The snack bars category continued to do well from 2022–2023, with all subcategories increasing in sales over the past year.
According to Circana (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, ending on March 26, 2023, the “snack bars/granola bars” category brought in $7.58 billion, with a slight increase of 9.2% overall from the same time period last year.
The “nutritional/intrinsic health value bars” subcategory brought in $3.53 billion, with an increase of 5.2%. Clif brought in $819 million of the $3.53 billion, with a 2.1% increase, and Quest brought in $341 million, with a 19.9% increase. Kind also brought in $306 million, with a 3.5% increase. Also of note is the Pure Protein brand, which brought in $163 million and experienced a 17.3% increase.
The “breakfast/cereal/snack bars/clusters” category brought in $2.145 billion with an increase of 10.8%. Leading the pack was Kellogg’s, with $745 million in sales and a 6.5% increase. Kind came in second, with $314 million and a 10.9% increase, and private label brought in $234 million, with a 9.2% increase. Another notable brand was Nature’s Bakery, which brought in $27.5 million but experienced a 51% increase in sales.
The granola bars category brought in $1.638 billion in sales, with an 11.1% increase, and Nature Valley brand brought in $667 million, with an 8% increase. Quaker brought in $446.9 million, with a 9.8% increase, and Sunbelt brought in $129.6 million, with a 17.7% increase. Of note, Annie’s brand brought in $18.9 million, with a 220.1% increase, and Junkless brought in $15.1 million, with a 115.9% increase.
In the “AO [all other] snack/granola bars/clusters” category, the category itself brought in $268 million, with a 50.7% increase, and Nature’s Bakery brought in $129.9 million, with a 50.3% increase in sales. Kellogg’s brought in $74 million with a 58.5% increase, and private label brought in $20.6 million with a 58.3% increase. Legendary Foods brought in $6 million with an incredible 1264.4% increase in sales, and Vital Proteins brought in $2.32 million with a 535.6% increase.
“From our perspective, it used to be that there were protein bars, snack bars, and candy bars. Now, we’re seeing that people really want something that does it all—a bar that is good-tasting, healthy, [and] a quick snack, with a decent amount of protein,” says Nick Greer, CEO and co-founder, BUILT, American Fork, UT.
“So at BUILT, we’re coming from a place of giving them what they want by creating our BUILT Bars and Puffs that combine all of those factors—something that’s good for them and healthy, something that’s indulgent and something that won’t hurt their stomach and makes them feel good after eating,” he adds.
“We’re also seeing consumers craving the variation of different types of flavors [and] different types of inclusions and textures, which we address with the constant release of limited-time offerings on our direct-to-consumer site to keep our customers excited and coming back for what’s new and different,” Greer shares.
Since launching just five years ago, BUILT’s business has changed—and continues to change—as rapidly as it’s grown, he says.
“The biggest thing that’s shifted in the past couple of years for us as we’ve expanded our retail footprint is an understanding that what we do online doesn’t have to be what we do offline, and vice versa. We use our retail presence to get in front of new customers and expand our availability and reach, while we use the well-oiled machine of our e-commerce presence as a research and data tool and an opportunity to really find out what the customer is looking for without having to break the bank and having to wait the six to 12 months for the data from retailers to roll in,” Greer elaborates.
“With this approach, we’ve become much more strategic and we’re able to respond to and offer consumers what they want in real time. With this, we’ve expanded our offerings quite a bit, recently launching new formats including BUILT Balls, BUILT Bites, and Krispy Bars to ensure there’s a BUILT product for every consumer and every occasion,” he finishes.
Todd Goldstein, CEO, Whoa Dough, Highland Heights, OH, says that the #1 trend he’s seeing in the bar space is better-for-you snacking.
“Consumers want to enjoy an indulgent snack that is better for you, yet still tastes delicious. We’re also seeing things trend toward minibars and multi-packs, in addition to keto-friendly snack bars. We also expect to see brands moving away from using erythritol in their recipes,” Goldstein notes.
“Over the past two years, we’ve personally seen our business grow 400%, which we are extremely proud of, and [we’re] grateful to our ‘snack-happy’ customers. Whoa Dough has also expanded to new channels, such as airlines and the K-12 market,” he adds.
“In March, we released our seventh cookie dough bar flavor, Oatmeal Cookie Dough, in conjunction with Expo West. Each bar is only 150 calories and contains 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and only 9 grams of sugar,” Goldstein finishes.
David Cho, co-founder, chief commercial officer, SOUND Foods, Los Angeles, says that the company believes that more and more people are using snack bars to postpone or even skip meals, but are not interested in specific bars developed and marketed as meal replacement bars.
