bars

US Nutrition Bar Trends for 2022

The pandemic lockdowns drove major changes in consumers’ snacking habits, with bars becoming a go-to staple for many reasons, such as convenience, health, and even indulgence. As COVID winds down, what’s ahead for nutrition bar trends in 2022?

Consumers’ Changing Snacking Habits

Whether snack bars, protein bars, or kids bars, bars became a top solution for consumers across the country as the COVID lockdowns began. Unaccustomed to cooking, some younger consumers used bars and other snacks to replace meals, while many remote workers with kids at home relied on bars to save time as they managed new demands. 

As the lockdowns continued, consumers became increasingly interested in bars with benefits, such as functional nutrition bars for energy, weight loss, or sleep support. Some also used healthy bars as a way to get essential nutrients and support home exercise routines as they prioritized staying well. For others, bars were the solution to better-for-you indulgent snacking to relieve boredom or stress.

For about one-third of US consumers, snacking more and thinking about food more rose during the pandemic (though this is now starting to decline).1 As consumers adapted to the new normal by shifting toward more regular meal patterns and cooking more, the convenience factor of bars became less important. However, things are changing once again, as consumers return to work and school and seek the grab-and-go convenience of bars. 

woman eating a bar

What Consumers are Looking for in Bars

Recent data from Mintel shows most US consumers remain very interested in bars, with two out of three consumers purchasing some type of bar within the prior three months.2 The most frequently purchased bars were:

  • Snack bars (35%)
  • Nutritional bars (31%)
  • Performance bars (22%)
  • Meal replacement bars (20%)
  • Weight-loss bars (17%)3

Mintel reports protein is the top driver for consumers when choosing a bar, with 52% citing protein amount as something they look for.4 In diving into protein bars, in particular, the top motivations for purchase are because they’re healthy (59%), they're convenient (51%), and consumers need the protein (49%).

Consumers’ growing interest in bars with protein follows a larger trend. The International Food Information Council reports that 62% of US consumers are trying to consume more protein, making it the most sought-after nutrient right now.6 In addition, one in four consumers eats more protein from plant sources than they did a year ago.

Top Nutrition Bar Trends for 2022

Looking ahead, we can expect that while the end of the pandemic will mean a return to normal in many ways, consumers will also cling to some of their new behaviors and interests around food. Here are the nutrition bar trends expected for 2022:

1. E-Commerce Grocery

42% of US consumers grocery shop online once a month or more now (compared to 33% in 2020 and 27% in 2019)—particularly younger consumers and parents.8 Bar sales will continue to be affected by the trend in e-commerce, which also includes buying in multipacks versus singles and the growth and strengthening of direct-to-consumer relationships.

man with laptop

2. Immunity and Stress Relief Bars

Two out of three consumers are interested in learning more about the role of food and nutrients in immune health.9 Nutrition bars for immunity like The Cultured Snacking Co.’s Probiotic Snack Bars and Jimmy! Protein Bar’s Be Well Bars with Benefits with “5 Immune-Friendly Ingredients” address this need. Ingredients targeting stress relief (such as adaptogens) are also showing up in bars.

3. Lifestyle Bars 

Nutrition bars that address certain ways of eating through claims like keto-friendly, intermittent fasting, and meal replacement are also gaining traction. Two out of five US consumers report they followed a diet over the past year, but fewer did so for appearance.10 This indicates certain diets are becoming more of a lifestyle choice to support health. Keto bars are among the fastest-growing bars in this segment.

4. Bars in Smaller Sizes

More consumers are also seeking bar options that offer smaller portion sizes, such as minis and bites. This provides a calorie-controlled, even-better-for-you choice for indulgent snacking that satisfies. Clif Bar recently entered this domain with its Coffee Collection Minis in Espresso, with each mini bar providing the caffeine of one shot of espresso.

5. Refrigerated Bars

Refrigerated bars continue to expand, addressing bar consumers’ interests in fresh, natural, and clean label, while delivering premium taste. CORE BAR, a refrigerated bar brand known for its blend of probiotics and prebiotics now offers CORE KETO, while Perfect Bar is now available as Perfect Bar Snack Size. Justin’s launched its first refrigerated bar last year, based on almond butter.

To tap into these exciting nutrition bar trends and create the delicious and healthy bars your consumers are looking for, see what our bar solutions can do for you.

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References

1. International Food Information Council, 2021 Food & Health Survey, May 2021. 
2-3. Mintel, Snack, Nutrition and Performance Bars – US, March 2021.
4. Mintel, Snack, Nutrition & Performance Bars – US, February 2020.
5. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary COVID-19 Survey, data from August and September 2020.
6-10. International Food Information Council, 2021 Food & Health Survey, May 2021.
 

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