Raising the (Nutrition) Bar
December 8, 2023
People want healthier foods, and nutrition bars offer a convenient, mess-free (and tasty) way to get vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. It’s no surprise that sales are on the rise. Here are some nutrition bar trends the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) is watching.
Protein Bars Lead the Way
Previous research found that 55% of U.S. households make high protein an important consideration when they shop for groceries. Since the PowerBar was invented in 1986, protein bars have become popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to build, maintain or repair muscle. That demand isn’t expected to let up. According to Global Market Insights, the global protein bar market hit $6.8 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $11.5 billion by 2032.
“Consumer demand for these products continues to grow, and consumers are looking for new entrants with unique offerings,” says Bill Aimutis, NCFIL executive director.
While protein bars are out front, food companies are offering a growing number of bars marketed for other health and wellness benefits. There are specialty bars tailored for diabetics, ones that contain bioactive nutraceuticals such as botanicals and medicinal mushrooms, and even ones targeted to boost the immune system, improve sleep, aid digestion, relieve stress and increase brain function.
Consumer demands for healthier foods, coupled with their desire for ready-to-eat foods, are key drivers in the growth of the nutrition bar industry. Increasingly, consumers say they want foods that are better for their health, so food companies are responding by producing bars with less sugar and more phytochemicals and protein. And as more consumers demand sustainably produced foods, some companies are turning to more environmentally friendly ingredients and packaging.
Savory Versus Sweet
Companies are also pursuing new flavor and texture profiles. Although sweet flavors have long dominated the bar market, snack bar makers are launching more savory products. According to Food Technology Magazine, experts see considerable growth potential for savory bars, in part because they satisfy a wide array of lifestyle and diet preferences, including keto, paleo and gluten free.
While many of the companies pioneering the savory snack bar category are startups, others are industry mainstays. In 2023, General Mills launched its Nature Valley offerings with the introduction of nut bars available in three savory flavors: everything bagel, white cheddar and smoky barbecue.
“General Mills has always been a trend setter in this category. It will not surprise us to see alternative meat offerings in this format in the near future,” Aimutis adds.
Where NCFIL Comes In
For entrepreneurs and established food companies that want to test new ingredients, formulations or processes on a small scale, the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab is a sophisticated proving ground that operates under rigorous cGMP conditions.
Our state-of-the-art pilot plant has a new Bühler SnackFix system ideal for creating nutrition bars at a small scale. The modular system features a continuous mixer, a small cooling tunnel and a cutting system. In its mass preparation unit, cereals, nuts and other ingredients can be continuously mixed with the binder, then delivered to the transport belt, where two equalizing rollers form a continuous product slab that’s then cut to the desired product width.
NCFIL’s machine is configured to produce nutritional bars in multiple formats including bites, traditional slab, multi-phase, and others.
We’re always looking for new partners and invite you to reach out to share your ideas, collaborate on formulas or produce test products in our pilot plant.