Nutrition Bar Update

Although in a period of transition, the bar market remains relatively healthy and poised for steady growth going forward.

Rebecca Wright

Nutrition bars used to be the stars of the functional food market, until things like omega 3-fortified yogurts and vitamin waters took over. Having gained so much momentum in the early years, the market reached a natural plateau in 2004 but dipped rather significantly when the low-carb craze fizzled out. Today, however, the market is poised to regain the strength it once had due to new consumer segmentations, new health benefit platforms, and the proliferation of new ingredients and flavors.

Nutrition Bar Market Figures

Despite its troubles, Erin Murray, editor and research analyst, Mintel Reports, Chicago, IL, believes the nutrition bar market is still very healthy. “The market has grown 35% since 2001,” she said, adding that in 2006, sales in the food, drug and mass market reached nearly $800 million. For 2007, Mintel estimates the market will be worth approximately $835 million.

According to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), Boulder, CO, the top three nutrition bars include PowerBar, Balance Bar and Clif Bar—but it’s not all about the “Big Three.” A lot of the interesting trends seem to be developing among the smaller, up-and-coming players like LaraBar, Attune Foods and Nature’s Path, who continue to experiment with novel ingredients like exotic fruits and probiotics.

NBJ segments nutrition bars according to the following platforms: Meal/Snack (43%); Energy (18%); Protein (23%); Women’s (9%); Low-Carb/Weight Loss (6%); and Children’s Bars (1%). While Meal/Snack occasions represent healthy opportunities for bar makers, the areas of women’s and children’s nutrition bars are garnering a great deal of attention lately.

New Opportunities

Even without the low-carb crash of a few years ago, consumers were already beginning to show signs of bar fatigue. “In our 2007 consumer study we asked whether or not consumers are eating more or less bars or the same amount compared to two years ago,” Mintel’s Ms. Murray said. “Among those eating fewer, one of the major reasons was they were ‘tired of them.’”

Other reasons for the disenchantment among consumers relate to price (47%), not using them as part of weight loss plan as they were previously (30%), and taste (20%).

As far as price goes, nutrition bars are simply too expensive for a majority of consumers, 47% to be exact. This is quite the opposite of the cereal and granola bar category where prices are more in line with what consumers are willing to pay. The question is are nutrition bars priced in line with the benefits they offer? And if they are, why aren’t consumers accepting the high prices often connected with these products?

Consider this: during a recent webinar hosted by Nutraceuticals World on the Nutrition Bar Market (visit to download the archived version), presenter David Lockwood, research director, Syndicated Reports, Mintel, said the price per pound of breakfast/cereal bars hovers at about $5.53, while for granola bars it’s about $4.75 per pound. These numbers are significantly lower when you compare them with nutrition/energy bars, which come in at about $9.87 per pound.

Nutrition bars are priced at a premium for the healthy ingredients and associated benefits they carry. Unfortunately, Mr. Lockwood says, the benefits have not been communicated clearly or at least convincingly enough to consumers to drive them to purchase as frequently as they do cereal or granola bars.

There are some very strong reasons consumers purchase nutrition bars—convenience, snack, post-exercise, as a meal replacement, and many others. So if there are so many reasons to eat them, Mr. Lockwood asks why they aren’t more popular.

Mintel data shows that most consumers use nutrition bars only 4.2 times per month, a frequency rate that pales in comparison to the consumption of cereal and granola bars. “Clearly the industry needs to address frequency and usage occasions,” said Mr. Lockwood.

One of the reasons for low penetration, Mr. Lockwood says, is that these products are not marketed in a way that maximizes usage when you compare them to the marketing of cereal and granola bars. In other words, there are too many consumers buying these products singly, rather than buying them by the box like they do for cereal and granola bars. For the category to appeal to the masses as the others do, nutrition bars need to encourage more frequent consumption.

It stands to reason that once companies convince consumers that nutrition bars should be part of their daily routines, widespread usage will eventually follow. In the past, many bars were promoted as impulse purchases or for specific usage occasions like weekend hiking trips, marathons or as part of a weight loss regimen. Consumers need bars they can and want to use ALL the time.

