Food Bars Ideal for On-The-Go Consumers

Breakfast/cereal/snack bars are ideal for on-the-go consumers; and they can mesh well with the new Dietary Guidelines.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

“Candy bars begat granola bars, which begat cereal bars, which begat diet bars, which begat energy bars and supplement bars,” reported Nutrition Action in 2000. The good news is the begatting continues in the breakfast/cereal/snack bars category.

General Mills, Minneapolis, launched the granola bar segment to health-oriented consumers in 1975 with the Nature Valley brand. As traditional breakfast consumption declined, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., offered a solution for on-the-go consumers in 1981 with the introduction of Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal bars. Two years later, privately held PowerBar, Berkeley, Calif. (now owned by Nestlé), rolled out its line of energy bars for both stressed-out and active consumers who want a convenient quick burst of energy.

Major players today include Kellogg’s, Quaker, General Mills and Nestlé (via its acquisition of PowerBar). See tables below for a "Who's Who" ranking of the snack bar market.

Benefiting from consumer interest in low-carb foods, healthier snack and meal replacement alternatives and that ever-popular convenience factor, consumers have accelerated their drive to the bar. New options for them include protein and sports/energy bars, diet/weight-management bars, low-carb bars, specialty nutrition bars for diabetics and indulgent/healthy bars. Indulgent/healthy might seem a contradiction, but it works just fine for young adults and conflicted Baby Boomers, who want to combine wellness with enjoyment.

There’s one for every occasion, time of day, health benefit, physical activity, gender, age and ethnicity with bars specifically targeting Latinos. Consumers bellied up $2.2 billion in 2004 (excluding sales through Wal-Mart and natural food stores) for bars, according to Mintel International.

Cereal-based (traditionally oat-based), mainstream cereal/granola or snack bars might contain nuts, seeds, fruit, raisins, chocolate or soy. They’re ideal for breakfast, snacks, energy, meal replacement and weight control.

One for every snacking need

We’re seeing many mini-sized products, a trend that has already swept through candy and snack food products. Mini-sizing adds novelty value and helps promote healthier snacks for kids. Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal Bites, the first bite-size cereal bars, are great for little hands with big cravings. And Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal Iced Bites -- available in Iced Strawberry and Iced Raspberry -- give each bite something extra to love.

Adults increasingly raise a bar. Almost one-third of respondents to a survey by KRC Research don’t eat breakfast every morning. When they do, 38 percent say it’s on the fly. Many high flyers grab a bar for breakfast or snack.  More than 70 percent of respondents ages 25-49 to a recent Roper ASW phone survey said they enjoy “granola or cereal bars” as their on-the-go snack of choice, and their favorite flavors are strawberry, apple, blueberry, raspberry and lemon.

Nutri-Grain granola bars and bites provide a good source of seven vitamins and minerals in six varieties: honey oat and raisin, mixed berry and chocolatey chip in the granola bars plus oatmeal raisin, berry medley and chocolatey chip granola bites. General Mills recently rolled out Sunkist Fruit and Grain Bars made with ample quantities of real fruit in apple, lemon and strawberry varieties. The co-branded line already has grabbed a 2 percent market share.

Intrinsic health bars, also referred to as energy bars and weight loss/portion control bars, are designed to control fat or carbs and/or deliver high fiber plus vitamins and minerals. Many are targeted to women, athletes and college students, all of whom are more interested in choosing foods based on nutritional values.

One recent example is Power Bar’s PowerBar Pria Carb Select. Formulated for women, it contains 2 g of impact carbs and 130 calories and is fortified with 8 g of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folic acid and antioxidant vitamins C and E. The 35 g snack-sized bars deliver as much calcium as an 8-oz. glass of milk and more folic acid than an 8-oz. glass of fresh orange juice.

