In February 2012, Kraft unveiled a category first: MilkBite milk and granola bars for the refrigerated dairy aisle combining “real milk” (and as much calcium as an 8floz glass of milk), whole grains, nuts and fruit.
In June 2012 , R&D executive Jean Spence cited MilkBite along with MiO water enhancers as an example of how Kraft was delivering breakthrough innovation by creating completely new grocery categories. The product also earned several industry awards.
Less than a year later, however, MilkBite bars have been quietly dropped.
Kraft: ‘We made the difficult decision to discontinue the product for business reasons’
So what went wrong?
A company spokeswoman told FoodNavigator-USA that “MilkBite Milk and Granola Bars were discontinued around Q3, 2012”.
She added: “We saw an opportunity in the fast growing dairy snacking category to offer consumers the fresh taste and wholesomeness of real milk in convenient granola bar form.
“We believe we had a delicious and unique product. Unfortunately, we made the difficult decision to discontinue the product for business reasons. Instead, we’re refocusing our efforts on the innovation of new products for Kraft Cheese.”
Euromonitor: ‘One factor that negatively impacted the product is that it needs to be refrigerated, which limits a lot of the anytime snack usage’
However, market analysts contacted by FoodNavigator-USA for comment said that this did not come as a huge surprise, despite the fact that on paper, the bars appeared to tick all the right boxes (nutrition, convenience, innovation).
Euromonitor International research analyst Matthew Hudak said the refrigeration factor was novel, but also restricting.
“One factor that negatively impacted the product is that it needs to be refrigerated, which limits a lot of the anytime snack usage that granola bars are typically known for.”
He added: “You cannot carry one with you or leave some in an office desk in case you get hungry.”
Lori Colman, co-CEO at branding and marketing agency CBD Marketing, agreed that the convenience factor could be compromised by the refrigeration factor.
"People buy granola bars and put them in a desk drawer, the car, a gym bag, a lunch box/bag so that the product is there when they want a healthier snack. Or take them on a hike, or skiing or on a long road trip. Refrigeration is just too much trouble.
"Also, I’m betting people may have purchased and then forgot to refrigerate. Found the box in their pantry a week or so later and the product was not so fresh any more. The net – an inconvenient product in a category that grew largely because of convenience."
Datamonitor: ‘It is really difficult to take a product class regarded as shelf stable, and try to sell it there’
Meanwhile, Datamonitor innovation insights director Tom Vierhile said the fact that MilkBite did not gain very wide distribution, “suggests that Kraft had trouble gaining shelf-space”.
He added: “The dairy case is some of the most fought after real estate in the entire supermarket, so I think it is really difficult to take a product class regarded as shelf stable, and try to sell it there.
“This has worked in the past for some products – like pickles, or even salad dressing – but in the case of MilkBite I think that it just isn’t clear why the product needs to be refrigerated, and what it gains from this.”
Refrigerating the bar did not deliver anything positive to the consumer experience
The main problem was that the refrigeration factor did not seem to really add anything to the experience for consumers, he said.
“I remember trying this product, and it did not have a taste or texture that really stood out from other snack bars. I didn’t think that refrigerating the bar did anything positive to the taste of the bar. If it had a liquid or crème center, I could maybe see the rationale for having to keep it chilled.”
Training consumers to look for products like this in the dairy case is a bridge too far
Ultimately, he said, “consumers do not and did not expect to see a snack bar in the refrigerator.
“There are a handful of bars that have tried this including one called Attune that contains probiotics and is sold near yogurts, but training consumers to look for products like this in the dairy case is a bridge too far, in my opinion.”
Mintel: Did consumers realize it was there?
Speaking at the 2013 Food Technology & Innovation Forum in Chicago earlier this week, Mintel innovation & insight director Lynn Dornblaser said that MilkBite was “a really really interesting concept.”
However, the fact that the bars were in the chiller instead of the cereal and snacking aisle may have meant that many consumers simply “didn’t notice” them, she said.