- Protein bars need to be fortified with fiber and other nutrients to be taken seriously as a breakfast food.
- New flavors, such as various fruits, will help protein bars break into the breakfast food market.
High protein is one of the top trends in healthy snacking, with protein bars driving growth in the bars category. But protein bars can also be a great fit for another eating occasion: breakfast. Many of the attributes that are making protein bars so popular also align with consumers’ top breakfast needs, which range from "low or no prep" to "healthy" to "on-the-go."
In the U.S., “quick to prepare” and “healthy” are the most frequently cited attributes that consumers say are important when selecting a breakfast item, with over half of consumers looking for this.1 Nearly one in two cite “filling” as important,2 something that protein bars can also deliver on since protein provides satiety.
In Europe, the same preferences are playing out, indicating opportunities here, too. “Quick/easy to prepare” is important to 56% of Spanish, 47% of Italian, and 44% of French consumers when choosing food to eat as part of an at-home breakfast, while about one in three in these countries indicate that “keeps you fuller for longer” is important.3 Many consumers also indicate the importance of nutrient and health attributes such as "high in protein and fiber" for breakfast food.4
In addition, the portable, on-the-go nature of protein bars provides a key benefit to consumers who are in a rush in the morning and might even be skipping breakfast. Among UK breakfast eaters, for example, one-third report they often skip breakfast, despite 55% feeling that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.5 An on-the-go breakfast option like a protein bar can mean the difference between fueling up in the morning or running on empty. In the U.S., 15% of consumers indicate a breakfast item that allows for “eating on the go” is important.6
While protein bars can clearly address many of consumers’ most important breakfast concerns and preferences, the association between protein bars and breakfast time is missing. However, a few formulation tweaks can make protein bars a perfect fit for breakfast.
As the most important meal of the day, most consumers want their breakfasts to be healthy—which includes being nutrient-dense. Protein bars deliver on protein but should have added vitamins and minerals, especially to compete with fortified breakfast cereals.
Fiber is another must-have fortification to bring protein bars into the breakfast world. Fiber tops the list of nutrients UK consumers expect in breakfast food, with 39% of UK breakfast eaters saying "high in fiber" is important.7 "High in fiber" is also important to 40% of Spanish, 34% of Italian, and 26% of French consumers when choosing a breakfast food for home.8 The popularity of cereal and bread in the morning means consumers tend to associate fiber with breakfast.
Protein bars are available in a variety of delicious and decadent flavors, from cookies and cream to chocolate caramel to mint chocolate chip. And this is a wonderful feature—just not for a breakfast meal. Protein bar companies can look to the top-selling breakfast foods to understand the flavors consumers crave most at breakfast time.
Cereal, bakery products, and fruit are some of the most popular breakfast foods. Companies interested in developing breakfast protein bars should steer away from indulgent flavors like chocolate and embrace fruit- and grain-inspired formulations. For consumers who already reach for snack bars or breakfast biscuits in the morning (which includes 26% of Italian, 15% of Spanish, and 14% of French consumers),9 breakfast protein bars in similar flavors offer an easy swap that’s much healthier.
Consumers’ interest in protein is accelerating. And while protein bars are becoming increasingly popular as a healthy snack, they also check the top boxes for consumers’ preferred attributes in breakfast food. This makes breakfast protein bars an exciting opportunity for companies willing to refine their marketing and formulations to appeal to consumers as a smart breakfast choice.
At Glanbia Nutritionals, we provide our customers with a wide range of bar solutions to achieve the nutrition, appearance, and texture that positions their products for success in the market. Contact us to learn more about our bar solutions and begin a bar formulation collaboration with us!
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