The on-the-go lifestyle has brought profit to the nutrition bar industry ever since its inception, and industry specialists know what still works and what lies ahead for the future of nutrition bars.
Here’s a look at the trends currently championing nutrition bars and the bars that are executing them.
Health experts keep affirming the value of fiber. Nutrition bars are often a quick and easy source of daily fiber intake.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (jointly published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture) serve as a foundation for federally funded food and nutrition programs. In the current 2010 draft report, fiber remains one of the top four “public health concerns” for U.S. nutrient intake.
“Dietary fiber is underconsumed across all segments of the American population,” reads the report, adding that of American men, women, and children, only 3 to 6% of each group meets recommended adequate intake for dietary fiber.
The ramifications of a low-fiber diet are many, with higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes being just a few health concerns. For this reason, companies offering high-fiber nutrition bars have been able to link up with consumers truly concerned about fiber.
Proof of fiber’s market resilience can be seen in nutrition bars like Fiber One and FiberPlus. Part of that resilience can be attributed to fiber’s wealth of available health claims in an otherwise restricted claims market. “Out of 11 currently available health claims that have been approved by FDA for use on foods, five are related to dietary fibers,” says Jit Ang, executive vice president of International Fiber Corp. (North Tonawanda, NY). Some of those claims relate to fiber and a possible reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
Nutrient content claims are available with fiber, too—and they are executed often (“high in…,” “rich in…,” and “excellent source of….”). In fact, Ang says that 7% of all new food products introduced in 2009 featured a “high fiber” claim. (Read the sidebar below for other fiber options—and possible claims.)
All is well with fiber’s nutrition benefits, but what about its taste? The market research firm Mintel (Chicago) recently stated, “While 30% of consumers say they make it a point to eat naturally fiber-rich foods, studies show most Americans are failing to meet their recommended daily fiber intake.” And Mintel has a simple theory as to why that is: “This may be explained by the 27% of respondents who think food with added fiber usually has an unpleasant taste.”
Industry experts agree that the conventional fashion of nutrition bars—being used more and more as meal replacements and frequent snacks—creates a need for nutrients that taste good, too.
“The greatest trend we are seeing is the making of a new concept bar,” says Roel van Dam, business development manager for VSI (Leerdam, Netherlands), a manufacturer of custom-specific and private-label food bars. “Standard protein bars and slimming bars are dull, so people are looking for more fun in their products. It’s about how to bring something new to something already existing.”
Take the Oh Yeah! Bar (pictured on page 58), made by ISS Research (Charlotte, NC). It looks like a candy bar, but with 28 g of protein, it’s much more than that. This is the type of disguise trending in the nutrition bar industry—flavors, shapes, and textures all turning towards savory sweets.
Quaker Oats’ (Chicago) new Café Squares (pictured at right) is another example. “The Café Squares were created to offer a health-focused alternative to traditional sweet treats,” says Tia Bradley of Quaker Foods & Snacks Marketing. “The square bar distinguishes the product from other bars, but does not depart too far from the familiar shape. The café-inspired flavors, coupled with the high nutritional content, give consumers permission to indulge their cravings.”
VSI’s van Dam insists that people should be able to exchange their cake or fatty snack for a bar that gives them the same pleasure (flavor, experience, texture), but a better nutritional profile. “If the pleasure is not [great] enough,” says van Dam, “the consumer will not buy again, and, instead, will go for the cake.”
Read about more options for fiber here.
Read about more ingredients for nutrition bars here.