Bars: Big Impact in a Small Package

December 4, 2017
Consumer Flavor Ingredients Snacks Trends
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With 25% growth expected in the next five years, it’s no surprise that snack bars are a huge area of focus for product developers. The reasons for the popularity track perfectly with consumers’ overall needs and interests: convenience, portability and nutrition-focused. The variety of forms and tastes truly spans the spectrum. Meanwhile developers are innovating and expanding their toolbox daily. Let’s take a global look at bars, from new forms like bites to opportunities within functional ingredients, reduced sugar, savory spins and plant proteins.

Global Launches

Global bar introductions rose 5% from 2015 to 2016. The category is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2021, equaling a five-year-gain of 23%. In the US, sales increased 24% from 2011-2016 to $6.7 billion. Across the Atlantic, we see France with a 325% increase in launches over this time period, Italy with 496% and the Czech Republic tallying a huge 1,640% increase.

Other European markets such as the UK, Turkey, Sweden, Norway, as well as Russia, aren’t currently on the bar bandwagon. This lack of saturation could mean huge opportunity, since consumers worldwide demand healthier, more nutrient-dense, portable snack foods.


While highlighting health attributes is important for bar brands, it always come back to taste. While good-for-you ingredients Chia, Quinoa, Flax, Spirulina and Hemp are increasing, beloved tastes like Chocolate, Nuts and fruits like Coconut and Apple reign supreme.

An interesting cross-category influence to note is the rise of coffee culture bringing cafe inspiration to bars. Flavors like Coffee, Mocha, Espresso and Cappuccino are all appearing more often in the market. We see classic pairings with flavors such as Chocolate, Vanilla, Brownie, Almond, Cinnamon, Walnut, and Cacao, as well as more adventurous combinations with Cake, Raspberry, Cashew, Stout, Sour Cherry and Chia.
Top 15 Flavors

• Chocolate
• Almond
• Nut
• Cranberry
• Coconut
• Dark Chocolate
• Apple
• Peanut
• Strawberry
• Cocoa
• Fruit
• Peanut Butter
• Yogurt
• Banana
• Honey
Top 15 Growing Flavors

• Chia
• Quinoa
• Cake
• Butter
• Fruit
• Apple Pie
• Cookie Dough
• Pretzel
• Hemp
• Coffee/Espresso
• Spirulina
• Flax
• Pumpkin Seed
• Sweet & Salty
• Coffee/Cappuccino
Products of Note

• LIEBHART’S ORGANIC CAPPUCCINO FLAVORED FRUIT BAR is free from egg, comprises a honey and almond bar formulated with whole milk, chocolate and coffee. Germany Oct. 2017

• PALEO ESPRESSO PROTEIN BAR has been reformulated with probiotics and prebiotics. This snack bar contains egg white protein and has 100mg caffeine per bar. US March 2017
For way more products of note, including Gogo Goji Health Bombs, click here for the full report.

Protein Candy Bars: Snickers, Mars, Milky Way, Bounty

Blogs and Pinterest boards have long been home to homemade protein candy bars, recipes created to take a favorite treat and give it a healthy twist. For example, interested snackers could make Protein Pow’s Snickers-Inspired Protein Bars featuring ground almonds, coconut flour, almond milk and Medjool dates. Or, use peanut butter, honey and coconut oil to make Healthy Homemade Snickers Protein Bars, positioned as “quick, easy and portable snacks” on The Big Man’s World blog.

Now, if you live in the UK or shop on Amazon, you can pick up the real deal: Protein Snickers, Milky Way, Mars and Bounty candy bars. Reports from consumers who have tried one of these new creations is that they taste like the original candy bars, just with 18-19g of protein per bar as an added bonus. The bars clock in at fewer than 200 calories and have 9-13g of sugar. These nutritional stats put the bars on level footing with other protein bars on the market (and definitely more healthy than the original candy bars!).
Click here for the full details on Quest's new high-protein multi-textured candy bar.

Flavor Trend: A Move Toward Savory Flavors

The majority of snack bars have sweet flavors, but in the US, where 84% of consumers claim to limit the amount of sugar in their diets, nearly a third of consumers show interest in snack bar innovation with savory flavors. It’s not just the United States where savory flavors are gaining favor. Globally, savory flavors and descriptors such as spicy and salty are on the rise. Ethnic flavors also continue to gain traction as society becomes more diverse and world travel more common. These trends open doors for product developers to expand their toolkits of savory flavors, including formulating with more vegetables, meat, herbs and global spices, as well as offering bold flavors, such as smoky and sour.

