woman sitting on bench eating bar

UK & Irish Bar Consumers: A Deep Dive (Part One)

The past year has brought a number of changes in consumer eating habits—particularly around snacking. Glanbia Nutritionals’ recent proprietary consumer research explores the latest UK and Irish consumer preferences in bars and other snacks, including the top purchase channels and consumers' strong interest in protein.

Glanbia Nutritionals’ Consumer Survey

To understand UK and Irish consumers’ attitudes and behaviors around snacking, with a focus on bars, in particular, Glanbia Nutritionals went straight to the source. Our proprietary primary research study1 surveyed over 800 bar consumers (those that consume a protein bar or granola/cereal/snack bar at least every 6 months), split evenly between the UK and Ireland, to learn about their snack consumption and purchase habits, as well as what they’re looking for in these products. 

Here’s a look at some of the top insights from our research—plus key takeaways for bar manufacturers.

Bar Preferences in the UK and Ireland

In looking at bar consumption, our study shows the consumption of granola/cereal/snack bars and candy bars is pervasive among bar consumers, with 96% eating granola/cereal/snack bars and 94% eating candy bars at least occasionally. In addition, nearly two-thirds of bar consumers in the UK and Ireland are consuming protein bars.


Compared to one year ago, consumption of bars among these consumers is slightly up. Protein bars have seen the highest increase, with 26% of bar consumers eating more protein bars. Consumption has also increased for granola/cereal/snack bars and candy bars (by 25%). However, another 21% have decreased their candy bar consumption, indicating an overall trend toward healthy snacking during the pandemic.

Top Purchase Channels for Bars   

Our consumer study also investigated the preferred shopping locations for bars and other snacks. For granola/cereal/snack bars, 74% of consumers typically buy at the supermarket, followed by 8% at the convenience store—similar to the purchasing patterns for salty snacks and sweet snacks.
Protein bar purchases follow a pattern more similar to those of energy and sports drinks, with 54% of consumers typically purchasing them at the supermarket, 16% at the convenience store, and 11% at the petrol station. However, a significant proportion of consumers (8%) buy protein bars online. 


Spotlight on Protein

With protein as one of today’s biggest healthy snack trends, we also did a deep dive with a subset of about 200 protein bar consumers to understand how important protein is to UK and Irish protein bar consumers, as well as preferences in protein type. The results show that one in three protein bar consumers feels “high protein” is an important attribute for bars. In choosing the single most important attribute of bars, “high protein” came in second, after taste. 

Clean label ingredients also continue to be important in the UK and Ireland, with “naturally-occurring protein” preferred by 36% of protein bar consumers. For specific types of protein, whey is the top choice, at 30% of UK protein bar consumers and 39% of Irish protein bar consumers, followed by milk protein. Rice and soy are the most preferred plant proteins, with UK protein bar consumers over-indexing on the preference for soy. 

bar chart

Looking Ahead

These results show that bars are still very much in demand in the UK and Ireland, especially if they can offer consumers healthy snacking benefits like added protein. The right type of protein is also important to meet consumer demand and should be tailored to the specific market. Consumers’ preference for naturally occurring protein also signals continued interest in clean label ingredients that bar and snack manufacturers can emphasize in their front-of-package claims and other communications.

To dive deeper in to the data, explore our interactive infographic here.

In Part Two of this report, we’ll explore why consumers are choosing bars and dive deep into all the attributes they’re looking for. To learn more about this exciting area, listen to our two-part podcast on global trends in bars. As a leader in the development of functional bar solutions, Glanbia Nutritionals offers the ingredients you need to succeed in the nutrition bar market—from dairy and plant-based proteins to custom premix solutions. Contact us for bar solutions.

Check out Part Two of the series here!


1. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Study – Bars in the UK & Ireland, December 2020. Base: 801 bar consumers (or those that had consumed a protein bar or granola/cereal/snack bar at least every 6 months). 

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