ROCKVILLE, MD. — Sales of cereal/granola bars and energy/nutrition bars reached $5.7 billion in 2011, according to a new report from market researcher Packaged Facts.

“Food trends such as the blurring of meals and snacks, an emphasis on portion control and increasingly informal, spur-of-the-moment and customized eating all favor the food bar market,” said David Sprinkle, published of Packaged Facts.

Food bars have been producing double-digit growth rates in the mass market as well as the natural products channel due to increased sophistication in marketing to different consumer groups and innovation in formations and formats.

There also has been increased blurring between cereal/granola bars and energy/nutrition bars. Cereal bar manufacturers are targeting consumers who desire to move away from treats and who are looking for a workout energy boost, a nutritious snack or meal replacement. There have been a number of recent introductions with reduced calories, fat or sugar that have performed well. Manufacturers also are addressing more complex issues such as supplementing nutritional deficits in weight-loss programs, and high-protein, low-carb or balanced gastrointestinal formulations have performed well.

In energy and nutrition bars, new flavor and ingredient introductions as well as improvement in mouthfeel have provided support. Functional ingredients being included are CoQ10, L-carnitine, omega-3, resveratrol and vitamin K2.