Nutrition

Looking ahead: a bright future for bars

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It is an exciting time for bars, with innovation ramping up in recent years. But have we now reached peak popularity? Max Maxwell, Market Intelligence Manager, Glanbia Nutritionals, discusses latest trends in the category and the future of bars.

As more consumers move away from the format of three square meals per day, bars have become a mainstay of the snacking category. This trend is becoming increasingly prominent, with younger age groups, like Generation Z and Millennials, claiming they can’t cope without their daily snack fix(1). So, why do bars keep growing in popularity? They’re an ideal vehicle for delivering bold flavours in a convenient and nutritious format, but until recently flavour and packaging have not varied much. There are many players in the market, which allows bars to play host to the latest flavours and ingredients, as brands look to stand out on crowded retail shelves and online.

Protein bars started in sports nutrition and have maintained a healthy position as they have expanded into mainstream. People perceive protein bars as a healthy snack providing a nutritional boost. When it comes to nutrition bars, protein and fiber are the most popular ingredients for fortification and reducing sugar is a growing trend. Fortifying with vitamins and minerals is an emerging trend. The latest product launches claim to enhance health and wellness areas, such as mental health, boost energy, provide beauty, and skin benefits. Manufacturers have become wary, however, of including too many health claims on one product – preferring to stick to one or two to encourage repeat purchasing and brand loyalty. After all, taste remains a key driver for consumers.

So, is there still room for innovation in the nutrition bar space? We certainly think so. Bars present a convenient and inexpensive way for consumers to try new flavours and textures. As they continue to be a staple item in modern consumer diets, there is an opportunity to break away from the traditional shape and experiment with other formats, such as mini-bars & bites. There is also significant scope to develop new products that align with the latest ingredient trends, like plant-based proteins, up-cycled grains, and micronutrients.

Consumer buying behaviour is changing more rapidly than ever. More people are ordering direct from the brand or e-commerce platform, especially since COVID-19 has impacted all food buying activity. More nutrition bar e-commerce is a huge opportunity for manufacturers to experiment with different ingredients, creating tastes that appeal to a more targeted consumer with less risk. This type of shopping is setting the stage for personalisation to gain traction in the bar market. There are few barriers to growth for those marketing innovative bars.

For more information on the latest bar trends, listen to our Table Talk two-part podcast featuring the Glanbia Nutritionals Healthy Snacking Team:

Trends & insights in nutrition bars: part one
Trends & insights in nutrition bars: part two

1. Hartman Group, Evolution of Snacking, March 2019 & Gen Z Report – 2018