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Innovation matches pace with strong growth.

July 25, 2016

3 Min Read
Bars hopping

The bar category reached $4.5 billion in 2015 while posting 10.1 percent growth over 2014. Similar momentum is also being observed at the front-end of innovation as well. Bars claimed an 18 percent share of products displayed at Natural Products Expo West 2016 for the Diet & Nutrition Category, and the overall growth over 2015 was 24 percent. Emerging trends including protein, probiotics, paleo, vegan, superfoods, insect protein, meal replacement, sustainable energy, healthy sweeteners, and refrigeration are influencing natural products bar innovation and fostering growth.

Below are thirteen examples of innovative bar product concepts validated by the NEXT Concept Lab. NEXT Concept Lab uses consumer surveys to test product concepts in their early stages and measure purchase intent and the probability of success. The NEXT Concept Database includes more than 900 verified natural products concepts including descriptions, probability of mainstream success, purchase intent and consumer feedback for each concept.



What retailers are looking for

While the bar category continues to see double digit growth—and is expected to do so at least through 2020—it’s a crowded shelf. NBJ bellied up to the category with a few questions for buyers. Here’s what they had to say:

Why do you think bars are seeing such popularity/growth?

As customers become more aware of their personal health and wellness—and begin to understand how food can enable or disable—the bar category is in the perfect place to provide many solutions to many people. Whether protein, portion control, heart health, digestive or ... fair trade and organic, the category can cover many of the important trends in wellness today. Along with that ... ease of trial, low retail, portability, [gives you] a product that is making it easier for consumers of all demographics to participate in healthier lifestyles (not that all bars are healthier).
Mathis Martines, Kroger

Most consumers are finding that brands are really pushing clean ingredients and low sugars, and for a quick snack, it fits perfect for most people.
– Adam Zimmer, Lucky’s Market

People want portable nutrition. Anything in a small format and travelable works well—we see the same thing with the functional beverages: if it’s something you can grab-and-go, we’re seeing good traction right now.
– Scott Owen, PCC Natural Markets

What type of bar are you inundated with / have no interest in seeing more of?

Bars that are copying Kind bars. Hemp and Chia based bars. I feel that both hemp and chia were trends that are losing steam. – John Park, Yes! Organic

Non organic bars with high sugar content; “diet” bars with low nutritional benefit. – Mark Cronin, Jimbo’s Naturally

Bars that pretend to be healthy but are filled with hidden sugars and empty calories. This is what we call candy. – Martines

Extruded gluten-free paste type bars. We’ve seen maybe 100 different brands over the the last year that have the same profile. Not that gluten-free isn’t important, but everyone’s leading with that. The extruded bar is our nemesis right now. – Owen


In an oversaturated performance snack category, what bar would catch your attention?

High protein or paleo bars are on an upswing for us. Jerky and jerky type bars are moving well and the combinations of flavors seem endless. Even meal replacements with clean ingredients are still in demand.  – Cheryl Hughes, Whole Wheatery

Bars moving into refrigerated sets with Core and Perfect Bar, the stratification of protein sources into animal like Epic, and new form ideas such as a filled bar from Clif. All of these show potential to bring more customers into the category and create new usage occasions. – Martines

Organic and Non GMO Project verified bars with few ingredients. Phive Bar is an example that has performed very well for us. Protein based bars that fit the paleo lifestyle. – Cronin

I like brands that have popped up like That’s It (fruit bar), Nature’s Bakery (Fig Bars) and Bobo’s Oat Bars (Oatmeal Bars) … bringing innovation to the category.
– Zimmer

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