Nutrition Bar Evolution

April 18, 2013
Innova Market Insights

Blurring the line between nutrition and performance bars.

The nutrition bar market has developed strongly in recent years, due to rising interest in healthy and convenient snacks suitable for consumption on the go. The category now covers a number of sub-categories, including breakfast alternatives, granola or muesli bars-and nutrition and performance bars, which tend to lead category growth these days.

New-launch activity is still relatively high, although the number of global launches Innova Market Insights recorded in the recent 12 months ending October 2012 was slightly down. Europe led the way in new launches, with over 39% of global new launches-ahead of North America (mainly the United States) with 30%, Latin America with 12.5%, and Asia with 10.5% of global new launches.

 

Product Positioning

Health has always been a key marketing proposition for nutrition bars, not only in terms of nutrition, performance, and energy, but also in terms of representing healthier snack alternatives to products such as confectionery, biscuits, and cakes.

In fact, more than three-quarters of new global launches Innova tracked were positioned on a health platform of some kind, ranging from “passive claims” (natural, organic, low calorie, etc.) to “active claims” (vitamin fortified, heart health, weight management, etc.). The most popular health claims in the overall sector concern “clean label” options, with nearly 30% of products using positioning such as additive- or preservative-free and “natural.” “High fiber” and other fiber claims were also extremely popular, used in 24% of introductions.

Regionally, more than 90% of new launches in the United States and Australia were positioned on some kind of health proposition. In Asia, that number was a bit lower, nearer to 60%.

 

Now Mainstream

The nutrition bar category was at one time confined primarily to specialist products for athletes and other active consumers. Products were sold mainly through outlets such as gyms, drugstores, health food stores, and mail order. But, as a result of mainstream demand and popularity, especially in the United States, nutrition bars are now much more widely available and consumed on a more casual basis by a wider range of consumers looking for healthier and more portable snacks for active lifestyles. And, health and performance ingredients are now being added to more mainstream nutrition bars across the board to give them added health benefit.

Here’s an indication of how interest in the nutrition bar market has moved toward a more general positioning as an “anytime” nutritious snack or meal replacement and away from solely sports positioning: just under a quarter of global nutrition bar launches Innova Market Insights tracked in the past 12 months ending October 2012 were positioned for sports, sports recovery, energy, or alertness. This is a slowdown from 2005, when launches of bars with a sports or energy positioning peaked.

 

In the United States

The U.S. nutrition bar market in particular has shown good growth in recent years and includes a host of better-for-you lines, including sports and energy, weight management, and meal replacement. Looking at recent new-product activity, these nutrition brands have tended to widen their appeal by increasing options and unique flavors.

The Clif Bar brand, for example, introduced Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Iced Gingerbread, and Peppermint Stick variations for the 2012 holiday season; its Luna brand for women, meanwhile, added three fiber bars in peanut butter, strawberry, blueberry vanilla, and chocolate raspberry flavors. Balance Bar launched new 100-calorie Mini Bars in variety packs of Cookie Dough and Double Chocolate Brownie flavors, as well as three dark chocolate variants using sustainably certified cocoa. ZonePerfect introduced its Perfectly Simple bars, with just 10 ingredients and less than 200 calories per bar.

Meanwhile, mainstream cereal and snack bars have increased their health attributes. General Mills’ Nature Valley brand, for example, extended in early 2012 with a range of chewy, protein-rich bars in peanut butter, dark chocolate and almond, and dark chocolate.

Key growth drivers in other food and drink markets are also influencing the bar category. For instance, the dynamic Greek yogurt sector is now reflected in bar products such as Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bar-made by dipping fruit and cereal bars in Greek yogurt to offer a good source of fiber and protein, as well as prebiotics. The range includes superfruit options of Blueberri Acai and Cranberry Almond, as well as more mainstream favorites such as Cherri Almond and Orchard Peach.

One last word: the blurring of lines between nutrition and performance bars on the one hand, and cereal and granola bars on the other, has been key, with each side influencing the other and driving growth. Healthier ingredients and formulations are adding value to the standard bars market, while improved taste profiles and more indulgent flavors are supporting desired nutritional properties in the performance bar sector. We anticipate more to come from this dynamic category.