Must-Haves for Today’s Nutrition Bars
Despite the category’s diversity through customization, there are some core expectations emerging among nutrition bar consumers, such as:
1. Natural Ingredients
Nutrition bar consumers have health on their minds, and this extends beyond nutrition to clean label ingredients which are perceived as healthier. No artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives are the new expectation for many nutrition bar consumers, with the preference for non-GMO continuing to grow.
2. Lower Sugar
According to the International Food Information Council, limiting sugar intake is the top way consumers’ diets have changed in the past year.3 Nutrition bar consumers are checking labels for added and total sugars when choosing products.
Protein is the top functional ingredient in the nutrition bar category. Consumers are seeking protein for muscle building and recovery, satiety and weight loss, and general health and wellness. Protein awareness is so high among health food consumers that bar manufacturers should consider a moderate amount of protein a must-have.
Other Favorite Functionals
Besides protein, the functional ingredients consumers are seeking across all categories, including bars, are:
Consumer interest in fiber is experiencing a resurgence largely due to an increased focus on digestive health. Nutrition bars are a quick and easy way to boost intake of this under-consumed nutrient of concern. Interest in prebiotic fiber to support the gut microbiome and beta-glucan fiber for heart health is also increasing.
According to IRI, 40 percent of consumers want snacks that contain probiotics.4 This presents an enormous opportunity for nutrition bar manufacturers. Thanks to the recent development of shelf-stable probiotics based on Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis strains, bars are now positioned to compete head to head with yogurt on digestive health.
3. Healthy Fats
The keto movement has brought fat back into the spotlight. The coconut oil MCTs in keto bars are being studied not just for weight loss benefits, but also for sports performance and cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids are another category of healthy fats that bars can deliver as ALA through flax and chia seeds or as encapsulated DHA from marine sources.
Functionals on the Rise
Newer functional ingredients showing up in bars include collagen to support healthy skin, joints, and bones and turmeric, whose active ingredient curcumin is under study for anti-inflammatory benefits.