Nutrition Bars: Big Opportunity for Weight Management


As a weight-management tool, the meal-replacement bar offers many advantages to modern lifestyles and evolving dietary habits.

Some years ago, protein bars aimed at sports nutrition dominated the nutrition bar shelf. More recently, however, the weight-management market has become a driving force. As a weight-management tool, the meal-replacement bar offers many advantages to modern lifestyles and evolving dietary habits. While today’s consumers may be tempted to reach for calorie-laden, fat-saturated “fast foods” in lieu of nutritionally balanced, wholesome meals that may be time-prohibitive to prepare, meal-replacement bars offer consumers a healthier on-the-go option, with added nutrient benefits, to boot.

The market may offer consumers several off-the-shelf weight-management product options-but bars offer benefits that some other weight-management options can’t. For instance, although dietary supplements in the form of pills may promise to promote feelings of fullness, tablets and capsules are no substitute for the eating experience that a meal-replacement bar can provide.

Similarly, powders for meal-replacement beverages may still require a bit of preparation, whereas a meal-replacement bar can be eaten immediately, with no preparation required.

Thanks to ever-evolving formulation and ingredient options, bars can be developed to work with every type of weight-management philosophy-low carbohydrate, high protein, low fat, and low calorie are just a few.

Ingredients to Watch

The nutrition bar industry is always on the lookout for promising new ingredients. Companies that detect trends early and develop ready-to-use concepts promptly-even if an ingredient is still awaiting an approval or health claim-will have an advantage. Below are just a few ingredients showing promise.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has shown effects for stimulating fat breakdown in the body, is one weight-management ingredient bar formulators should keep on their radars. In recent reports, market trends analyst Euromonitor International cited CLA as a key ingredient in the future weight-management market. On the regulatory front, while CLA achieved GRAS status in the United States in 2008, and the ingredient has Novel Food approval elsewhere, Novel Food approval in the European Union is still pending. Once CLA gains Novel Food approval in the EU, companies that have been prepared to include this ingredient will be able to get to the EU market quicker, without losing time on product development and testing.

Another weight-management ingredient showing promise for bars is Stepan Co.’s (Northfield, IL) PinnoThin ingredient, which is derived from the seeds of the Korean pine nut tree (Pinus koraiensis). VSI recently developed a bar containing 3 g of PinnoThin, whose benefits include promoting satiety.

Low-calorie bars are also taking a step forward. VSI recently created a 40-g bar with only 99 cal/serving. Considering that most 99-cal bars weigh approximately 25 g, the low-calorie bar with greater mass gives consumers more to munch on, while still helping them maintain caloric intake.

Other ingredients of interest in the weight-management bar market include L-carnitine for a boost in fat burning. Probiotics can also be encapsulated in weight-management bars to provide additional well-being.

But Keep in Mind…

If nutrition bars are to be eaten in lieu of a meal, companies must strive especially hard to combine functionality with a pleasant eating experience. After all, bar innovation is not only about functional ingredients; it’s always about taste and texture, too.

Thankfully, the latest technologies, new ingredients, and insight into the influence of ingredients on product characteristics ensure that companies can now produce diet and meal-replacement bars that meet the standards consumers expect. Also, sometimes a bit of courage is also required when creating something new. For instance, VSI created a prebiotic savory bar in bacon and chili flavors-not your typical nutrition bar varieties. Some meal-replacement bars today can even have the taste and texture of regular confectionery bars-proof that dieting doesn’t necessarily have to be a punishment. The possibilities are endless.

Putting these ideas into practice and producing meal-replacement bars that deliver in terms of taste and nutrition does, however, have its challenges. A meal-replacement bar is exactly what its name implies-a bar that’s intended to replace a meal with adequate quantities of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Technical difficulties often lie in bringing together the right texture, flavor, and nutritional requirements-and furthermore, ensuring adequate shelf life.

There are several factors in ensuring stability for the life of a meal-replacement bar. It is important to know which processes and reactions will take place within the bar during production, as well as throughout its shelf life. Different ingredients react with each other in different ways. Vitamins and minerals, for instance, tend to create robust and tough nougat bars and could produce off-flavors. The right combination of flavors and nutrients will prevent this. By choosing the best match between protein source, other ingredients, and syrup mix, the best possible taste and texture can be obtained.

All of a bar’s elements must work together. Each and every ingredient added to a recipe adds to the bar mix, and the value of a single ingredient is measured by what it adds to the whole. Companies must continually ask themselves: what is the contribution of this ingredient, what does it do to the taste, and what are its effects on cost? Everything needs to be balanced.

Remember, the makings of a beautiful bar start from the inside. 


Sidebar 1: A Bar Is Born

The production process for meal-replacement bars starts by mixing the right ingredients together. Batch by batch, the dry ingredients are mixed with syrups and other fluids to produce a sticky mass. Sheet-forming equipment is then used to make this mass into a sheet of dough, which is cut into the right dimensions. This core of the bar will be rich in protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. As an indulgent finishing touch, the bar can be covered with a reduced-calorie chocolate coating, for instance.


Sidebar 2: New to MarketBy Jennifer Grebow, Editor-in-Chief

Customers seeking satiety from a bar have two new options, both launched by doctors.

Several products from the Fullbar weight-management brand, founded by bariatric surgeon Michael A. Snyder, MD, have been reformulated with Slendesta, a patented potato protein ingredient from Kemin Health (Des Moines, IA).

Kemin says human clinical studies on more than 500 patients collectively have demonstrated Slendesta’s satiety effects. The ingredient is all-natural, stimulant free, and GRAS affirmed. Its active component is proteinase inhibitor II, a protein found under the skin of the potato that encourages the release of “fullness hormone” cholecystokinin (CCK), a natural signaling peptide in the body. Once released, CCK induces feelings of fullness.

“Making healthy choices isn’t always easy as busy schedules leave little time and consideration for weight management,” said Linda Fullmer, Kemin’s senior vice president, human nutrition and health, in a press release. “Slendesta helps dieters stay naturally in control of their hunger...”

Another new bar, ActiLean, is the brainchild of physician Michael D. Myers, MD. The bar features life’sDHA, a vegetarian DHA omega-3 algal oil from DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ).

“We focused on the high-protein, calorie-controlled meal replacements, since these have generally proven to be the most efficacious for weight management,” says Myers, who specializes in the weight-management field. “There are some unique features of DHA that we felt we could leverage to promote satiety.”

Myers says that high intake of DHA, when combined with a high-protein, calorie-controlled diet, has been shown to improve satiety. In a 2008 Appetite study by Parra et al., a diet rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (subjects took fish oil) provided postprandial satiety in overweight and obese subjects. Myers also notes DHA’s other benefits for cardiovascular and cognitive health.

Each ActiLean bar contains a sizeable dose of DHA (240 mg), 15 g of protein, and only 180 cal. To ensure great taste, Myers and his development team worked on proprietary technology to microencapsulate the algal oil. The result? A peanut butter chocolate bar that’s both tasty and functional.

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