Category Insight: Bars

October 19, 2018
Flavor Ingredients Trends Health Bars
The sky’s the limit for bars, as shown by a stroll through Philadelphia’s airport terminal shops. A microcosm of the category: Shelves are filled with bars of all types: high protein, low sugar, vegan, refrigerated, seeds, nuts, meat. Pistachio bars and birthday cake bars. Bars stacked in coolers and circling displays. Bars for energy or for sleep. Whatever your need or diet, terminal C had a bar for you. And like a direct flight to L.A., this category growth isn’t slowing down. Reports looking toward 2023 predict a 6.7% CAGR globally, and we continue to see interesting innovations in flavor and form that address consumers’ new and existing needs. Let’s explore a few of these trends.

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Health continues to be the top driver in the category with North American consumer interest in clean labels and plant-based bar options leading to products promoting “whole” and “real” ingredients, as well as vegan formulations. We also see format varieties, such as balls, sticks and bites, providing alternatives for bar-fatigued consumers.



• Low/No/Reduced Allergen
• Gluten Free
• Kosher
• GMO Free
• Ethical-Environmentally Friendly Package


2,318: North America leads the way in bar launches (Jan. 2014-Aug. 2018)

+1,300%: Top trending global snack bar claim: functional - brain + nervous system (Q2 2017 - Q2 2018)



From milks to snacks to menu entrees, plant-based ingredients are on the rise, and snack bars are no exception. As consumers continue to look for whole food ingredients, health propositions, and vegetarian/vegan options (20% of launches carry the vegan claim, Jan. 2014-Aug. 2018), we see use of ingredients such as flax, chia, pumpkin and hemp seeds increasing.

Hemp seeds are promoted as providing protein, fiber and amino acids and are appearing in more mainstream products like Trader Joe’s Organic Hemp Seed Bars. Launched this August, they’re made with organic almonds, cashews, crisped brown rice, gluten-free oats, wild blueberries, currants and hulled hemp seeds that give the bars a “delicately earthy flavor.” While not vegetarian/vegan, Crickstart protein bars (Canada, August 2018) are an interesting find as they pair hemp with crickets in three flavors: Lemon Lime, Cinnamon Cardamom, and Chili Chocolate.

Another interesting launch is the first bar on the market to feature marijuana-sourced cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive oil “recommended for pain management, sleep, stress, inflammation and mood recovery.” The SNAAC CBD bars are only available in a few locations in California and come in Chocolate Cherry Almond and Lemon Cream Crisp flavors, both of which contain 15 milligrams of CBD oil.



Denise Bronner, postdoctoral researcher in microbiology and immunology at UC Davis, has launched Anu, a bar company that uses leftover grain from beer brewing as the main ingredient. In the brewing process, once the sugar has been extracted, the leftover grain has no real use, and breweries struggle with what to do with the waste. Bronner explains that much of the grain ends up in landfills, but that it’s “full of fiber, antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins. And because the sugars have been extracted, it has a low glycemic index.”

Bronner sees rich opportunities for the spent grain and hopes to turn it into flour “for baking options like bread, cookies and crackers, or dog biscuits and treats” in the future. But right now, she mixes the spent grain with dried fruits to create bars she describes as “not too chewy, not too crunchy.” Flavors are Blueberry Delight with walnuts and a yogurt frosting, Berrylicious with cranberries, almonds and a dark chocolate coating, and non-coated versions, as well.


Coconut + Cashew Butter
Cacao Nibs + Dates
Chia + Flax Seeds + Almonds
Gogi Berries + Honey + Dates
Turmeric + Cinnamon + Sunflower
Seeds + Coconut
Tahini + Oats + Dates + Maple Syrup



Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.

Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in U.S. children.

About 1 in 3 children with food allergy reports being bullied as a result.

According to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18, which equates to 1 in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom. That’s a large segment of the population who could be consumers of truly allergen-free snack bars, making this area one product developers should consider.

With allergies being potentially life-threatening and altering how people interact with others, particularly children in school, having a trusted brand that help them feel included and provides flavor variety and nutritional substance could be major wins.


Nuts are a great source of nutrition, but if you are one of the millions of people with a nut allergy, these products are not an option. Blake Sorensen is one of these individuals. His frustration at the number of bars either including nuts or made in a facility with nuts led him to develop his own line of allergen-friendly snack bars featuring seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and flax in Chocolate Chip, Raspberry, Pineapple flavors. Blake’s Seed-Based are certified free from the top 8 allergens and are made in a certified allergen-free facility — the two critical steps for consumers with life-threatening allergies.


33% of parents in Kind bar survey said sugar is biggest problem with today’s kids’ snack options.

64% said sugar is top ingredient they want to limit in school lunches.

Research shows that parents are concerned about sugar and want to give their children healthy snack options. But they’re also busy, tired, and need easy solutions their kids will actually eat. Kind launched its new line of Kind Kids chewy granola bars hoping to address all of those issues. “We know how hard it is for parents to find healthy options that their kids will actually eat,” said Jon Lesser, VP marketing for Kind said in Convenience Store News. “That’s why, when crafting Kind Kids, we balanced nutritious ingredients with delicious flavor to ensure the bars would be a lunchbox win for everyone.” And if they’re not? Lesser says they’ll refund your money. The bars come in 3 flavors: Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Honey Oat.

Susan Viamari from IRI told Convenience Store News that “snack manufacturers and retailers should recognize that Millennials seek a balance between healthy and indulgent snacks” for both themselves and their children. Reviews of Thunderkids bars support this idea. Named a “best snack of 2017” by, the nut, fruit and spice bars were loved for adults, too, with reviewers saying the smaller size was great for “mini snack attacks” and that they had just the right amount of sweetness to make them a treat.

Viamari explained that Millennials’ desire for balance means snack developers need to offer “healthier and more indulgent options,” but also need to think about how to blend the two, creating “indulgent treats that are healthier and healthy options that are indulgent.”



From savory breakfast bars to high protein bars for kids, this category’s continued innovations and consumers’ continued demands for portable, snackable items that are more than empty calories keep the market evolving and product developers creating. Products addressing rising concerns such as food allergies, sugar and food waste provide opportunities for product developers looking for new ways to connect with consumers.

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Sources in full report