Their recent history (last 35 years or so) started with a simple cereal bar – Nature Valley. It was a compressed bar with cereal grains, created during the “crunchy granola” age of the late 1960s/early ’70s. But not everyone wanted to bite into something that shattered the jaw, so Quaker Oats came up with a softer bar that still held the oats and granola, and the Chewy Granola Bar debuted in the mid-1970s.
A couple hundred bar-products later, what can you do to innovate an innovation? Maybe marry the idea of the food bar with a huge gap in the consumer diet: fruits and vegetables. Think Products of Ventura, Calif., has done just that with the think5 food bar, which promises the consumer two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables in a 2.53-oz. bar. Believe it or not.
You may have had bars with apple, pear, peach or cranberry ingredients, but ever had one with broccoli powder, spinach leaf powder, watercress powder – or any of a half dozen other vegetable ingredients? Here we look at the think5--Red Berry Flavor.
Understanding the marketplace
The recent revisions of the USDA’s food pyramid told people that for a good diet we need to go light on the fats and increase our intake of fruits and vegetables -- five to nine servings per day are recommended -- along with more fiber. USDA also wanted to focus people on the importance of food versus nutrients. Nutritionists wanted people to think about the quantity and quality of the food they were selecting for consumption on a daily basis.
Despite the pyramid and other reminders, consumers struggle to get more than one or two servings of fruits and vegetables.
Using the food bar format for fruits is not new. In a miniature way, it goes back to the Fig Newton. Big names in the food bar business -- Kellogg, Quaker Oats, General Mills, Unilever (Slim Fast) – as well as smaller companies like Larabar have been selling fruit (1/2 to 2 servings in a bar) for years.
Data suggest that food bars continue to be popular. Market size is estimated to be $1.3 billion for 2007, after healthy growth of 43 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to Mintel Intl. Cereal carbohydrates have been the customary base ingredient for all of these products.
Think Products is the brainchild of a model who wanted to create healthy functional snacks for people like herself. CEO Lizanne Falsetto brought her first product to market during the low-carb trend of the early 2000s. Seeing sales rise and then sink, she worked with a number of people to relaunch the product line with an eye toward forward-looking trends. In addition to the think5 bar, there are products such as thinkThin, thinkOrganic and thinkGreen (superfoods).
Falsetto & Co. knew others were successful with lower levels of fruits (up to two) and sought to up the ante to the full minimal portion of fruits and vegetables, five, in a familiar form.
Our Crave It!, Healthy You! and It!s Convenient insights tell us it’s really hard for parents to balance the nutrient needs of their kids and also to provide tasty food – just as it’s difficult for the adults to get their daily fruits and vegetables. So any product that promises a relevant amount of vegetables and fruits in an easy-to-eat, familiar form should be very interesting for people.
While there are a large number of products coming to market to help with this need (Flat Earth chips, breads with enhanced nutrients -- see our June review of Pepperidge Farm Double Fiber bread), mixing vegetables and fruits is different (although V8 V-fusion beverage does it).
The key trends in cereal bars are: taste, nutrition, weight management and convenience.
Taste: Mixtures of grains that can be sensed in combination with real sweeteners (sugar, honey, not corn syrup) are tastes people are looking for. People want to be able to chew and taste the grains. Fruit (large and chewy) is a preferred choice, and chocolate (a variation of the think5 bar) is never out of style. Nuts, yogurt and seeds are other ingredients that many people have become fond of in cereal bars.
Nutrition: Whole-grain and trans fat-free are descriptors people look for in their cereal bars. An interesting exclusionary statement that has been on the rise is “gluten-free.” This is extremely interesting in light of desire for whole grains. Soy protein has been a mixed bag recently, although other sources of protein from dairy have been on the good list for consumers.
Weight management: Product design that helps promote satiety is of interest to consumers. Balancing the number of calories in a food bar with a level of satiation (“keeps hunger down for four hours”) is highly desirable. Having sustained hunger relief and reduced calories (150 or less) is ideal.
Convenience: The rise of the food bar has coincided with the speed-up of life. A breakfast bar is the meal of choice for many parents as they run out the door for work. It gives men and women a small amount of relief by substituting for a candy bar for that mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. It’s one of those foods that many people keep in their purse or drawer for a quick bite. The food bar is thought to be the better choice over chips for kids. The design is such that food bars can be eaten one-handed while driving or in a sport. It becomes easy to see why this food item has grown as much as it has over its 30-plus year career.