Beyond protein, some consumers have a strong interest in nutrition bars with fiber, particularly for digestive support. According to a survey of US consumers by Mintel, 1 in 3 bar purchasers indicated fiber amount was important to them.2 Others are looking for healthy fats in their nutrition bars, driven largely by the keto movement and its focus on coconut oil and MCTs. Vitamin and mineral blends can be added to nutrition bars to support general wellness goals or for more personalized nutrition such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health.
Consumers may also have a preference for certain ingredients in their nutrition bars. Examples include whole grains like brown rice and millet, as well as superfoods like berries and greens. Nutrition bars formulated with seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds are becoming increasingly popular and meet the niche need for a nut-free, allergen-free option. This is especially important for those consumers who indicate they are increasing their bar consumption. The majority of those consumers indicate healthier options are the reason for their increase.3 Probiotic and prebiotic ingredients may be important to some consumers, while the benefits of bioactive plant extracts appeal to others.
Brands can add bioactives to their nutrition bars for target consumers seeking specific functional benefits. Functional ingredient blends can be developed for immunity, energy, beauty, sleep, and cognitive health support, for example. According to global new product launch data of bars, vitamin & mineral fortified claims has grown from only 4% of global bars launched in 2016 to nearly 8% in 2020.4 Beyond vitamins & minerals, new functional nutrition bars often feature a trending functional ingredient such as turmeric, collagen, or MCTs as a way to quickly communicate the bars’ benefits.
Clean label claims are continuing to grow in many nutrition bars. These include any claims that flag the product as better-for-you. Trending examples include allergen-free claims (e.g., gluten-free, soy-free, or nut-free) and sugar reduction claims (e.g., less sugar, no sugar, or no added sugars). Allergen claims are by far the leading claim globally in nutrition bars with over 43% of bars launched in 2020 claiming Low/No/Reduced Allergen. No added sugar is a claim that is growing rapidly. With only 9% of bars in 2016 claiming no added sugar, the number jumped to 17% in 2020.5 Sustainability and social impact claims are also on the rise and can range from using non-GMO or upcycled ingredients to donating to social causes.
Taste and Texture
Of course, we can’t overlook the importance of sensory appeal in winning loyal consumers. For nutrition bars, achieving great taste and texture can be challenging due to their high nutrient levels which can impact both attributes. Flavor masking can be important, as well as choosing the right flavors. Indulgent flavors like chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, and mint work well in nutrition bars, as do bright fruit flavors like lemon, blueberry, and banana.