Although a Crowded Category, Health Warrior Demand Remains Strong

Baking Business

The bar segment has become a crowded category, but data from Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources, Inc. suggest competition for the consumer dollar is good.
In the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, dollar sales of snack bars/granola bars totaled $5,082,324,992, up 3.7% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. The broad category growth was led by a 5% increase in dollar sales in the nutritional/intrinsic health value bars category, to $2,350,637,312, followed by a nearly 2.5% gain in granola bars, to $1,611,326,336. Meanwhile, the breakfast/cereal/snack bars category moved up 0.51%, to $1,068,230,848, while the emerging “all other” snack/granola bars category jumped nearly 73% to $52,130,472.

At Clif Bar & Co., Emeryville, Calif., demand for bars has led to operational changes and new line extensions. The company in late August opened a $90 million, 300,000-square-foot bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho. Billed by the company as a “one-of-a-kind, sustainability-focused facility,” the new bakery is Clif Bar’s first owned and operated bakery. The facility employs 214 people and makes organic-certified Clif Bar energy bars and Clif Kid ZBars, an organic whole grain snack bar for children.

Clif Bar posted nutritional/intrinsic health value bars sales of $563,645,056 in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, up 11% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. Building on that growth, the company this fall introduced Clif Kid Zbar Fruit + Veggie. Made with whole grains, vegetable powders and a blend of fruit puree, these certified U.S.D.A. organic snack bars contain no G.M.O.s, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or synthetic preservatives. The chewy bars are available in three flavors: Awesome Orange, featuring carrot, mango and orange; Keen Green, featuring apple, sweet potato and spinach; and Purple Power, featuring sweet potato, beet and berry.

General Mills, Inc. is the largest granola bar maker, primarily through its Nature Valley brand. The Minneapolis-based company had dollar sales of $616,250,240 in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, up 2.5% from a year ago, according to I.R.I. The company has received a boost in recent years from its Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars, and earlier this year unveiled a product tapping into yet another taste area: Nature Valley Sweet & Spicy bar. The granola bar features a mix of dark chocolate chunks, nuts, seeds and cayenne pepper all dipped in chocolate coating.

General Mills also has focused on building out the presence of Larabar and Annie’s. In January, Larabar launched its first-ever TV campaign and supported the news with strong in-store merchandising execution. With Annie’s, General Mills is relaunching the brand’s granola bar platform, featuring the reformulation of many of the bars.

At Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., Special K bars were a drag on third-quarter performance. As a result, the company will look to reinvigorate the line early next year, said Paul Norman, president of Kellogg North America.

“In the first quarter, we will be executing a comprehensive restage of Special K Bars behind new food, packaging, and communication and bringing significant renovation and innovation to Nutri-Grain, also,” Mr. Norman said.

An early mover in the chia seed craze, Health Warrior is ready to spotlight another superfood ingredient. Before chia’s recent rise to supermarket stardom, the Richmond, Va.-based company launched a line of snack bars with chia as the main ingredient. Last year, the brand added a line of protein bars featuring a blend of chia, quinoa and pea crisps.

So, what’s next?

“We’re not ready to unveil, and we actually haven’t even shared them with our top retailers,” said Julia Wing-Larson, vice-president of marketing. “But it will be superfoods other than chia, and superfoods will definitely be the No. 1 ingredient. We’re definitely looking at other ingredients that offer that same nutrient density that chia does, but with different nutrients than chia. We want to make sure to diversify our portfolio in providing nutrients that have different benefits and products that can fulfill different needs for different occasions.”
At Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 21-24 in Baltimore, Health Warrior revealed the latest varieties in its Chia Bar and Superfood Protein Bar ranges: vanilla almond and mint chocolate, respectively. The flavors were chosen as part of an on-line poll the brand launched on its web site and social media pages.

“The idea was to create a fan favorite,” Ms. Wing-Larson said. “The polling was done back in the spring. We had put together a list of potential flavors, in looking at what was doing well in the category and out in the market, and looking at ways to incorporate additional superfoods, like almonds. We had put together a list with a number of flavors. We didn’t put anything on there we didn’t think we’d be able to make.

Other flavor options in the poll included seaweed, matcha, blueberry, fig, chocolate chili and dragonfruit. The brand’s current assortment features such flavors as apple cinnamon, acai berry, banana nut, coconut, coffee, chocolate peanut butter, dark chocolate, mango and dark chocolate cherry. The new varieties will hit shelves in January.


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