So what can cereal and granola bars teach the nutrition bar market? For one thing, Mr. Lockwood says, cereal and granola bars are sold in boxes, and they use the packaging “real estate” to effectively communicate the benefits and attributes of their products so that consumers know why and when they need to be consumed.

Contemporary Trends

During Nutraceuticals World’s October Nutrition Bar webinar, Lynn Dornblaser, director, Custom Solutions Group, Mintel International, highlighted some of the significant trends proliferating the market. In a broad sense, she said gender and age segmentation continue to be attractive targets for companies, particularly with re­spect to children.

Catering to children is probably not a bad idea, seeing as how they represent one of the pickiest groups of consumers. And considering that nearly one in five consumers are still turned off by the taste of nutrition bars, perhaps paying more attention to a child’s palate is just what the market ordered.

On the ingredient side, fiber continues to reinvent itself. And protein? Well, protein is one of those macro­nutrients that will continue to remain popular in the eyes of the consumer. Both ingredients have found much success in bars exploiting the satiety angle.

In terms of overall fortification, Ms. Dornblaser believes bars are taking cues from other categories like beverages.

Another popular trend is for companies to make their bars as bare naked as possible by using only 100% organic ingredients, or at the very least, as many organic and natural ingredients as possible.

Another consumer segmentation that is becoming popular is Hispanics. Ms. Murray offered, “While they are not more likely to use the category, among those that do they are more likely to use more of it.”

Using data from Simmons, Mintel gauged how much of these bars are eaten on a monthly basis. On average, Hispanics used 4.5 bars per month vs. 4.2 bars for non-Hispanics. Twenty percent of Hispanics used eight or more bars per month vs. 13% of non-Hispanics. “Clearly the Hispanic population continues to grow—it has grown by almost 15% over the last five years and will grow an additional 13% in the next five years,” Ms. Murray said. “Something I think we will clearly see in the future is more Hispanic flavors, which will more than likely spill over into the bar market.”

Going forward it will be very important for bar companies to remain relevant to consumers. The health and convenience platforms need to evolve. What will retain loyal bar consumers and bring in news ones is the R&D behind new flavors and textures, as well as creating more of a mass appeal for them. “There may be some slowing in growth, but I don’t think it should be too concerning for the major players. The key will be making sure that marketing messages and positioning platforms stay relevant to the consumer,” said Ms. Murray. “I think there is a lot companies can do to keep consumers engaged with this category, particularly when it comes to flavor and textures.”

Recent Nutrition Bar Highlights

In general, nutrition bars have performed well over the years, despite hitting some snags along the way. It seems they are entering a new phase in their development, as companies continue to try and keep up with the demands of consumers today. From probiotics to exotic fruits to organic ingredients to new forms of protein, the market continues to evolve with new offerings.

thinkGreener Bar (thinkproducts)
thinkproducts, makers of pure food nutrition for people who “think about what they eat,” recently unveiled the think5 bar, which contains three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit. think5 features apples, cranberries, spinach and broccoli, and is gluten-free. think5 is the newest product to be added to the thinkproducts family of natural, gluten-free nutrition bars, which include thinkThin (high protein), thinkOrganic (raw fruit and nut) and thinkGreen (superfood nutrition bar with two tablespoons of fruits and vegetables). The five cup think5 bar comes in two new flavors: Red Berries and Chocolate Covered Red Berries, which have 240 and 290 calories, respectively. The bar is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and contains naturally occurring fiber. Other think5 ingredients contributing essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals include acerola berries, sweet potatoes, brown rice, carrots, parsley, alfalfa grass, watercress, chlorella and grapes.

