Snack bars, snack mixes and energy bars continue to be a driving force in the snacks market, according to a recent report, and steady growth in the sector this year is to continue through 2003.
Snack bars have fitted in well with emerging trends for organic, fortified and functional products over the last few years and are no longer seen as tasteless muesli bars just for health fanatics, concluded market researchers Mintel in a review of their Global New Products Database (GNPD) database.
New flavours and convenient packaging formats have contributed to growth in the segment but health claims remain key, finds the report, with added nutrients and vitamins, and reduced fat, calories, cholesterol or sugar among the most popular.
Typical launches include the Novartis Cereal branded Calcium Bars in Belgium, which have added almond pieces and are rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D. French retailer Monoprix has launched Barres de Cereales Noisette Amande, said to be rich in magnesium and vitamins, under its healthier Bien Vivre range.
However there is still potential for further functional health claims within the snack bars segment, claims the GNPD report. Existing functional claims have so far focused on aiding digestion (probiotics), lowering cholesterol (often with the use of soy, although these products are concentrated mostly in the US) and improving heart health.
Products already benefiting from such claims include the Snack Fibra range in Spain from Celigueta, which includes a Ligera Yogur Fresa light yoghurt and strawberry bar with active bifidus and Take Heart Snack Bars in the UK, launched following a joint venture between Quaker Oats and Novartis, and claimed to help reduce cholesterol.
Organic and natural lines are also becoming popular, as they are often perceived to be a healthier alternative to regular products.
The review adds that some companies have begun to add what are seen as luxurious ingredients, such as chocolate or exotic fruits/nuts, to appeal to a wider range of consumers. Cadbury's Brunch Bar in the UK, described as a snack bar with oats, honey and bran flakes, with either hazelnuts or raisins (two varieties are available) on a layer of Cadbury's chocolate, is one such product.
New and interesting formats such as bite-sized bars or sandwich-style bars have also been growing, such as the Nutri-Grain Twists from Kellogg, with separate sections of yogurt and fruit purée in a twist shape, and there have also been more fruit-based bars on the market.
The positioning of snack bars as convenient 'on-the-go' alternatives to breakfast cereal, or as a more sensible alternative to indulgence-oriented chocolate confectionery bars continues, and there remains a high level of activity in the segment from breakfast cereal players (Kellogg's in particular), noted the review.
But targeting has become more specific, with further lines for children and for women, such as the Women's Nutrition Bars in the US from General Health, including My PMS Solution Bar, My Menopause Solution Bar, and My Hot Flash Solution Bar.
The energy bar segment of the market remains most active in North America, and therefore offers strong potential for growth in Europe. Sports bars have the potential to grow further if marketed to a more mainstream audience, claims the GNPD report. This year there were two new flavours of PowerBars in the US from Powerfood (Nestlé) including a Cappuccino variety with 25mg of caffeine.
While there are a number of major players in the snack bars category, including Kellogg, Quaker Oats and Nestle, and North America still leads the way, accounting for 51 per cent of introductions, the overall category remains highly fragmented, in particular in the energy bars and mixes segments. This suggests room for further growth and innovation from a variety of food companies.
Mintel's Global New Products Database looks at new product development, and features records of food, drink and non-food product launches. For more information, visit www.gnpd.com or call +44 20 7606 45533.