Functional Nutrition Bars What Consumers Want

Functional Nutrition Bars: What Consumers Want

Functional ingredients are the top driver of growth in nutrition bars. From muscle building to digestive health to improved energy, there’s a nutrition bar to meet everyone's needs. 

Learn which functional ingredients are the most in-demand by consumers—plus the up-and-coming functional bar trends you should know.

Nutrition Bars: The Perfect Functional Food

The global nutrition bars market is forecast to reach $2.2 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 4.1% between 2018 and 2026, according to Transparency Market Research.1 This continued growth is no surprise since nutrition bars check all the boxes. They provide a winning combination of convenience and health that perfectly meet the needs of today’s on-the-go, snack-loving, health-conscious consumers.

Nutrition bars have a broader audience than ever before—a far cry from the early days as a sports performance product. The right proportion of macronutrients, along with key functional ingredients blended into an easy-add custom nutrient premix, creates endless possibilities for customization.

“Bars are one of the best functional and convenient foods in the market today. They can deliver on all of the consumers’ needs.”2 – Sally Lyons Wyatt, Executive Vice President and Practice Leader, IRI

Functional Nutrition Bars

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. 

3. Protein

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:

1. Fiber

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.

2. Probiotics

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.

functional nutritional bars consumers turmeric

Caffeine is also picking up speed in bars. Some companies are adding caffeine via coffee beans, coffee flour, or green coffee bean extract into bars with coffeehouse flavors like mocha latte and macchiato.

Give Your Bars a Boost

Whether it’s a caffeine protein bar for an on-the-go breakfast or a fiber MCT bar to support weight loss, it’s essential to formulate with the right blend of functional ingredients for your target consumers. Learn the do’s and don’ts on how to formulate the perfect bar.


1. Transparency Market Research. (2019). Protein Bars Account for over 50% Nutrition Bar Sales, “Double Layer” Highest Preferred among Consumers. Retrieved from
2. Renkoski, K. (2018). Nutrition bar innovation fueled by function and flavor. Retrieved from
3. International Food Information Council. (2019). 2019 Food & Health Survey. Retrieved from
4. IRI. (2018). State of the Snack Food Industry. Retrieved from

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