Not Just for Breakfast: A Boom in the Food Bars Market

U.S. retail sales of cereal/granola bars and energy/nutrition bars reached $5.7 billion in 2011, according to Food Bars in the U.S., a just-released report from Packaged Facts.

Food bars have been generating sound and fury in the marketplace recently, posting double-digit growth rates for successful product types in the mass market as well as the natural products channel.  Reasons for this boom include increased sophistication in marketing bars to different consumer sets and continued innovation in formulations and formats.

According to David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, “Food trends such as the blurring of meals and snacks, an emphasis on portion control, and increasingly informal, spur-of-the-moment, and customized eating all favor the food bar market.”

A main trend in the market overall is the blurring of distinctions between cereal/granola bars and energy/nutrition bars. Broadly speaking, cereal/granola bars are focusing more on nutrition and incorporating functional ingredients (such as added protein or fiber), while energy/nutrition bars are incorporating ever more creative and decadent formulations to make them more appetizing.

Cereal bar manufacturers are targeting consumers who wish to move away from treats and are looking for a workout energy boost, a nutritious snack or even a fast meal replacement option. Over the past few years, cereal bars with reduced calories, fat or sugar have performed quite well, although the number of product introductions with these claims has fallen sharply in the last five years. Manufacturers are addressing more sophisticated concerns, such as creating products to supplement perceived nutritional deficits that might be incurred in a weight-loss program. High-protein, low-carbohydrate or balanced-gastrointestinal formulations have seen good growth.

In the energy/nutrition bar category, new flavor and ingredient introductions along with improvements in taste and mouthfeel have made the future of these products look very bright. Among the functional ingredients that manufacturers are using to vary the nutrition bar formula are CoQ10, L-carnitine, omega-3, resveratrol, and vitamin K2.

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