KANSAS CITY — When John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. in early September agreed to acquire certain snack bar assets from TreeHouse Foods, Inc. for approximately $63 million, the company’s chief executive officer cited “the growing snack bar category” as a key driver behind the deal.

“We will be able to offer our private label customers a complete portfolio of snack bars, including fruit and grain, crunchy, protein, sweet and salty, and chewy bars that complement our internally developed nutrition bars,” said Jeffrey T. Sanfilippo, CEO.

Dollar sales in the snack bars/granola bars/clusters category totaled $6.87 billion in the 52 weeks ended July 16, up 8.3% from the same period a year ago, according to Circana, a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales were 1.36 billion, down 8.5%.

Within the category, dollar sales of nutritional/intrinsic health value bars increased 5.9% to $3.06 billion while breakfast/cereal/snack bars/clusters climbed 7.6% to $1.96 billion and granola bars rose 9.8% to $1.59 billion, according to Circana.

Seventy-five percent of current bar buyers anticipate maintaining or increasing purchases in 2023, according to the Mintel “Snack, Nutrition and Performance Bars” 2023 US report. Consumers are influenced by a variety of factors when it comes to choosing bars, from taste to convenience to cost.

“Brands that can strike the balance between innovation and familiarity while maintaining great taste will come out on top,” Sydney Olson, senior food and drink analyst, Mintel, said in the report.

Flowers Foods, Inc., Thomasville, Ga., is a relatively new player to the bar category. Known for its bread, rolls and sweet and snack cakes, Flowers is making a move into the bar category through its Dave’s Killer Bread brand. Introduced last year, DKB Organic Snack Bars have exceeded original distribution projections of 12,000 stores by the end of 2023 and now are headed toward 13,000 outlets by year’s end, said A. Ryals McMullian, chairman and chief executive officer of Flowers Foods, during a Sept. 7 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston. The company has expanded the DKB bar pipeline with DKB Amped-Up Protein Bars, which are in test markets with a nationwide launch planned for 2024.

Listening to consumer feedback led to a key change at health and wellness brand Alani Nu earlier this summer. The company revamped its protein bars to be softer, chewier and more gooey.

“Our goal was to give our community what they’ve been asking for — a softer, chewier bar in fun and delicious flavors and we’re just so happy to be able to give them that,” said Katy Hearn, founder of Alani Nu.

“Soft” also was a driving force behind two new bar products introduced this summer by Kind Snacks, a Mars, Inc. brand. In its Breakfast Protein bar line Kind added a caramel peanut variety, which the company described as a soft-baked bar with a crispy exterior and five super grains and diced peanuts. The company also launched Kind Soft Baked Squares in a chocolate almond flour brownie flavor.

Smaller is not what Lenny & Larry’s had in mind with its latest launch: the Cookie-fied Big Bar. The company said the Big Bar is a larger, 90-gram version of its Cookie-fied Bar made with nutrient-dense protein dough but now has 24 grams of plant-based protein rather than 12 grams. The Big Bar is also still gluten-free, certified vegan and Non-GMO Project verified in addition to not featuring any soy ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.

“We’re proud to pioneer the snack bar category by creating functional products that satisfy the need for nutrient-dense options, coupled with an element of playfulness,” said Jolie Weber, chief executive officer of Lenny & Larry’s. “Cookie-fied fans expressed their desire for an even more protein-packed version of a product that had become an integral part of their active and on-the-go lifestyles. Now with even more to love, Lenny & Larry’s continues to be an innovative brand that brings consumer preferences to life with a little bit of humor.”