Nutritional bars trend from sweet to savory

Nutritional bars trend from sweet to savory

Nutritional bars have gained a prominent place in the pantheon of snacks revered by a nation of snackers.  Nutritional bars are a handy way for consumers to stop eating three meals a day at set times and to start consuming smaller portions of food throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home.

Nutritional bars conform to a broad cultural shift toward healthier, good-for-you food products.  Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to offer bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and “natural” characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free.  Nutritional bars, which have achieved torrid sales growth in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed.

Nutritional bars have long been marketed as a source of quick energy and meal replacements for athletes and fitness buffs.  As seen in a February 2015 report from Packaged Facts (Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S.), the psychographic profile of high-volume users of nutritional bars indicates that marketers of these products will continue to be on target with advertising campaigns geared toward fitness and outdoor activities.  High-volume users of nutritional bars are more likely to say they enjoy taking risks (42% vs. 34%) and have a higher likelihood of engaging in outdoor pursuits such as mountain/rock climbing, backpacking and mountain biking.  They also are far more likely to try to stay fit by engaging in fitness activities such as fitness walking and weight training.

An emerging trend highlighted in this Packaged Facts report is that consumers engaged in sports and fitness activities are starting to shy away from sweet flavors and are increasingly being drawn to savory snacks.  Savory bars also provide flavor options for different times of the day, reflecting the fact that consumers often look to sweet flavors earlier in the day and savory flavors later in the day.

Marketers are rushing to roll out new nutritional bars to reflect this shift in flavor preferences.  The shift toward savory nutritional bars has increased the popularity of bars that offer meat as a protein source.  Consumers can also expect to find more and more nutritional bars using vegetables as their protein source.  Nutritional bars now on the market include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, bell pepper and basil. 

Some industry analysts note that savory bars will need to overcome a number of obstacles if they are to succeed in the marketplace.  They are more difficult to manufacture because they lack sweeteners that act as binding agents.  Moreover, marketers need to find ways to overcome the ingrained association between snack bars and sweet flavors.  Perhaps the stiffest challenge is faced by New York, New York-based Exo, a marketer of bars with ingredients including finely ground crickets.  Still, the company can claim that crickets are 69% protein by dry weight as compared with 31% for chicken breast and 29% for sirloin steak and they provide more iron than beef does and nearly as much calcium as milk.  Thus, Exo bars reflect one of the overarching trends now driving change in the packaged food industry:  the unending the unending quest of consumers for new and exciting sources of protein.

This blog is based partially on research featured in Packaged Facts’Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S.  Add this report to your own intelligence library and receive a 5% discount during our promotional period effective through June 30, 2015. Use code PFCEREALBARS15.

-- By Dr. Robert Brown and Ms. Ruth Washton