on the market as far as acceptability."
The military operational requirement for ration storage is a minimum of three years at 80 degrees F or six months at 100 degrees F, which presents a challenge not faced by other nutrition bars. It's another practical reason for a higher fat content.
"Most commercial bars become hard as a rock over time," Briggs said. The current formulation has an ideal amount of fat to provide a stable, palatable food that has a firm but crunchy texture.
"We'd get comments from people saying that a lot of the ingredients are similar (to other bars)," Darsch said. "It's not what's in there. It's how much of that is in there."
He said the primary goal was to give warfighters energy with as close to 100 percent acceptability as possible, and with enough testing and evaluation, they ended up with a high-quality, good-tasting product. As with everything coming out of Combat Feeding, HooAH! is warfighter tested and approved.
Even the name, which is Army-speak derived from "heard, understood and acknowledged," was overwhelmingly agreed upon by soldiers during surveys, according to Darsch. Marines use the term Oorah!, and he said the bar issued in the MRE will be split label with HooAH! on one side and Oorah! on the other to cater to both services.
The military HooAH! bar comes in apple-cinnamon, chocolate, cran-raspberry, peanut butter and raspberry flavors while the commercial version is offered in apple-cinnamon and chocolate crisp, with more flavors to be introduced later, starting with peanut butter.
The commercial bar has 280 calories, 10 grams of soy and whey protein, 9 grams of non-hydrogenated palm oil, 40 grams of simple and complex carbohydrates, and 17 vitamins and minerals.
A portion of the proceeds from every bar sold commercially is returned to the Combat Feeding Directorate to help fund the Army's research into enhancing soldier safety, diet and quality of life.