The bar category has received a healthy boost over the past year from companies using the segment as a platform to launch new products and try new things — “healthy” being the key term.
In the 52 weeks ended Nov. 1, dollar sales of the snack bars/granola bars category totaled $5,774,641,664, up 5% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based research firm. Unit sales during the period increased 4% to 2,256,264,960.
Helping spur the growth has been a focus by companies to deliver on the health message that resonates throughout the broader food industry. In May, two of the nation’s largest confectionery companies — Mars, Inc. and Hershey Co. — threw their hats into the ring with the launch of new bar products.
Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J., is known for its Snickers and M&M’s candies, but earlier this year the company introduced a line of snack squares made with whole nuts, fruit, toasted oats and dark chocolate. Divided into four two-bite squares per 150-calorie serving, goodnessknows Snack Squares contain no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. The product was first introduced in test markets in 2010 and rolled out nationally in August. Varieties include cranberry almond dark chocolate, apple almond and peanut dark chocolate, and peach and cherry almond dark chocolate.
Mars’ rival, The Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa., debuted a similar product this year — Brookside Fruit and Nut Bars. The bars contain fruit, whole roasted almonds, whole grain rolled oats and a layer of dark chocolate.
The bars introduced by Hershey and Mars are similar to the bars offered by Kind L.L.C., New York, in that they feature whole pieces of fruits and nuts. Following Kind’s lead may not be a bad idea. In the 52 weeks ended Nov. 1, Kind had dollar sales of nearly $311 million across its nutrition bar portfolio, up 36% from the same period a year, according to I.R.I. The company’s Healthy Grains granola bar line also performed strong, rising 101% during the period to nearly $80 million in dollar sales.
Not content to stand pat, though, Kind on Nov. 4 unveiled plans to reduce added sugar across its original Fruit & Nut bar portfolio. The effort, which started in late 2014, is part of Kind’s brand promise to offer “wholesome and tasty snack choices.”
Beginning in the spring of 2016, Kind said it will introduce select Kind Fruit & Nut bars like apple cinnamon and pecan, and almonds and apricots in yogurt, with between 15% and 50% less added sugar than they currently contain. In all, the recipe update will affect seven flavors across Kind’s Fruit & Nut bar portfolio, the company said.
Kind said it will accomplish the sugar reduction by identifying ways to lower sugar without compromising taste, such as swapping sweetened fruit with unsweetened fruit and reducing added sugar in certain ingredients like yogurt coatings.
“At Kind we’re constantly challenging ourselves to do better,” said Daniel Lubetzky, founder and chief executive officer of Kind. “Last year our team revisited the line that started it all for Kind, our Fruit & Nut bars, looking for ways to keep improving on a snack that was already packed with wholesome, delicious ingredients.”
Kind Fruit & Nut bars were introduced in 2004. The product’s No. 1 ingredient is nuts, and the bars have a low-glycemic index, according to Kind.
The initiative to lower the added sugar in Kind Fruit & Nut bars is the company’s latest in an ongoing effort to create snacks that are both wholesome and delicious. The move also coincides with a Food and Drug Administration proposal that would require food companies to list “added sugars” separate on the Nutrition Facts Panel and include a per cent Daily Value. The company said it supports the F.D.A. proposal.
The J.M. Smucker Co., Orrville, Ohio, also is in on the health bar kick. The company in August 2014 acquired Sahale Snacks, Inc., and earlier this month rolled out Layered Nut Bars in four distinctive varieties. Sahale Snacks signature glazed nuts, fruits and spices are blended with crispy puffed grains, then layered on a creamy cashew nut butter blend and finished with a drizzle of chocolate.
“Sahale Snacks offers innovative nut and fruit mix ingredient combinations that make every snacking experience a moment to savor,” said Maribeth Burns, vice-president of corporate communications, The J.M. Smucker Co. “We’re delighted to have Sahale Snacks as part of The J.M. Smucker Co. family of brands and to introduce unique offerings like the new Layered Nut Bars.”