The bar market has experienced high single-digit growth in the past several years, and that’s something Jamie Better, chief executive officer of Nellson, anticipates will continue. With Nellson’s latest expansion in Ontario, Calif., he believes the bar co-manufacturer is ready to take its share of that growth.

“This is a great market to be in,” he said. “We think that business could double again in the next five years.”

Mr. Better thinks the international markets and consumers desire for on-the-go nutrition show the most promise.

“The European, South American and Asian bar markets are far less developed than the North American market,” he explained.

Nellson’s multiple pack-out system with the regulatory capabilities to do international packaging puts it in the perfect position to meet that growth, he said.

As millennials take over more purchasing power from baby boomers, Mr. Better expects their love of bars will not fade.

“Millennials are four times as likely to consume a nutrition bar as baby boomers,” he said.

The Ontario plant is flexible enough to create the variety of innovative bars that these consumers crave.

The plant is certified for gluten-free, organic, kosher and halal production as well as ingredients sourced with fair trade and Non-GMO Project verification in mind. For its customers, the bar plants are all SQF Level-2 certified, and Nellson is working on achieving Level-3 certification at all its sites.

Despite customer inquiries, Nellson hasn’t ventured into new markets beyond bars and powders … yet. After all, the future is not set in stone.

“We’ve had a lot to focus on our core markets, so we’ve chosen not to do that,” Mr. Better said. “But I think there are many attractive opportunities to consider as we move forward.”

The Ontario facility also has room for expansion.

“One of the reasons we didn’t staff every room with a line is because we’re not certain what we might want to put in there,” said Bart Child, senior vice-president, commercial development, Nellson. “So that gives us the flexibility to potentially put new equipment in that will give us additional capabilities.”

With this new facility, Nellson showed its customers that it is able to grow with them. Room to expand, a collaborative R&D lab, the flexibility to adapt to the latest innovations and varieties, and the redundancies to take on product surges and even out distribution have sent the message loud and clear that Nellson is ready to take on this new bar world.

“This plant is generating a lot of enthusiasm on the part of our customers,” Mr. Better said. “Some want to transfer volume from the East coast, and there are a lot of new customers filling the pipeline, so we think we’re going to enjoy some very meaningful growth. Irwindale has been around for 30 years, and I would expect this facility to be an engine for growth for a similarly long period of time.”