Easy meal, big sales

by Eric Schroeder
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The bar business is booming.

According to data from SymphonyIRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, dollar sales of snack bars/granola bars totaled $3,275,272,000 in the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, up 7% from the same period a year ago, while unit sales climbed 4% to 1,559,923,000.

Bars fall into a number of different sub-categories, including snack bars, granola bars, breakfast bars and health bars. And in nearly every sub-category, consumers are finding at least a few products they like, driving dollar sales up — sharply in some cases.

The largest sub-category, defined by SymphonyIRI as “nutritional/intrinsic health value bars,” scored a 15% increase in dollar sales and 13% gain in unit sales in the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30. Of the top 10 brands tracked by SymphonyIRI, seven posted double-digit sales growth during the period, with an eighth brand growing at a 9.8% clip.

Two of the top three brands in the nutrition bar category have roots in the ready-to-eat cereal business, with Minneapolis-based General Mills, Inc. Fiber One bars the segment’s top seller with dollar sales of $174,605,100, and Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co.’s Special K Protein bars No. 3 with sales of $101,270,600.

The rest of the category’s leading brands belong to companies with a core focus on bars, including Clif Bar & Co. and Power Bar Inc. At Clif Bar, growth was wide ranging, from a 16% dollar sales increase in its Clif Luna bar product to a 48% jump in dollar sales for its Clif Builder’s bar.

“People continue to seek healthy, portable, food to support their active, increasingly health-conscious lifestyles,” said Steve Grossman, vice-president of strategic customer planning at Clif Bar, Emeryville, Calif. “Bars are a great fit for that, especially if they deliver on both taste and nutrition. At Clif Bar, we consistently strive to combine the two, making bars with organic ingredients in a variety of delicious flavors.”

Elaborating on the widespread success of Clif Bars over the past year, Mr. Grossman said he believes consumers appreciate the “kitchen-crafted care” that the company puts into making the bars.

“We use nutritious, mostly organic ingredients and pride ourselves on delivering great taste and variety, often creating new, unique flavors for the bar category,” he said.

Over the past few months, Mr. Grossman said Clif Bar has introduced Clif Kid Zbar Crispy, an organic rice snack for children; converted Luna Protein to gluten-free; and debuted new flavors of Clif Bar, Clif Crunch and Clif Mojo.

Other companies capitalizing on interest in the health bar category include Abbott Nutrition, Abbott Park,
Ill., which in late Oct-ober launched Glucerna Hunger Smart bars for people with diabetes, and Maui Peace Organics, Inc., Maui, Hawaii, which introduced Maui Extreme Sportsynergy Bar. The Hunger Smart bars feature a proprietary carbohydrate blend called Carb Steady, which includes both low glycemic and slowly-digestible carbohydrates designed to help minimize blood sugar spikes, while the Maui Extreme Sportsynergy Bar derives energy from the Kona coffee fruit.

Granola sector also growing

The granola bar category also showed strong growth during the past year, with dollar sales climbing 4% to $1,107,402,000, according to SymphonyIRI. Pacing the growth was the Nature Valley brand, another General Mills product. With dollar sales of $273,725,100, the brand was up 18% from a year ago on an 11% gain in unit sales to 125,636,200. Under the Nature Valley brand, General Mills offers several line extensions, including Sweet & Salty Nut, Chewy Trail Mix, Roasted Nut Crunch, and the most recent launch, Granola Thins.

Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars (that SymphonyIRI places this in a different grouping than Fiber One bars is indicative of the fuzzy distinctions between bar categories) posted dollar sales of $70,764,910, up 19% from the same period a year ago on a 13% gain in unit sales.

Another major player in the granola bar category is Quaker Oats Co., Chicago. Although the company sustained a drop of 10% and 14%, respectively, in dollar and unit sales of its biggest brand during the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, several other brands performed well. Quaker Chewy Dipps posted a 12% increase in dollar sales during the period, to $56,863,030, while Quaker Chewy 90 Calories rose 343% to $8,555,313, according to SymphonyIRI.

Breakfast bars holding steady

In the breakfast bar category, only minimal growth was scored, as dollar sales inched up 0.69% to $862,931,300 and unit sales fell back 0.35% to 426,908,400. With all five of the top five brands in the category, Kellogg received its biggest boost from Kellogg’s Special K Fruit Crisps. The product saw dollar sales rise 50% during the 52 weeks ended Oct. 30, according to SymphonyIRI.

Another cereal maker, General Mills, experienced strong initial response to its Lucky Charms Treats bars introduced this past year, as dollar sales already are close to $15 million, according to SymphonyIRI. The launch of the Lucky Charms product comes on the heels of the introduction of Golden Grahams Treats bars, which posted sales of nearly $25 million in the most recent 52-week period.

Healthy snacking driving growth

Kristen Girard, principal food scientist with Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group, Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., attributed category growth to consumer interest in healthy snacking.

“The consumption patterns of on-the-go snack bars highlight their versatility,” Ms. Girard said. “According to a recent report, over 70% of consumers eat granola and breakfast bars as a snack; diet bars are mainly purchased as a nutritional aid for weight loss (58%) and protein bar fans tend to be motivated by an energy boost (55%). And with nearly half of cereal and snack bar consumers opting for more adventurous flavors, savvy manufacturers are on the lookout for exciting new ingredients to tap into this buoyant demand. Consequently, product differentiation is a big trend as consumer preferences break away from staple flavors, such as chocolate and strawberry.”

Ms. Girard said Ocean Spray is helping companies tap into this trend in the bar category by offering exotic flavors through its Ocean Spray ITG’s BerryFusions Fruits range, including the company’s latest addition: pomegranate.

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