Bar Belles

January 19, 2007
Daniel Schatzman

Women buy nutrition bars for many reasons. To some, they are a convenient source of energy. To others, they make good meal replacements. Still others eat them to supplement the missing nutrients in their diets. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that natural-products companies are taking notice.

 

Women buy nutrition bars for many reasons. To some, they are a convenient source of energy. To others, they make good meal replacements. Still others eat them to supplement the missing nutrients in their diets. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that natural-products companies are taking notice.

In October, two Berkeley, CA–based titans of the nutrition bar industry, PowerBar and Clif, both introduced several new products targeted to women. The newest bars address the emerging trend of breakfast snacking and may be especially appealing to women because they offer ingredients that have the greatest positive impact on purchasing decisions, according to recent market research. Marketing experts often estimate that women are responsible for making at least 80% of all household purchases. If that’s the case, then nutrition bar manufacturers may be in for another watershed year.

BARS FOR BREAKFAST

One of the fastest-growing areas of the nutrition bar market is the cereal bar segment, which includes granola and breakfast bars and snacks. Today’s on-the-go consumers have less time for proper meals and often opt to skip breakfast in favor of eating an energy bar. This is particularly the case for women, who may be juggling the competing demands of work, school, and their families.

According to the Mintel Group (London), the American market for cereal bars grew by more than 50% between 2001 and 2006, leveling off at $1.4 billion this year. A recent survey by the Kerry Group (Kerry, Ireland) also noted that most consumers now eat bars early in the day. About 60% of respondents in the Kerry survey reported eating nutrition bars for breakfast, and about 70% said they ate the bars at work, compared with only about 25% who said they ate the bars at home.

“Both heavy users and general bar consumers are eating more of these bars in the morning and less in the afternoon,” says Keith Parle, director of functional-food sales and strategic development at Kerry Americas (New Century, KS). “There’s a slightly higher use in the afternoon for regular food bar consumers and an indication that they also eat them in the evening.”

The survey’s results differ from a similar poll conducted by Kerry in 2005 that found that consumers were most likely to consume nutrition bars as a midafternoon snack.

VALUED INGREDIENTS

Bar consumers seem drawn to several key ingredients: protein, fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. According to Parle, protein and fiber currently have the most positive impact on purchasing decisions, and calcium has had a historically positive influence. Antioxidants ranked fourth among consumers in the Kerry survey. In addition, at least half of all consumers see natural and organic ingredients as a positive influence.

These ingredients may be particularly appealing to women because of their potential influence on conditions like osteoporosis, obesity, and heart disease. Calcium, for instance, is linked to strong bones; protein and fiber are linked to weight management; and antioxidants are linked to cardiovascular health. In fact, according to the Kerry survey, the top three benefits that consumers want to see in nutrition bars are sustained energy, weight management, and cardiovascular health.

Moreover, ingredients like whole grains and organic fruit may also play into the breakfast and early-morning theme for nutrition bars that is popular with many consumers. Whole grains have also been shown to promote feelings of satiety, an important component of weight management. Nearly all of the newest bars contain these ingredients. Indeed, most emphasize the fact in their marketing and advertising materials. By making the most of these nutrients, PowerBar, Clif, and other companies have been able to secure their foothold in the rapidly growing organic bar industry.

NO GRAIN, NO GAIN

The October debut of Grain Essentials, an extension of PowerBar’s Pria line of women’s bars, may be a good indication of where the nutrition bar market is headed. The bars touch on several growing trends popular with women, including breakfast snacking, energy, weight management, bone health, and natural and organic ingredients. Made with 8 g of whole grains, the bars come in three breakfast flavors: chocolate almond, apple cinnamon, and honey and oats. The whole grains also help promote satiety without causing weight gain; each bar contains only 160–170 calories. Grain Essentials also deliver 23 vitamins and minerals, including 40% of the recommended daily value of calcium for strong bones. The bars also contain 3 g of inulin, which adds dietary fiber and boosts calcium absorption.

According to PowerBar, the line’s target consumers are nutritionally conscious, active women who like the idea of buying organic products but aren’t necessarily committed to the category. PowerBar is billing the product as parent company Nestlé USA’s (Glendale, CA) “first major organic product introduction.”

Andy Hill, brand manager for PowerBar’s Pria line, says that women who are concerned about managing their weight are increasingly seeking out organic food choices. “Healthy snacking can be a challenge for women who are managing their weight,” Hill explains. “With just 160–170 calories, each bar packs wholesome organic ingredients, naturally satisfying whole grains, and more calcium than a glass of milk.”

CLIF’S EDGE

Clif’s new Luna product line also touches on several important themes that resonate with female consumers. At Natural Products Expo East, held October 4–7 in Baltimore, the company launched its new Luna Tea Cakes, which contain energizing white, green, and red tea, along with vitamins B and D. The product, which weighs in at just 130 calories, may entice dieters because it also has a low glycemic index value. In addition, the Tea Cakes are made with 95% organic ingredients.

Two other new bars recently unveiled by Clif may also appeal to women. The company’s Blueberry Crisp bar, sold under its regular Clif brand, and its Cherry Pomegranate bar, sold under its Nectar brand, both contain high levels of antioxidants, which may improve the appearance of skin and promote cardiovascular health. Both products are made with organic ingredients. The Blueberry Crisp bar contains organic almonds, oats, and soybeans, while the 100% organic Cherry Pomegranate bar provides 2 servings of fruit. Made with five or fewer ingredients, the Cherry Pomegranate bar also may be memorable for what it doesn’t contain: trans fats, processed sugars, soy, wheat, gluten, or dairy.