“Satisfying meal postponement or meal replacement is now another key product feature that consumers are expecting from their go-to snack bar. SOUND believes that bar consumers want to know more about the products that they are consuming and the people and companies that are making them and that they don’t want that information as required nutritional information, but rather as engaging content or storytelling from the brand,” he explains.
“SOUND believes that the bar consumer is always curious about any truly new or novel and entirely different bars that companies are introducing to the bar market,” Cho adds.
SOUND refocused and relaunched its entire direct-to-consumer business to offer the exact products developed for the U.S. warfighter directly to the American consumer, he shares.
“The snack bar market is so large and segmented that we stopped trying to prioritize all of the different potential consumer opportunities and instead focused on specific military needs and opportunities and describing the potential benefit that these products might have for the everyday snacking consumer,” Cho notes.
SOUND relaunched its entire consumer business around one flavor, a High Energy Coconut Almond bar, which was developed for a prototype advanced “Close Combat Assault Ration” and is also Joint Services approved for upcoming MRE or Meals Ready-to-Eat programs, he says.
“It is a calorically dense 50-gram bar formed only with ultrasonic energy, which delivers great taste, texture, and an astounding 300 calories to the U.S. warfighter and American consumer,” Cho expands.
In February, Dave’s Killer Bread, a Flowers Food brand, broke out of the bread category and released three flavors of snack bars.
“The creation of our new Snack Bars was inspired by our BreadHeads—aka, Dave’s Killer Bread fans—who continuously look for the highest-quality ingredients in products and are always eager to try new innovations from Dave’s. We saw an opening in the growing snack bar industry for a grab-and-go version made with whole grains and nutrients,” says Dan Letchinger, business unit senior vice president, FPB, growth, Flowers Bakeries, LLC, Thomasville, GA.
“Like most new products, we began development by focusing on the must-haves. [The bars] needed to live up to the Dave’s spirit and have the same attraction as our bread line: soft-baked, moist, flavorful, and packed with recognizable ingredients. Leaving the bread aisle meant that these snack bars would have to stand alone in a new section of the store; selecting the right combination of flavors that kept the bars unified as a family, but unique enough to individually attract different consumers was important. So, the flavor selection process was crucial,” he explains.
The bar flavors include Cocoa Brownie Blitz, Oat-rageous Honey Almond, and Trail Mix Crumble. “Once we landed on the right combination of flavors and ingredients, we continued the R&D process with consumer testing, limited market releases, and more, ultimately leading to the national rollout of each variety,” Letchinger elaborates.
Like all Dave’s Killer Bread nationally available offerings, Organic Snack Bars are Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, contain no artificial ingredients, artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, and are free of high fructose corn syrup and bleached flour.
“Currently, Dave’s Killer Bread is testing Amped Up Organic Protein Bars in limited geographies,” says Letchinger. “The new Protein Bars have the killer taste fans have come to love from Dave’s Killer Bread, now in grab-and-go protein bars that pack a killer punch to amplify [consumers’] days. These Protein Bars have 10g (10% daily value) of plant-based protein in each of the three flavor offerings: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, Double Chocolate Coconut, and Blueberry Almond Butter.”
Goldstein says Whoa Dough is currently working on two new cookie dough bar flavors for the K-12 market.
“We will also be launching a non-bar cookie dough product in Q4. Stay tuned for the exciting news! We will definitely share some behind-the-scenes moments on our Instagram,” he promises.
Cho shares that SOUND has developed several additional flavors and other products for the U.S. military, and will be releasing them in the upcoming weeks and months.
“The flavors are not just different feature ingredients in another bar, but SOUND’s take on different food and beverage products created as an ultrasonically formed bar,” he explains.
Greer says that over the past year, BUILT has released BUILT Balls, BUILT Puff Bites, and BUILT Krispy’s.
“The BUILT Balls are reshaping the protein game, literally—[they’re] like a bite-sized brownie, filled with creamy peanut butter, and a combo of collagen and whey protein. The BUILT Bites are bite-sized versions of the fan-favorite BUILT Puffs—fluffy and mini like marshmallows, but without any marshmallows, as it’s a mix of whey protein and collagen protein, [hence] its light texture,” Greer reveals.
“The BUILT Krispy leverages our optimized protein formula, and includes high-quality protein sources like hydrolyzed collagen and whey protein isolate. It comes in two flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate and Mint Chocolate,” he expands.As for new products, he says: “Be on the lookout. BUILT is constantly releasing products, we’re constantly innovating, and we are never going to change our ways.”
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