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Canadian marathoner Brian Maxwell and his wife Jennifer spent three years trying to make Brian the best marathon runner in the world. But no running, lifting, squatting or stretching of any kind was ever involved.

Instead, the couple experimented with whole grains, water, protein and other nutrients to concoct a high-performance energy food source. Although 42-year-old Brian never became the world champion, the PowerBar he created sold in excess of $30 million last year.

"It's a product you don't just eat; you experience it," says Mr. Maxwell, who markets PowerBar through his company, Powerfood.

The Maxwells promoted PowerBar at sporting events directly to athletes, a strategy followed today.

"We're out at 6 a.m. at different 10K's and triathalons," says Mr. Maxwell. "We educate athletes at our booths and with our products and meet the needs of athletes on a one-on-one basis."

This tactic led to their first break when the first American cycling team ever to ride in the Tour de France ordered 1,200 chocolate PowerBars. The company now sponsors more than 4,000 events a year.

"We try to be part of the editorial as well as advertising, and event sponsorship is perfect for that," notes Mr. Maxwell. PowerBar-sponsored events include the Boston and New York Marathons, the Footlocker Road Race of the Month on ESPN, the U.S. Olympics, the Hawaii Ironman and a number of post-season college basketball tourneys.

Even though PowerBar is "a big fish in a tiny pond of performance energy bars," Mr. Maxwell says there's plenty of potential.

"We look at Gatorade as a model" he says. That major brand "used to be only for football players in the South, and now look where it is: everywhere."

In fact, Mr. Maxwell undoubtedly will be watching that Quaker Oats Co. brand even more in the future. Quaker has rolled out its own GatorBar.

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