- Huel debuted its first snack bar in the United States on Thursday, according to a release sent to Food Dive.
- The company markets its bars as "nutritionally complete," which means each one contains 27 essential vitamins and minerals while also being high protein, gluten free and plant based. The bars are made with no GMO ingredients or soy products, and are 200 calories each.
- The bars come in two flavors — Chocolate and Salted Caramel — and will be sold online in 15-bar boxes for $28.
British company Huel has slowly been expanding its number of SKUs in the U.S., which it expects to eventually become its primary market. The latest product in that expansion effort is the Huel Bar, which can be used as a meal replacement or a convenient way to get needed vitamins and minerals, similar to its nutritional shakes.
Bars are a popular choice for busy consumers who are searching for solutions to quickly fuel themselves with a healthy and convenient snack. In fact, snacking is slowing replacing the traditional three square meals a day. Datassential estimates consumers eat about four to five snack foods a day rather than three sit-down meals. As a result, the snack market — worth $89 billion in 2018 — is expected to have an annual growth rate of 6.83% between 2017 and 2021, according to Research and Markets.
Snacks as a concept have evolved from bags of chips and a candy bar to a category focused on healthy options that are jam-packed with nutrients to make fueling the body as efficient as possible. Protein, especially plant-based, is a popular nutrient for consumers. It is viewed as a way to keep hunger at bay, serve as a meal replacement and provide essential nutrition. As a result, manufacturers are adding protein into a wide variety of products, including chips and ice cream, and Research and Markets estimated the global protein ingredients market could reach $48.77 billion in 2025.
Protein is a driving force behind the bar market. Once the domain of granola bars, the category has expanded and grown to encompass nutrition and health bars, which are often loaded with protein. This sub-segment was a significant driver in the overall growth of the category in 2019. According to market research firm Information Resources, nutrition and health bars sales increased 3.5% in 2018 as consumers favored bar options containing less sugar and more protein.
There is potential for Huel to tap into this growing market with its protein bars. But at the same time, it may find itself facing a sea of competition. Just this summer, Mondelez International purchased Perfect Snacks, the manufacturer of organic, non-GMO, nut butter-based protein bars and bites. Kellogg peddles RXBAR and PepsiCo acquired Health Warrior, which makes non-GMO and gluten-free snack bars from ingredients like pumpkin and chia seeds. And Huel is also competing with U.S.-based Soylent, which seeks to dominate the meal-replacement space with its nutrient-packed drinks and bars.
Still, the British meal-replacement brand has proved to be successful in differentiating itself from competitors. The brand, founded in 2015, says it has seen 150% growth year over year and is on track to be valued at $1.25 billion within three years. With a direct-to-consumer platform and a limited number of SKUs, the brand has managed to cultivate a loyal following, and the addition of a bar will capture the attention of current customers and have the potential to bring new ones into the fold.
In addition to the release of bars, Huel is also beginning to sell an updated version of its powdered food. The new update, called Huel Powder v3.0, is made with all-natural flavors, the company announced Wednesday.
Although meal replacement options have been around since the 1950s, today’s market remains small. Perhaps that is why Huel angles its marketing to rank it among snack options rather than meal replacements. If the brand continues on its growth trajectory and keeps tapping consumers who are interested in snacking alternatives, Huel may just find a way to stand out from the noise with its bars and shakes.