The Hardy Bar: The Latest Chapter of the Healthy Food Trend in Vietnam

If you’re looking for another way to live a healthier lifestyle, consider the Hardy Bar. They’re all-natural, sugar-free granola bars, they’re good, and they’re growing in popularity.

He started with fruit. But Michael Hardy’s big plan is granola. It’s called a Hardy Bar, and it’s part of the growing healthy food trend in Vietnam. 

From fruit 

Hardy Bar
Photo courtesy of Michael Hardy

The An Thuong area of Danang is a foreigner haven. Both expats and tourists are everywhere on these streets, thus so are many businesses that cater to them. 

The Fruit Empire was one of them. 

Hardy and his partner opened it last year to sell fresh fruit in a cup, with yogurt and other toppings. His target was the local market, mainly delivery and takeout. Friends soon asked him to throw it all in a blender. And one of those friends offered up another concept. 

“He mentioned that he used to make these no-bake granola bars back home,” Hardy explained, “and he casually said, ‘If you make some, I’ll buy them all,’ and I realized they’d go well with smoothies too.”

Hardy started researching recipes. The ingredients he needed were hard to come by so he started experimenting. He got a lot of feedback and made adjustments. He listened and learned. 

Now there’s a secret ingredient.

Don’t bother asking. He’ll never tell.

What he can say is that the bars have honey and coconut oil in them. And you can tell there’s no sugar because the Hardy Bar is not nearly as sweet as others. But it’s still tasty, especially for health food fanatics.

They are quite filling too.

If you’re in a hurry in the morning, eat one before you run out the door. Or bring one to work with you. It should hold you until lunch.

Just keep some napkins around. Because they aren’t baked, they are softer than the crunchy ones made by popular brands like Nature Valley. They fall apart quite easily. But they are worth it.

Healthy food history in Vietnam

It was 2003 when Hardy came here from America for a job on an oil rig. He doesn’t remember healthy food even being on the radar. 

There was only one product you could get with little or no sugar: milk. There wasn’t even sliced bread anywhere.” 

A lot has changed in the 16 years since, a natural development in a developing country. Gyms, vegan restaurants and fruit juice/smoothie bars are everywhere in Vietnam’s biggest cities. 

Hardy followed the trend as he later worked in various capacities, from tourism to retail, bar and restaurant management to design and construction.

Raising the bar

Hardy Bar
Photo courtesy of Michael Hardy

A few trips to Danang convinced Hardy that he should make a move, after 13 years in Saigon. So much growth potential, he thought, with less competition. He also wanted to be by the beach. 

He was right about growth in Danang. And now the same is happening for the Hardy Bar. 

When the idea began to become a reality, it was bit by bit. First it was three or four trays a month, 16 bars per tray, for half a year. 

Now, a full year later, he’s six months into his distribution operation, and he’s making 30 to 35 trays a week, just to keep up with the 35-plus vendors in Central Vietnam who buy the bars. In fact, the bars are now a full-time business. The Fruit Empire is no longer open. 

Moonmilk, a specialty shop that offers a variety of western food and groceries, is his top customer, but he’s got other loyal big buyers too, such TS Mart, Healthy Farm and Full Market. 

His first partnership in Saigon came to fruition in November 2019. Fresyo Cafe in the expat-favored Thao Dien Ward of District 2 sells the Hardy Bar.

The bars sell for 35,000 to 40,000 VND, depending on the retailer.  

The next market: Hanoi. It’s Vietnam’s second-biggest city and the capital too. It’s a natural progression. 

“Massive takeover, city by city, and then the universe!” Hardy wrote in an email. Pretty sure he was joking.

He’s exploring partnerships with distribution companies, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Marou Chocolate, the Saigon-based company founded by two foreigners. Eventually he’d like to introduce at least two more types of bars, maybe three.

This, he hopes, will mean more freedom. He lives a 10-minute walk from a beach he only sees on his motorbike, when he’s delivering Hardy Bars.

Someday he’ll stop, step on the sand again. For now he’s too busy enjoying the ride.

A healthy conscience

Hardy Bar
Photo courtesy of Michael Hardy

Even though the Hardy Bar is sold only in urban retail locations, you can still get them. Buy them wholesale. You can expect to pay about 600,000 VND for a box of 20, depending on the town or city in which you live. 

So if you’re looking for a way to live a healthier lifestyle, consider the Hardy Bar. It’s so much better for you than the fatty and sugary snacks that are so abundant in Vietnam.