Kind Healthy Snacks is looking to energize its portfolio by expanding into a growing segment: energy bars.
Despite increased competition in the category in recent years, Kind's latest product line to hit shelves is looking to differentiate itself through its ingredients. The first ingredient in the new Kind bars are oats, which the company said provides complex carbohydrates for sustained energy. The bars also contain quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and millet, giving consumers one serving of 100% whole grains.
"The predominant ingredient is not something you're seeing with other top bars in this category," Stephanie Csaszar, nutrition expert at Kind, said. "A lot of them lead with sugars or protein powders, so we put a lot of thought into the nutritional makeup."
For its competitors' energy bars, Kind said Clif Bar's top ingredient is organic brown rice syrup, while Atkins' and ThinkThin's top ingredients are a protein blend.
Kind's foray into energy bars is just one of several moves to broaden its products this year. In February, the snack company branched out from bars and debuted offerings in frozen, refrigerated, chocolate and snack mixes.
"The predominant ingredient is not something you're seeing with other top bars in this category."
Nutrition expert, Kind Healthy Snacks
Csaszar said when considering jumping into a new category, the company looks at what is ripe for disruption and how they can elevate the competition by adding a benefit that's not currently there.
"This is a really unique category because we're already very prominent in the nutritional bar space, as well as snack bars, but energy bars specifically is something that's grown. There's a lot of interest, given the nutritional appeal, and when we looked at our portfolio we determined that this is something that our consumer community was looking to Kind for," she said.
Intended before exercise
Since energy bars are typically higher in calories, larger in size or higher in carbohydrates than other bars, Csaszar said they should be eaten before physical activity. But about 75% of consumers surveyed said they eat an energy bar while relaxing at home, sitting at their desk or running errands, according to a consumer survey cited by Kind.
"Energy bars should not be treated as regular snacks because of their distinct nutritional profile," Leslie Bonci, Kansas City Chiefs dietitian and owner of Active Eating Advice, said in a statement. "The higher carbohydrate content is meant to help your body utilize the energy most efficiently to optimize performance, not to sit around."
Csaszar said Kind is informing consumers on when these bars should be eaten through its marketing campaign and by designing packaging with illustrations of athletes, like a runner, biker or hiker.
"We felt that was our opportunity to educate, always wanting to be on the forefront of ensuring that our consumers understand proper nutrition and just transparency behind the products and the ingredients so that they can make more informed food choices," Csaszar said.
To promote the launch, the company announced the Kind Energy Pledge, which asks consumers to commit to eating energy bars just before physical activity. When consumers sign the pledge, they are asked to submit a photo or a receipt of a recent energy bar purchase, either Kind or another energy bar on the market. The first 1,000 people will win $100 to use toward a fitness expense.
"We really want to empower that occasion and get people moving and active again, but also just considering their snack choices before they exercise to make sure it's something that's going to give them an optimal outcome," she said.
Kind Energy's bars have 10 grams of protein and 35% less sugar than the leading energy bar. Csaszar said energy bars are rich with complex carbohydrates, which the body digests slower because of the fiber content.
"We wanted this to be explicit for people to eat prior to exercise or physical activity because the carbohydrates are a bit higher than what Kind typically offered in the past," she said. "So usually before you exercise, you're going to want something that prioritizes carbohydrates because they're very efficient for your body to break down and you really want that good quality fuel to keep you going. So that is why the occasion matches the nutritional parameters. Our typical products, like dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, for example, is very fat-based because of the vanilla and that's not really something that you're going to want to eat a handful of before you're going on a run."
Kind versus Clif
Jumping into this segment continues the feud between Kind and Clif Bar. Kind is targeting its competitor in a new TV ad and will be "significantly investing" in TV, paid digital and influencers to promote its energy bars.
Last year, Clif bought a full-page ad in the New York Times calling out Kind to go organic, while Kind took aim at rival Clif with a campaign that questioned the brand's claims about using healthy ingredients. Kind also debuted an augmented reality installation pop-up and an online database to show the different sweeteners and sugar sources hidden in top-selling snacks, including many of Kind's competitors.
"We’ve found that people appreciate information. Since day one, we’ve felt the most important and kindest thing we can do is provide people with straightforward information as they choose their snacks, especially when it comes to sugar," Csaszar said.
The energy bar category, which is increasingly crowded with options from Clif, General Mills and Kellogg, has a predicted annual growth rate of 4.9% from now until 2024, according to Mordor Intelligence.
Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of Kind, told The Street that the company has been working on its energy bar product for "many, many years." But he said it's a difficult year to be launching the company's "most ambitious innovation" in different categories. Early in the pandemic, snack bar sales declined.
"The overall snack bar category and nutrition bar category are a little bit under stress because people are not on-the-go as much, but Kind bars are gaining a ton of market share," Lubetzky said.
While the company has just entered energy bars, Csaszar says this won't be the last launch for Kind. "We definitely have other products that are coming out toward the end of the year," she said.