- After significant recent growth, granola bar sales are down this year, according to new data from market research firm Information Resources, Inc. reported by Food Business News. Total dollar sales amounted to $1.63 billion in the 52 weeks ending in October — a 3% drop from the previous year. Unit sales were also down 3.6%, according to the data.
- But snack bar sales overall continue to grow. In the same time period, sales in the broader category were $6.24 billion, a 2.9% jump from the year before. Much of that growth comes from nutrition and health bars — which increased 3.5% in sales — and breakfast or cereal bars, which grew 9%.
- Established and upstart companies are taking advantage of the growth in the bar category and rolling out new options to meet the demand for snack bars that take nutrition and convenience into account.
Consumers just aren't buying granola bars like they used to. In recent years, healthier snacks — and particularly granola bars — have become more popular. But this year, both unit and total dollar sales dropped considerably, and the demand for nutritionally dense snack food bars is simultaneously on the rise.
This shift could have to do with consumers questioning granola bars' health merits. Experts have undermined the assumption that granola bars –– often a mixture of grains, sugar and nuts –– always fit the bill for a healthy snack.
Consumers like the convenience of granola bars, but want a version that delivers more nutrition. That often means less sugar and more protein, though the exact amount of each that should be in a bar have been the subject of debate. KIND Healthy Snacks defended the health merits of its bars a few years ago after the company received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration demanding it remove the term "healthy" from its packaging. The FDA later revised its guidelines and KIND reconfigured its labeling.
Companies are still promoting and launching granola bars despite the drop in sales — such as KIND recently launching snack size bars.
But to stay competitive, more companies are shifting into the health and nutrition bar space. Increased desire for healthy snack foods, paired with fitness trends that include diets limiting certain ingredients, have driven the bar market in a new direction. Analysts expect the market for protein bars to grow 3.9% by 2023.
PepsiCo recently acquired Health Warrior, which makes non-GMO and gluten-free snack bars from ingredients like pumpkin and chia seeds. Last year, Kellogg acquired clean label RXBAR for $600 million. The Chicago-based company made a splash with its minimal, protein-dense bars with labels featuring their ingredients list. As a company, Kellogg is still struggling, but growth in the bar category has been a consistent bright spot — and is helping pull the company toward greater sales growth.
As customers shy away from longstanding staples, start-up brands are also exploring ways to enter the market. California-based coconut chip company Dang Foods released plant-based bars geared toward the ketogenic diet. And Los Angeles-based Bonk Breaker targets consumers looking for high-protein options with a new line of paleo-friendly Premium Protein bars. The company already sells a variety of nutrition bars.
Both newcomers and established brands will keep exploring new ways to cater to consumers eager for nutritious and healthy snack bars. That might mean fewer granola bars on shelves, if consumers keep reaching for alternative bar options.