woman with nutritious bar

What's Behind the Refrigerated Nutrition Bars Trend?

Bring your jacket because nutrition bars are on the move to cooler locations.

Why put a nutrition bar in the refrigerated produce section? Because that’s where the customers are!  Refrigerated bars are an opportunity for brands to distance themselves from “overly processed” and build a premium line extension. Be on the lookout for bars with front-of-package terms like refrigerated, chilled, and especially, fresh. 

The key player in this category in the US is Perfect Bar (“The Original Refrigerated Protein Bar”), the first significant brand to enter the market. The current market in the US is only beginning to take shape. According to a Glanbia Nutritionals proprietary study, just under one in five (22%) US consumers surveyed indicated they were moderately or extremely aware of these products.1 In the same study, of those consumers who indicated they were or would likely purchase a refrigerated bar, all natural, high protein, and high fiber were the three most important product attributes.1

Keeping Up with the Trends

A number of factors are contributing to the rise of the refrigerated bar. Increasingly, the grocery store perimeter is where people are buying their food. Also, for many consumers, a refrigerated product signifies a fresh product. In particular, refrigerated nutrition bars address increasing consumer demand for:

  • Snack foods
  • Healthy foods
  • Protein (especially plant-based protein)
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits

How to Build a Bar

Refrigerated bars are using different approaches to connect with consumers. Gluten-free, nut-based Perfect Bars and Wella Bars are advertised as protein bars, while oat-based nomi fresh fruit & oat bar resemble traditional granola bars but with protein fortification

nutritious ingredients on table

Even with these distinctions, most refrigerated bars have a lot in common. Messaging includes descriptions like honest, pure, whole, and simple. And the ingredients popping up again and again are:

  • Nuts – peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio, pecan, and walnut
  • Seeds – flaxseed, sesame seed, and chia seed
  • Protein Powders – nonfat dry milk, milk or whey protein concentrate, rice protein, and egg powder
  • Vegetables – kale, spinach, celery, pumpkin, tomato and carrot
  • Seaweeds – dulse and kelp
  • Fruits – apple, banana, orange, lemon, blueberry, cranberry, strawberry, and papaya
  • Specialty Oils – flaxseed oil, sesame oil, olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Unrefined Sweeteners – honey and maple syrup

The nuts can be whole, sliced, chopped, or used as nut butters. The fruits and vegetables can be added as purees or as whole food powders. 

To achieve protein targets, nuts or oats are often used as the product’s base, with enough protein powder added to make up the difference. The contribution of nuts, seeds, and oils can result in high fat levels, but the onset of rancidity is significantly delayed due to the bar's refrigerated storage. The shelf life extension achieved by keeping bars refrigerated is an exciting benefit to manufacturers and may help offset the additional cost of cold chain distribution.

Looking Ahead

It’s not just new brands popping up in the cooler aisles of the store. KIND, one of the top US bar brands, has recently taken this trend one-step further by offering a frozen nutrition bar with almonds as its primary ingredient. As the refrigerated bar category grows, companies will need to consider inventive ways to differentiate their bars. 

The addition of proteins, vitamins, minerals, or plant-based sources of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids may be an opportunity to meet additional consumer needs. These can be used singly or some may be incorporated as a custom nutrient premix. The right protein, milled seed, or an optimized powdered nutrient premix allows for easy incorporation into the product, and the shelf life extension of these nutrients due to the finished product’s refrigerated storage is an added bonus.

Glanbia Nutritional’s unique portfolio of dairy and plant-based ingredients and custom premix solutions allows us to help our customers develop nutrition bars from ideation to on-the-shelf, or in the fridge. Click to learn more about collaborating with Glanbia Nutritionals in healthy snacking. 

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References

1. Glanbia Nutritionals Proprietary Study, August 2020. 

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