man eating bar after workout

UK & Irish Bar Consumers Deep Dive: A Case Study (Part Two)

Bars provide a convenient, tasty, and healthy snack that’s meeting the needs of many UK and Irish consumers, according to Glanbia Nutritionals’ latest consumer study. In Part Two of our survey results, we explore which attributes are the most important to bar consumers and why consumers are choosing bars. 

Glanbia Nutritionals’ Consumer Survey

The pandemic has brought unprecedented changes that have impacted the day-to-day lives of consumers, including how and what they eat. To gain insights into UK and Irish consumers’ current attitudes and behaviors around snacking, Glanbia Nutritionals developed a proprietary primary research study1 that gathered data from over 800 UK and Irish bar consumers (those that consume a protein bar or granola/cereal/snack bar at least every 6 months).

In Part One of our research results, we saw that two out of three UK and Irish bar consumers choose protein bars, with a preference for naturally occurring protein and dairy proteins, such as whey and milk proteins. In addition, we learned that bars of all types are most often purchased at the supermarket, though convenience stores and petrol stations are also important outlets.

Missed Part One of this series? Check it out here!

Here we take a look at what drives UK and Irish consumers to choose bars and learn exactly what they’re looking for.

Why Consumers are Choosing Bars

Our consumer research reveals the top two reasons UK and Irish bar consumers choose bars (including protein bars and granola/cereal/snack bars) are that they’re “easy to grab and go” (49%) and “convenient” (48%). Other important reasons are that consumers "like the taste” and “it’s healthy” (both at 41%). 

This indicates that healthy snacking continues to be important to consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic and that bars are effectively meeting this need. In addition, the majority of bar consumers are checking the nutrition and ingredient labels of products at least sometimes (78% for UK and 73% for Irish bar consumers).

What are Consumers Looking for in Bars?

We also asked consumers which attributes are important to them when it comes to bars. For both UK and Irish bar consumers, taste is the most popular answer, followed by price. Next in line are attributes that touch on health and nutrition: low/no sugar, high protein, no added sugar, low in calories, and low in fat. For 1 in 4 bar consumers, all-natural is also important.

Our study probed further to see if those with concerns over sugar have a preference in the amount of sugar when they look for low sugar bars. The data shows that most bar consumers are looking for five grams of sugar or less, while many are unsure. In addition, honey is the most positively perceived sweetener, followed by agave nectar, maple syrup, stevia, and monk fruit.

Trend Watching

The research study also set out to gather insights on certain trends that have become increasingly important in the nutrition bar market, as well as the healthy snacks market overall. This includes clean label, vegan claims, and packaging, which we explored more deeply with smaller subsets of UK and Irish bar consumers.

Clean Label

Results show that three out of four bar consumers believe it’s moderately to very important that a bar has a “clean label,” with 41% of UK bar consumers saying it's very important vs. 29% of Irish bar consumers. Most consumers determine if it’s clean label by checking ingredients on the ingredient list (70%) and the messages on the packaging (51%). In addition, 46% look for a short ingredient list to decide if a product is clean label.

Vegan Claims

For the 5% of bar consumers who indicate a vegan claim is important for a bar, 68% say it’s moderately to very important. Furthermore, 50% of Irish and a whopping 79% of UK bar consumers who value a vegan claim say they would buy the product if it was marketed as vegan. For the consumers who did not indicate a vegan claim was important, 57% say they have a neutral perception of vegan products, while 32% have a positive view.


Packaging attributes that can influence consumer purchases are diverse and range from sustainability to convenience to visual appeal. For UK and Irish bar consumers, recyclable packaging is what the majority are looking for (74% in the UK and 57% in Ireland) in the packaging of bars. Since most bar wrappers are not easily recyclable, this indicates a key opportunity for manufacturers. Most consumers are also looking for bars in packaging that’s easy to open.

bar chart

Addressing Trends

There’s no doubt that the grab-and-go convenience and great taste of bars make them a favorite snack among UK and Irish consumers. But beyond meeting these expectations, manufacturers who address current trends—such as healthy nutrition profiles, clean label ingredients, and more sustainable packaging—will be well-positioned for growth ahead.

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

To ensure your products are meeting the needs of the day, listen to our two-part podcast on global trends in bars. As a leader in nutritional ingredients, Glanbia Nutritionals offers in-demand ingredients for the nutrition bar market—including vitamins and minerals, functional protein solutions, and bioactive ingredients—along with expertise in flavors and flavor maskers for bars and other healthy snacks. Contact us for bar solutions.


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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