For active guys who want the taste of a candy bar yet seek a nutritious energy snack to stave off hunger, PowerBar is readying a spring launch of PowerBar Triple Threat -- four energy snack bars that fuel like a PowerBar and taste like a candy bar. Offered in both crispy and chocolate-caramel-layered textures, each 55 g bar is fortified with 16 vitamins and minerals and a balance of carbs, protein and fiber. Containing 220-230 calories, the bars are trans fat-free.

Traditionally, bar consumers were from households with kids, according to an Information Resources Inc. study last year, so breakfast, cereal and granola bars dominated the category. But over the past two years, snack bars/granola bars are changing the landscape. With the growing interest in wellness and nutritionally enhanced foods, adults are hoisting the healthy bar. Dieters, those with a low-carb lifestyle or more fitness-oriented youthful consumers are now driving this segment.

While many choose to monitor their carb intake, they don't necessarily want to give up chocolate. General Mills rolled out Momentum Bars last year in three flavors -- Chocolate Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate and Chocolate Caramel Nut. All three varieties have 3 g net carbs, provide 15 essential vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of calcium. The bars contain Splenda sweetener and hit the spot for carb-conscious consumers craving an indulgent snack.

Demand for healthier and nutritional benefits shows no sign of slowing in the short term, according to IRI. Wellness bar growth is on fire with adult-oriented, low-carb or nutritionally pulsed bars combining to account for 38 percent of the overall bar category. Wellness consumers tend to choose items based on their carbs.

Growth of the healthier food-to-go category illustrates the potential force of the wellness revolution across a number of categories,” says Ed Kuehnle, president of IRI North America. In the past five years, the overall snack bars/granola bars category enjoyed a 17 percent composite annual growth rate. The wellness segment grew 32 percent.

Low-carb brands have grabbed 13 percent market share in category scanner sales, while energy, protein, fitness or diet/low-sugar bars accounted for 25 percent of share in 2004.  Meanwhile, the category forerunner segments – breakfast/cereal and granola bars – have seen their combined share drop from an estimated 71 percent to 55 percent and rice snack squares from 13 percent to 5 percent since 1998.

Let’s speculate as to what’s next on the label. Look for organic, natural, trans fat-free, more enrichment and bars for specific medical problems – those with allergies, ones for diabetics (sugar-reduced or sugar-free, following the glycemic index or glycemic load) and heart-healthy bars touted to lower cholesterol. And definitely those with healthful ingredients: more fruits, nuts, soy and dairy ingredients and use of whole grains for added fiber to tie in with the new USDA guidelines.

Two is better than one here, too, so look for processors to add coffee to a breakfast bar, cheese to a sandwich-type bar or enrobe granola with dark chocolate for a healthy dessert. General Mills’ Nature Valley rolled out Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars in two varieties – Peanut and Almond – in January. It’s touted to those who love sweet, but also crave salty.

Top 10 Vendors of Breakfast/Cereal/Snack Bars
Company Name       Sales ($ millions) % Change
vs. Year Ago
Market Share
Kellogg Co.




Quaker Oats Co.




General Mills




Atkins Nutritionals




Private Label




Slim Fast Foods








McKee Foods Corp.




Bimbo Bakeries




Health Valley Natural Foods




Top 10 Total


- 3.6%

Source: Information Resources Inc., Sales in U.S. supermarkets for 52 weeks ending Dec. 26, 2004

Top 20 Brands of Breakfast/Cereal/Snack Bars
Brand Name              Sales ($ millions) % Change
vs. Year Ago
Market Share
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain




Kellogg’s Special K




General Mills Milk ‘N Cereal




Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal




Quaker Oatmeal Breakfast Squares




Atkins Morning Start




Kellogg’s Cereal & Milk




Private Label




Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal




Slim Fast Snack Options




Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Muffin




Post Carb Well




Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Yogurt




Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal On the Go




General Mills Oatmeal Crisp








General Mills Sunkist




Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Minis




Kellogg’s All Bran




Entenmann’s Multi Grain




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