Founded by a trio of avid travelers, Journey Bars incorporate all of these flavor trends into their products. They’re made from almonds, whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, oats, and flaxseed and real herbs and spices inspired by global cuisine. Designed to be a grab-and-go snack that “tastes like a meal, not candy,” they have 7g of sugar and a soft, chewy texture. Flavors include Thai-inspired Coconut Curry, Italian-inspired Pizza Marinara, Japaneseinspired Sesame Ginger, French-inspired Rosemary, and Sea Salt.
Products of Note

• MEDITERRA SAVORY BAR WITH KALE, POMEGRANATE, QUINOA & ALMONDS boasts a gourmet blend of pea crisps, quinoa, almonds, and a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Other flavors include Kale, Apple, Quinoa & Almonds; Kale & Pumpkin Seeds; and Black Olives & Walnuts. US June 2017

• VÉA WORLD RECIPES PERUVIAN SWEET POTATO MINI CRUNCH BARS have layers of Peruvian-inspired flavor with shredded sweet potato and cayenne pepper all combined with real ingredients like black chia seeds. US Sept. 2017

• BRICKS MEALS & SNACKS TURKEY SWEET POTATO CRANBERRY AND PUMPKIN SEED BAR is made with turkey. Also available in Grass Fed Beef Uncured Bacon Cranberry and Sunflower Seeds flavor. US Jan. 2016
Click here for way more details, including a ton of info on plant-based bars!

Functional Ingredients

In their 2018 trends outlook, Mintel advises brands to promote self-care as a permissible and essential. An attitude of “Take control of your health, even if you can’t control life.” Food is, of course, a major player in self-care and wellness, and as consumers continue to focus on feeling better and leading happier lives, they want convenient food products to help in this mission. In response, global launches of bars with a Functional claim rose 82% between 2011 and 2016. The majority of these products are from the US (22%) with UK, Australia, Mexico and Italy rounding out the top 5. Italy experienced incredible growth with launches climbing from only 2 in 2011 to 57 last year. And France appears to be poised for similar growth: the country currently only accounts for 3% of global bar launches with Functional claims, and 65% of French consumers say they’d like to see more bars with added health benefits.

Looking at specific functional claims, Brain & Nervous System more than doubled from 2011-2016, Other functional claims jumped 278% (metabolism, anti-inflammatory, etc.) and Cardiovascular rose 142% from 2011-2015. The top growing claim in functional bars is Low/No/Reduced Lactose with +400% growth.

Adapting to Consumer Views

Two bar brands we spotted changing their approaches to product functionality: Atkins and Zing. Atkins, known for a weight loss positioning, launched high protein Lift sports nutrition bars to try to appeal to younger fitness enthusiasts and protein-seekers who have been uninterested in their low carb weight loss positioning.

Zing vegan nutrition bars, founded by registered dieticians in 2007, rebranded to position themselves as a product providing customers “vitality” rather than “energy.” CEO David Ingalls told Food Navigator that energy has “become synonymous with sugar and caffeine, whereas vitality comes from great taste and sustained energy.”
Top Growing Flavors

• White Chocolate +200.00%
• Seed +400.00%
• Sea Salt +100.00%
• Date +100.00%
• Carob +100.00%
• Red Berry +100.00%
Products of Note

• TWO MOMS IN THE RAW SOUL SPROUT CACAO NIB CRUNCH GRANOLA BARS feature an Accelerated Nutrition, which is driven by the body’s positive responses to raw and sprouted ingredients that provide wellness and high energy. US Sept. 2017

• AWAKE ENERGY GRANOLA DARK CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CHEWY BARS are made with caffeine and B vitamins. Each snack bar is equal to half a cup of coffee to help fuel the body. US March 2017

Small Size, Huge Opportunity

Snack bars (including the array of ever-expanding formats) answer a clear need for consumers: deliver convenience, pack in health and nutrition, and provide a myriad of tastes and ingredients. Bars are growing and show no sign of slowing, with an estimated 25% increase in the next five years. Dream big when it comes to this space. Whether bars, bites or balls, protein/energy snacks, consumers are engaged. Help them find the functional benefits they need and make it easy to explore through savory flavors, ethnic spices, vegetable and meat ingredients and plant proteins. And when these elements come together in a well-crafted ingredient list, consider it an asset, and don’t hide it away in the small print.


Let FONA’s market insight and research experts translate these trends into product category ideas for your brand. They can help you with concept and flavor pipeline development, ideation, consumer studies and white space analysis to pinpoint opportunities in the market.

Our flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. We understand how to mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution.

Contact our Sales Service Dep at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit

Sources in full report