Growing Demand for Bars as a Healthy Snack
Across the globe, bars are becoming an in-demand snack—especially bars fortified with protein. This is due to consumers’ growing interest in healthier snacking and the benefits of protein. Our own consumer research shows two in three US consumers perceive protein bars as healthy.1
We’ve also seen 17% of US consumers increase their consumption of protein/energy bars in the past year, with the highest levels among those aged 20 to 45.2 The biggest users of protein bars are active lifestyle and performance consumers, with one in four consuming protein bars or other protein-enhanced snacks at least once a week.3
Succeeding in Energy and Protein Bar Formulation
To develop a successful bar, taste, texture, and the type and amount of protein are all key factors. The satiety benefit of protein is important since the top need protein bars address for consumers is as a “holdover between meals to help avoid bad choices.”4 Protein bar formulation must also account for the broad range of usage occasions we see for protein bars, with the top two being “breakfast while out of the home” and “post-workout.”5
We recently sat down with members of our Glanbia Nutritionals R&D team to discuss some tips and tricks they’ve learned in developing nutrition bars that meet the taste and texture demands of today’s consumers.
When formulating a bar, how do you begin?
We find we get the most productive start when we have specific objectives. Understanding things like nutritional targets and labeling requirements, as well as flavor expectations, will help to focus the process.
We can’t emphasize enough that “great tasting” is the most important attribute for protein bars after “high protein,”6 so brands should spend some time on this. For the US market, chocolate and chocolate varieties like peanut butter chocolate are the most preferred protein bar flavors.6
Top Appealing Protein Bar Flavors (US)
|Flavor||% of Protein Bar Users|
|Peanut butter chocolate||53%|
|Caramel nuts and chocolate||42%|
|Fruit and nut||42%|
|Cookies and cream||35%|
Glanbia Nutritionals, Healthy Snacking U&A Study, 2022
What other attributes in a bar are the most important to consumers?
For protein bars, our latest consumer data shows the attributes important to protein bar users (after “high protein” (66%) and “great tasting” (54%)) are “satisfying” (47%), “good source of vitamins and minerals” (39%), “no/low sugar” (36%), and “enjoyable texture” (34%).7
If you could offer one practical but often overlooked tip for formulating a new bar, what would it be?
Not all proteins are the same. For protein bar formulation, we must consider the right protein to use to meet taste and texture expectations. The idea is to start with the protein benefits that you want and then build your bar around it.
Knowing how different proteins react with sugars and fats will help direct the process. It’s critical to understand that, due to ingredient interactions, it takes a specific balance of ingredients to achieve an optimal protein bar formulation.
In protein bar formulation, there are common challenges in achieving the right taste, texture, shelf life, and nutritional profile. How do functional proteins help address this?
We’ve developed innovative ingredients solutions to address the most common bar challenges from the inside out. We have functional proteins that can address bars that might be too sticky, lose shape, or are too brittle. This is of critical importance because the texture is a significant barrier to protein bar use for some consumers, with the top texture complaints being “grainy,” “hard,” and “chalky.”8