- Organic ingredient company SunOpta has debuted arbor bars, its snack bar made with real fruit, 100 calories per bar and has no added sugar, the company said in a statement. Each item has five ingredients or fewer.
- The company already participates in co-manufacturing and private label production, which it says grew 30% in the past six months and is its fastest-growing business unit. By adding its own brand and entering the $1.95 billion snack bar category, the company said it is looking to replicate this growth in its fruit business unit.
- The bars come in three flavors: Apple + Berries, Apple + Blueberry and Apple + Raspberry. They are sold in five packs for $6.49 a box at more than 1,000 Walmart stores.
As consumers question what's in the food products they eat, bars that were once considered healthy are losing ground to offerings with cleaner labels. More traditional options, particularly granola bars that contain a mixture of sugar along with grains and nuts, have come under scrutiny from consumers seeking healthier options. Data from IRI showed granola bar sales dropped 3% between 2017 and 2018.
During this same time period, the nutrition and health bars space saw sales increase 3.5%, and since then the popularity of this segment has remained strong. SunOpta is looking to capitalize on the trend with the debut of its organic fruit bar that is designed to appeal to consumers looking for cleaner labels in their snacking.
However, the pandemic has presented difficulties for the category. According to a Bernstein analysis, health and nutrition bar sales slipped 5.8% in March and April as people remained at home and were less in need of on-the-go nutrients and quick-snack solutions.
Even though the category has slumped recently, the report noted the cooling of sales was only temporary. The analyst firm predicted the nutritional bar category will return to overall growth on the strength of "mega dietary trends such as wholesome/natural and high protein/low carb" when quarantines are lifted and people find themselves leaving the house more regularly.
When this occurs, SunOpta will not be the only company prepared with a nutritional, bar-shaped snack option.
Specialty bars have popped up on the market with California-based coconut chip company Dang Foods releasing plant-based bars geared toward the ketogenic diet, and Texas-based Thunderbird bringing vegan and paleo nutrition bars aimed at endurance athletes to the market.
Large manufacturers also have latched onto the trend toward healthy, clean label bars in order to remain competitive in the snacking space. Hershey’s VC arm, C7 Ventures, took a minority stake in Fulfil — a producer of high-protein, vitamin-fortified nutrition bars in the UK and Ireland. Similarly, Mondelez International purchased a majority stake in Perfect Snacks, the manufacturer of organic, non-GMO, nut butter-based protein bars and bites.
All fruit bars, however, seem to be less common."It’s incredibly challenging to innovate snack bars that are flavorful and delicious yet contain 0 grams of added sugar and five ingredients or fewer, which is why you so rarely see them on the market," Bryan Clark, vice president of research and development at SunOpta, said in a statement.
Stepping into the CPG space with its own brand is a big move. The ingredients company is moving from a behind-the-scenes role to a more prominent position where it is likely to hear more clearly what consumers look for in their bars. However, the company already has an array of organic ingredients and fruit-based snacks that it offers for private label, so it has experience creating products that appeal to a wide variety of consumers.
Arbor bars are positioned to capitalize on the wholesome and natural trends, and an investment in the space now for SunOpta could prove to be a lucrative one as these categories once again drive bar purchases.