Naomi Sleeper Category Manager Natural & Green Living Imperial Distributors

Naomi Sleeper
Category Manager
Natural & Green Living
Imperial Distributors

Getting a Boost from Nutrition Bars

As summer approaches and the sun begs to make an appearance, so do we…on bike paths, hiking and running trails, waterfronts, sports fields…any outside venue, really. The seasonal upswing in outdoor activities, enhanced by growing focus on wellness and active lifestyles, means a boost in the increasingly favored on-the-go snack: nutrition bars.

According to a study by Mintel, US nutrition bar sales are expected to increase to $6.2 billion by 2018. The nutrition bar category consists of three segments:

  1. Health and Wellness Bars: primarily used as a healthy snack alternative.
  2. Sport Bars: used to fill the protein and energy needs of the physically active.
  3. Diet Bars: designed for diet and weight loss.

Once popular as a diet-driven meal supplement (“diet bars”), nutrition bars are now appealing more to a growing population of on-the-go, physically active “health conscious” consumers. These shoppers appreciate the grab-and-go benefit of bars to satisfy between-meal snack cravings (“health and wellness bars”) and activity-driven energy and nutritional needs (“sports bars”). As the largest and fastest growing segment in supermarkets, health and wellness bars now represents 45% of bar sales, while sports bars represent 37% of the category, and diet bars trail at 18%. Overall, retailers are enjoying a trifecta of increased growth in health & lifestyle bars: more shoppers buying greater quantities more frequently.

Nutrition bars now meet an array of specific dietary and consumer preferences. Today’s health conscious shoppers are opting for foods containing increased antioxidants, heart-friendly fiber, whole grains and good fats to prevent aging and life-threatening illnesses. Many health and wellness bars boast these nutritional attributes, while many sports-related bars feature high levels of protein for optimal post-workout macronutrients. Shoppers can also find nutrition bars with a broad range of dietary specifications, including gluten-free, vegan and paleo. Brands touting limited real-food ingredients also target followers of the “whole food” movement.

In addition, as environmental concerns become increasingly relevant to consumers’ buying decisions, nutrition bar varieties appeal to these customer needs. A recent study reported that 54% of consumers wanted more sustainable protean in their diets. In response, bar producers have been exploring new sources of lean protein sourced from plants (e.g. pea protein) and insects (e.g. cricket flour). Growth and increased demand for natural and organic products have also brought bars made with certified organic ingredients to the market.

With increased popularity of nutrition bars and evolving consumer preferences, supermarkets are devoting from 4′ to 24′ of space for assortments of the three bar segments. Allocating more space to nutrition bars, with particular emphasis on increased space for energy and protein varieties, is resulting in disproportionate sales growth. Offering full caddies of bars (particularly multipacks), rather than just individual bars, is also driving revenues while meeting shoppers’ increased per-purchase quantity demands. Finally, merchandising bars at checkout, on separate racks and in the snack aisles, further contributes to incremental sales.

The nutrition bar category remains robust due to growth in healthy living, product innovation, and demand for convenient, healthy snacks. Retailers’ attention to this category not only supports shoppers’ lifestyles, but also takes advantage of one of the fastest growing categories in supermarkets.