Clif has also reached out to women through its sponsorship of the Luna Women’s Mountain Bike Team, which has won more than 200 races worldwide and generated more than $30,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund (San Francisco). In October, the company helped raise $7600 through eBay (San Jose) by auctioning off a chance to become a fully sponsored member of the bike team.

NEW TECHNOLOGY

Companies like PowerBar and Clif have been very successful at marketing nutrition bars to women. That success has been due, in no small part, to the recent development of innovative ingredients that have improved the quality, taste, and texture of nutrition bars. Food technologists have been working overtime to devise new ways of packing protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients into women’s bars, which are often smaller than other products.

For instance, Solae’s new Supro 430 enables manufacturers to create less-expensive bars by offering isolated soy protein as a replacement for dairy protein. According to Kip Underwood, global strategy lead for Solae’s nutrition bar platform, Supro 430 can reduce formulation costs while prolonging shelf life-a key determinant of a bar’s success.

Little Bars for Kids Could Be Big Business

 

 

While energy, weight management, and cardiovascular health remain some of the most common issues for women, nutrition bar manufacturers have also been trying to address another major concern: the health of their children.

According to a recent survey of more than 1000 mothers taken by Impulse Research Corp. (Los Angeles), almost 90% of moms worry about their children’s nutrition at least some of the time, and almost 60% say that a snack’s nutritional value is a top priority when they make snack choices for their kids. Specifically, mothers cite the presence of too much sugar and too many empty calories as major sources of anxiety.

Clif’s ZBaR, which is made using 95% organic ingredients and is flavored with natural sugars and evaporated cane juice, may make parents feel better. Not only does ZBaR provide a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, it also complies with California’s SB 19, a law that sets statewide nutrition guidelines for foods eaten on school campuses.

NutriPals, a new line of nutrition bars for kids from Abbott Labs (Columbus, OH) may also allay fears that snacking is harmful. The bars, which come in four flavors, provide 21 vitamins and minerals, along with 5 g of protein and 3 g of fiber-about twice the amount found in other children’s bars.

“Moms are recognizing that snacking is a prime opportunity to sneak in those important vitamins and minerals that round out a wholesome diet,” says Elizabeth Ward, RD, a nutrition consultant and spokesperson for Abbott.

 

“Our latest technology expands upon the range of options we offer nutrition bar marketers and manufacturers to help them optimize shelf life and bar texture,” Underwood says. “Our experience in the nutrition bar category tells us that achieving ideal shelf life is not only challenging, but also key to developing consumer loyalty and repeat purchase. This technology will offer marketers a new tool to help them toward that goal.”

Solae isn’t the only company to develop an ingredient that extends shelf life, however. BarTex, a new partially hydrolyzed whey protein from Glanbia Nutritionals Inc. (Monroe, WI), has a high water-retention capacity that keeps bars soft and creamy for a longer shelf life. Similarly, at the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo this past June in Orlando, Cargill (Minneapolis) displayed several bar prototypes that are based on a unique protein structure that retains water.

“Cargill collaborates with customers to help them address unmet consumer needs through the development of the convenient, great-tasting, healthier products that consumers are seeking,” says Paul Hillen, vice president of Cargill Food Ingredients and Systems North America.

Food technologists have also been working on other ingredients, in addition to protein, that can add functional or health benefits to nutrition bars. For instance, ADM (Decatur, IL) complements its NutriSoy protein products by offering Enova and NovaLipid, two kinds of healthy fats that keep bars soft and flavorful without adding significant amounts of trans fat.

Similarly, Cargill supplies several other ingredients that can improve the texture and nutritional content of bars, such as its MaizeWise whole-grain ingredients, Oliggo-Fiber inulin, and Xtend sucromalt sweetener.

Two classes of ingredients that recently have been added to bars include omega-3 fatty acids and appetite suppressants. At the IFT Expo, Kerry exhibited a prototype of a high-fiber, high-protein “superfruit” bar featuring two hot fruit ingredients: antioxidant-rich acai puree and pomegranate powder. Aside from the fruit, the bar also contained 500 mg of encapsulated omega-3 fatty acids.

Other bar prototypes have highlighted weight-control ingredients, such as Lipid Nutrition’s (Channahon, IL) Pinno-Thin. At SupplySide West in Las Vegas in October, Lipid Nutrition displayed a prototype for a granola bar that combined Pinno Thin with Matsutani’s (Forsyth, IL) Fibersol-2 maltodextrin, Nuvex (Blue Earth, MN) whey crisps, and whey protein concentrate from Hilmar (Hilmar, CA). Nutratech’s Advantra Z bitter-orange extract (Citrus aurantium) is another popular weight-control ingredient that can also be added to bars.

Another novel ingredient is Amerikal Nutraceutical Corp.’s (Foothill Ranch, CA) Young Tissue Extract (YTE), a patented ingredient derived from pre-embryonic fertilized chicken eggs that may appeal to women looking for a sports nutrition supplement. According to Amerikal, YTE contains amino acids and glycopeptides that may boost energy and stamina, control levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and provide quicker recovery from exercise.

WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE

Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati) made millions in the 1970s with the ad campaign tag line for its Secret antiperspirant: “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.” Natural products manufacturers hope to do the same today with their next generation of nutrition bars. Although many of the newest bars are intended to address the needs of women, they typically offer ingredients and health benefits that appeal to men as well. Perhaps some men may even find the products too good to pass up, just like in the old Secret commercials. Thanks to innovative ingredients and the latest food manufacturing technology, the next wave of women’s bars could rake in big profits-without even breaking a sweat.

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