Consumer Trends Impact Nutrition Bar Market

(excerpt, originally published 01/09/2009)

As meal replacements or snacks, for young or for old, for man or woman, everyone is able to find a nutritional bar to suit their tastes and needs. Bars are targeted toward consumers’ unique needs, such as women’s health, energy bars, protein bars, cholesterol management, sports nutrition and kids’ bars.

Nutritional bars have undergone quite a transformation over the years. From tasteless, gummy messes to something that’s actually appetizing, they’ve been formulated to appeal to the masses. According to AIBOnline.org, the nutritional health bars total category sales in 2004 (52 weeks ending in December 2004) was more than $656 million.

One of the motivations behind a consumer’s decision to eat a nutritional bar is convenience, according to Jack J. Singh, N.D., CEO, Organic Food Bar Inc. “People’s schedules are more frenetic than ever and it is often challenging to eat a healthful, delicious, prepared meal on-the-go,” he noted.

Indeed, people have been sacrificing nutrition for convenience, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive®, which found nine out of 10 U.S. adults eat meals or snacks on the go; six out of 10 do so on a daily basis; and about 26 percent do so two to three times daily. The survey, commissioned by ZonePerfect to learn more about why American adults eat on the go and the effect it has on overall nutrition, discovered many American adults admitted to falling off the “health and wellness wagon,” and a large proportion cited on-the-go activities (i.e. eating on the go, traveling/dining out, when tempted by food at the office) as a reason.

Saul Katz, president and CEO, Solo GI Nutrition Inc., noted: “Although consuming three balanced meals per day has been traditionally prescribed as the best way to eat, the nutritional landscape is changing. First, it is not feasible for everyone to consume regularly-scheduled meals, especially people with demanding jobs or children to look after. Second, more nutrition professionals are promoting ‘smart snacking’ between meals. Nutritional bars are the ideal delivery system for nutrients and can assist in obtaining one’s daily requirements of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients, such as protein and fiber. Bars can be used to fuel up before a workout, to replace a small meal, or as an indulgent snack throughout the day.”

Concerns about weight have also led consumers to the bar, said Lisa Wells, brand manager, Atkins. “Consumers are in a constant struggle with their weight and want to regain control,” she said. “They want to have a more positive body image and increased confidence. … They want to make better food choices and are looking to change their eating habits as a lifestyle, rather than a quick fix, whether they are trying to lose or maintain weight.”

Kerry Ingredients & Flavours Inc. conducted an online consumer study in May 2008 of weight management and energy/performance bar users. A total of 441 responded to the survey, with 67 percent of respondents saying they’d eaten a weight management bar in the past 30 days, an average of 9.4 food bars over the 30-day period.

Bars are excellent for those seeking portion control, Rob Hurlbut, CEO, Attune Foods pointed out. “[People are] looking at these bars as products specifically designed to deliver nutrients, so they’re a good source of functional nutrition and an easy means of controlling calories through portion control. While the latter may be more subconscious reasoning than premeditated thought—the idea of getting all of the nutrients you need in a convenient, low-calorie form is an attractive one that’s kept this category growing.”

Sometimes bars can be used to add needed calories to one’s diet, such as Bellybars for mothers-to-be, said Leslie Barber, co-founder, Bellybar Products. “Since pregnant and nursing women are often hungry and need additional calories, they use Bellybar as a snack between meals,” she said. “ Many pregnant women start to feel sick if they don’t eat often enough.”

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