Nutrition and energy that meets the bar

by Allison Sebolt
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It’s an easy response to curb hunger after a workout, as a mid-afternoon snack or sometimes even a meal replacement — grab one of the many nutrition bars on the market to provide nutrition and energy.

"Healthy snacking is very hot," said Phil Walotsky, spokesperson for KIND Fruit + Nut bars, PeaceWorks Holdings, New York. "Where we see a great deal of our growth is adoption by casual consumers who look for a healthy option with emphasis on taste and natural ingredients. We’re finding that nutrition bars are being used less as an activity-specific food — for example, something you only eat after a workout — and more people are adding them as a staple of their diet."

For the year ended July 13, total dollar sales for the snack and granola bar category were $2,286,574,000 in channels excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., up almost 5% from the previous year, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based research firm. Mintel International, Chicago, noted there were a total of 510 new products introduced in 2007 in the snack, cereal and energy bar category. This compared with 425 new products introduced in 2006 and the 290 that have been introduced in 2008.

LUNA, a brand of Clif Bar and Co., Berkeley, Calif., was introduced in 1999 as the company noticed the market at the time lacked a bar for women. The products were designed to meet specific concerns of women such as calories, a desire for more indulgent flavors and women’s specific nutritional needs.

One of LUNA’s new products is LUNA Mini’s, which are a little less than half the size of the regular bars and are only 80 calories each. The bars contain 4 grams of protein, are high in folic acid and a good source of calcium and antioxidants. The Clif Bar company also introduced a portion-controlled mini energy bar, which is about half the size of regular Clif bars. The products also have natural and organic ingredients.

Positioning the products according to their health benefits is important. According to Mintel, the top claims for new nutritional bars introduced in the past year include kosher, organic, all-natural, low/no/or reduced allergens, low/no/or reduced trans fats and gluten-free. In fact, Zoobars, Jungle Treats Co., Huntington, N.Y., recently introduced a new line of gluten-free bars specifically developed by an athlete looking for a healthy snack for energy despite having a gluten intolerance.

While SOYJOY, Pharmavite, Northridge, Calif., positions its products less as a nutrition bar and more as an all-natural snack made with soy and real fruit, it is an example of health and organic positioning.

"SOYJOY is a good example of the burgeoning category of the ‘better-for-you’ snacks consumers are seeking," said Doug Jones, manager of corporate communications. "It’s portion-controlled, satiating and easy to take with you. The most popular flavors in the U.S. are berry and peanut chocolate chip."

In terms of future innovation, Mintel said nutrition and energy bar manufacturers must continue to evolve formulas in terms of taste and functional benefits, and that consumers of such products want protein and vitamins in their food, but are also interested in whole grains, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, LUNA already has a bar to honor the Breast Cancer Fund that is high in antioxidants.

"We also believe consumers will continue to become more educated about the food they purchase, and will reward companies that produce healthy snacks that reflect their more discerning desires, tastes and values," Mr. Walotsky said. "Consumers will continue to look for products that are less processed and foods that don’t contain suspect ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, and instead turn to foods with integrity that taste great and provide real nutritional value."

Mintel said walnuts, dark chocolate and pomegranates would also make good ingredients.

Despite the high level of innovation, there are hurdles for nutrition bar manufacturers to overcome. According to Mintel, a reason why some consumers have cut back on nutrition bars is because they aren’t using the bars for weight loss as they previously were. Specifically, consumers also had concerns of high calorie and sugar content.

"Organic and natural ingredients will continue to be important, but nutrient-dense snacking will become more important as we move away from snacks with empty calories," said Susan Gally, brand manager for LUNA.

Bar dollar sales

Snack bars/granola bars $2,286,574,000

All other snack/granola bars $26,296,090

Rice snack squares $114,040,100

Nutritional/intrinsic health value bars $552,176,100

Breakfast/cereal/snack bars $700,596,700

Granola bars $893,464,800


Total U.S. - Supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandiser outlets, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Latest 52 weeks ended July 13, 2008

Source: Information Resources, Inc.

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