With 17% growth between 2013 and 2018, the nearly $7 billion bar category keeps rolling on, but the innovative companies making these products may face headwinds going forward.

Mintel noted in its February 2019 report on snack, nutrition and performance bars that the category faces an onslaught of competition from other food and drink categories, which continue to roll out a bevy of healthy and convenient new products. Additionally, the proliferation of snacks is taking away share of stomach from bars as consumers graze upward of six times daily. Moreover, sugar is a concern.

Around 41% of bar consumers stated high-sugar content affects their bar purchase selection. Protein remains a driving force in bar consumption. In fact, nearly 45% of bar shoppers acknowledge that protein amount is important in the bars they buy. However, one recent Mintel survey indicated that the importance of protein has declined slightly — a potential chink in its armor.

“While this does not necessarily point to the waning import of protein overall, it’s a reminder that consumers can be fickle, and that the bar category should not necessarily hang its hat on being laser-focused on protein,” the report noted.

For decades, bar companies have deftly responded to fads and more enduring consumer trends with a bounty of new product innovation. The category flourished by offering new bars that competed with cookies, candy and more. Now it’s facing challenges from other categories and vacillating consumer preferences. The report recommended that bar producers fight back with more relevant snackable options while branching beyond protein, addressing other functional nutritional needs. Yes, a good offense is the best defense to sustain stellar growth in the future.