The U.S. market for nutritional shakes and bars rose at an annual rate of nearly 10% from 2010 to 2015 and topped $9 billion last year, according to a new study from market research firm Packaged Facts cited by Food Manufacturing.
The study projects that retail sales of these products will rise 8.3% annually through 2021. The increases will slow some compared to the 2011 to 2015 period, the report noted, yet growth opportunities are there for companies that make and market nutritional shakes and bars.
Consumers' hunger for healthier items with novel flavors and superfoods has driven growth. "Additionally, nutritional shakes and bars are increasingly marketed as organic and non-GMO, with new options available to consumers who look to environmental sustainability and nutritional content when purchasing foods," the report said.
Nutritional power bars from brands including Kashi, Clif and Luna have emerged to provide energy and advantage in sports performance. They have since morphed into quick pick-me-ups and on-the-go snacks popular with busy commuters and younger consumers. Like nutritional shakes, they can be used as a meal replacement or simply a handy way to get needed vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional shakes have a different health profile and different results than energy drinks, which often contain generous amounts of sugar, caffeine and artificial colors and flavors. They generally have lots of protein and are intended as meal replacements. But even though they are convenient, nutritionists caution against people relying too much on the shakes as meal replacements, especially since they can be high in sugar. They also may not pack the total amount of nutrients consumers need for a healthy and complete meal — meaning they should drink shakes with some fruit or nuts.
Manufacturers of shakes and bars innovate by varying ingredients and trying different sweeteners and protein sources. As U.S. consumers become more health-conscious, they're looking for natural ingredients and foods and beverages rich in nutrients. Performance, health profile and convenience all are key to marketing a successful nutritional shake or bar.
Makers of nutritional shakes and bars have products with wide appeal. Children, millennials and older adults are regular consumers of the items that can be used for a variety of eating occasions. And despite warnings about sugar content or high calories, the products have an undeniable health halo. Kraft Heinz is currently under fire for a British commercial that suggested its beans — which naturally contain protein — were as healthy as a nutritional shake.
Kellogg took advantage of this trend when it announced the $600 million acquisition of Chicago Bar Company, maker of the RXBAR clean-label protein bars, in October. And earlier this week, candy maker Mars took a minority stake in the healthy-snacking company Kind, known for its fruit and nut bars, that valued the company at about $3 billion.
The $33 billion U.S. snacking market has seen a surge of interest in simple ingredient, clean label products, especially among millennial consumers, and Kind and RXBAR have been in the sweet spot of this growth. Given the popularity of this segment, it's likely that more CPG companies that see their sales lagging will make similar moves in this space.