Since the pandemic disrupted consumer needs for on-the-go snacks, which typically drove snack and nutrition bar purchases, bars have experienced some noteworthy changes. Over the past couple of years, consumers rediscovered bars as a healthy, affordable and convenient snack choice, creating significant opportunities for continued growth in the category. To capitalize on this momentum, bar producers must take a balanced approach to innovation, promotion, price and bold flavor profiles.

Seventy-five percent of current bar buyers anticipate maintaining or increasing purchases in 2023, according to the Mintel “Snack, Nutrition and Performance Bars” 2023 US report. Consumers are influenced by inflation, hybrid work schedules and general burnout. However, bars are a crowded category that fans the flame of competition. 

“Brands that can strike the balance between innovation and familiarity while maintaining great taste will come out on top,” Sydney Olson, senior food and drink analyst, Mintel, said in the report.

Circana sales figures for the 52 weeks ending March 26 show that a 19% price per unit rise is fueling the dollar growth for bars, although unit growth declined by 8%. Overall, snack manufacturers are capturing consumer dollars, but they face headwinds with unit and volume softness. The growth in the category is driven by a combination of factors, including price increases and pack sizes.

“By putting in place the right price and size architecture, producers can capture those consumers trading down to stay in the category while purchasing the same brand, and those trading up who find the price per ounce to be more affordable or have the income to afford the price point for larger sizes,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, client insights, Circana.

Bar subcategories such as Energy, Cereal and Granola bars are showing 9% to 10% dollar growth, according to Circana’s sales data. The All Other Snack Bar subcategory posted 49.4% dollar growth. Ms. Lyons Wyatt noted that while several of these bar makers are entrepreneurial startups, it is likely that some of the larger manufacturers are zeroing in on functional benefits that consumers are looking for and winning with this approach.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Snack Bars, click here.