Attune Wellness Bars (Attune Foods)

Attune Foods, a California-based natural foods company, is rolling out two new Probiotic Wellness Bars—Dark Chocolate and Mango Peach—this month. These all-natural daily wellness bars feature more than five times the beneficial probiotics found in yogurt in a portable package for today’s on-the-go lifestyles. Attune Dark Chocolate Probiotic Wellness Bars tap into the growing health benefits of dark chocolate. Each 20-gram bar has a 68% cocoa content with just 80 calories and is an excellent source of calcium while being vegan and gluten-free. Attune Mango Peach Granola Probiotic Wellness Bars provide a good source of protein and have 2 grams of fiber. Each 40-gram bar has 180 calories and is an excellent source of calcium. Attune Chocolate Probiotic Wellness Bars also come in three 100-calorie varieties—Chocolate Crisp, Mint Chocolate and Blueberry Vanilla. Attune Granola Probiotic Wellness Bars combine whole grains, nuts and dried fruit with a light yogurt-flavored coating that is available in Wild Berry, Strawberry Bliss and Lemon Crème varieties.

Weil by Nature’s Path (Nature’s Path)
Nature’s Path, Richmond, British Co­lumbia, has formed a collaboration with Dr. Andrew Weil to provide unique, healthy and tasty organic products that follow Dr. Weil’s integrative approach and recommendations for optimum nutrition. The first line of products created through this collaboration is Weil by Nature’s Path Pure Fruit & Nut Bars. Dr. Weil worked side-by-side with the Nature’s Path’s re­search and development team to help formulate the first in a series of innovative, co-branded products. Weil by Nature’s Path Pure Fruit & Nut Bars use organic ingredients and stay true to the concepts of integrative nutrition. All of the bars are organic, vegan, wheat-free and contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bars are available in Banana Manna, Chia Razz (pictured on page 50), Chocolada Walnut and Goji Moji varieties.

NutriPals (Abbott Nutrition)
For the many parents who have trouble getting their kids to eat enough fruit each day, Abbott Nutrition has launched PediaSure NutriPals Fruit Bars, which contain one serving of real fruit in every bar. According to Abbott Nutrition, a recent study shows only 39% of moms believe their children are getting enough fruit in their diets. Additionally, moms are concerned that their children may not consume all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need each day. As a result, moms increasingly are seeking healthier snack options to help fill the gaps. NutriPals Fruit Bars are low-fat, healthy snacks that contain no high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fat or preservatives. Each 150-calorie bar is a good source of protein, fiber and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. Additionally, a NutriPals Fruit Bar has nine times more fruit than a leading cereal bar.

Simply Nutrilite (Nutrilite-Amway)
Quixtar, Grand Rapids, MI, has launched a new group of nutrition bars, which are part of the company’s new line called Simply Nutrilite. Its Cherry Almond bar contains omega 3’s, antioxidants, a tangy-sweet fruit flavor, and a light crispy crunch. It’s also certified organic by QAI (Quality Assurance International) and certified Kosher. The Chocolate Crisp bar also contains omega 3’s, antioxidants, delicious chocolaty goodness, and a light crispy crunch, and is certified Kosher. The company has also developed a Sweet & Salty version of the Simply Nutrilite bar. Each soft bar is packed with omega 3’s, antioxidants, a honey-sweet peanut buttery taste, and real peanuts. It is certified organic by QAI and certified Kosher. Lastly, the company has unveiled a Tropical Simply Nutrilite bar, which consists of omega 3’s, antioxidants, and the tangy-sweet flavor of tropical fruits, fresh from the island trees. The bar is certified organic by QAI and certified kosher.

SoyJoy Nutrition Bars (Pharmavite)
SoyJoy is a new offering from supplement maker Pharmavite, Northridge, CA. The company launched this all-natural nutrition bar to offer a healthy alternative to usual snack fare. SoyJoy’s “Real is Revolutionary” campaign celebrates honest, simple foods and natural ingredients. The campaign is the first of its kind to feature TV commercials with video blogs of people sharing their funny, unscripted observations of what a snack should and shouldn’t be. SoyJoy nutrition bars come in four fruit flavors: Apple, Berry, Mango Coconut and Raisin Almond. Baked with whole soy and real dried fruit, SoyJoy bars contain no trans fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, gluten, artificial flavors, preservatives or colors. Each bar also contains 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
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