Raise the Bar

As convenient grab-and-go options, snack bars continue to grow in their appeal to today’s consumers. In its December 2013 “Snack Bars in the US” report, London-based Euromonitor International forecasts snack bar sales to increase by 15 percent in the United States, in constant value terms, to reach $7.6 billion by 2018. Retailers that approach store brand product development with an eye toward current and emerging trends could grab their fair share of this growth.

Trends with traction

The health aspects of many snack bars mesh well with consumers’ strong interest in health and wellness. According to Euromonitor, many snack bar marketers are focusing on fiber content, as well as offering gluten-free varieties to appeal to a growing consumer base seeking such options.

Energy and nutrition bars are leading the category’s growth. And with more consumers also looking for natural and non-GMO options, new snack bars are frequently highlighting natural and/or non-GMO status, Euromonitor says.

Protein content also remains a significant area of interest and focus.

“We are still seeing protein callouts in the snack bar category, where brands are including ‘everyday’ protein levels — from 7 grams to 12 grams — into snack bars,” says Brianne Arnott, brand manager for Markham, Ontario-based Taste of Nature Foods Inc.

She expects the interest in protein only to continue to grow, considering its prevalence in the nutrition arena.

Trends on the horizon

Looking to 2015 and beyond, breakfast bars — which have posted recent sales declines — could continue to take a sales hit, thanks to cannibalization from other snack bar subcategories such as energy and nutrition bars, Euromonitor says.

“Consumers see energy and nutrition bars as a much more convenient product, which can be used at breakfast time or between meals,” the company states. “In addition, the higher protein and nutritional content of energy and nutrition bars has led some consumers to believe that they will satiate them for longer than breakfast bars.”

Retailers also can expect innovations in competing areas such as confectionery and sweet and savory snacks to pose a threat to store brand snack bar growth — and growth of the overall category. Euromonitor notes that chocolate and salty combinations are very popular among indulgence-oriented consumers.

Although chocolate still appears to come out on top when it comes to snack bar flavor preferences in North America, Arnott says other flavors are emerging to meet the indulgence trend.

“More indulgent flavors are seen capitalizing on the need for great taste within the healthy snacking category,” she says. “More exotic flavors will arise — flavors usually experienced in other types of foods will be seen in the bar category.”

Millennials, in particular, are seeking out new flavor experiences, Arnott adds.

“With the relatively low price of a snack bar, there is little risk in consumers trying something new,” she says.