Who’s raising the bar? Top 10 snack bar brand performance in first half of 2016

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

Good health: All sub-categories in the market have grown this year. Pic: iStock ©/ariwasabi
Good health: All sub-categories in the market have grown this year. Pic: iStock ©/ariwasabi

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IRI data reveals how the 10 biggest brands in key US snack bar categories have performed in dollar and unit terms in the first six months of 2016.

America’s snack bar market has enjoyed a strong start to 2016 – with all sub-sectors in year-on-year growth.

While nutrition/health bars drove virtually all growth in the category in 2015​, IRI data for the first six months of this year shows a more balanced picture.

In the case of breakfast bars, for example, the dip in dollar sales recorded for 2015 has been turned around to become a modest 1.2% increase [year-to-date July 10 2016].

Lärabar success

In no small part, this has been down to the success of the General Mills-owned Lärabar brand, which has grown sales by almost 50% year on year.

The brand has been boosted by the launch of its first TV advertising campaign​ in January – a one-minute commercial set to a remake of the song ‘Little Boxes’ performed by indie pop band Lucius. Tapping consumer demand for more natural products, it tells consumers that, while “some [products] have food dyes and sugar and some are made with preservatives”​, Lärabar is made with “real food”.

Lärabar has offset the decline in General Mill’s core Nature Valley breakfast bars, and the brand has also benefited from the recent rollout of Nut Crunch bars.

Special K slump hits Kellogg

Less successful this year has been Kellogg, the biggest player in the breakfast bars category. It’s overall sales have dropped  just over 2% by value on volumes down almost 5%.

And, as the business admitted recently, the decline has been driven by a slump in sales of Special K products, with the company’s Rice Krispies Treats and Nutri Grain snacks in growth.

Kellogg has told analysts it is planning major renovation work​ on its Special K snacks range in 2017.


Year on year performance. Source: IRI year-today July 10, 2016Note: data can be re-ordered by clicking on column headingIRI is a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide​) 

The granola bar market is also enjoying a stronger performance this year compared to 2015 – with six of the top 10 brands in dollar sales growth this year.

Kind has been the star performer over the period, with sales of its Healthy Grains bars growing by a third. The business this month published​ the added sugar content of the 60-plus snacks across its bars range on a new web page that also highlights the ingredients used in the products and the brand’s health and nutrition principals.

With overall value growth of around 6%, General Mills’ Nature Valley brand has also got off to a good start in 2016.

But the business isn’t resting on its laurels, and recently announced​ that snack bars will be a focus for the business. Activity will include a new, cleaner look for Nature Valley designed to reinforce the simplicity of the brand and make it easier for consumers to shop what it described as the “cluttered”​ snack bar aisle.

Kellogg, meanwhile, will be hoping renovation of its Kashi brand – including the rollout of new-look packaging – can help turn around sales of the brand’s snack bars.


Year on year performance. Source: IRI year-today July 10, 2016IRI is a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide​) 

Kellogg and General Mills are both struggling in the nutrition/health bar category as relative newcomers continue to take share of the market.

Despite growth in Nature Valley Protein bars, this has not been sufficient to offset decline in General Mills’ Fiber One brand.

In stark contrast, Clif, Quest and Kind are among the brands enjoying double-digit growth as consumers opt for nutritional products that they perceive as been more natural and healthy.

Of these, Quest has been the standout performer – with sales soaring more than 80% in value and volume terms.


Year on year performance. Source: IRI year-today July 10, 2016IRI is a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide​) 

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