Bars remain big business—the portability, flavor variety, better-for-you options, and other attributes of the bakery category appeals to hungry commuters, on-the-go moms and their offspring, health-conscious snackers, and other consumer segments. However, the category and its subdivisions were somewhat flat over the past 52-week period according to data from Circana (Chicago)—with some notable exceptions.

Market data

The snack bars/granola bar category enjoyed notable sales of $7.9 billion for the 52-week period ending April 21, 2024; the figure constitutes an increase over the previous period of 1.1%. However, category unit sales were down overall by 4.2%, and many subcategories followed suit. For example, breakfast/cereal/snack bars/clusters dollar sales were down 1.6% to $2.1 billion, with unit sales down by 7.1%. Granola bars dollar sales declined 5% to $1.6 billion, and unit sales dropped by 7.2%.

The bars subcategory with a bit more to celebrate, though, was the nutritional/intrinsic health value bars. Sales in that column was up by 4% (a total of $3.8 billion in sales) and units were down a more modest 2.1%. Leaders in the category were Clif ($811.5 million, a slight dip over last year’s sales of 1.1%), Quest (up 14.2% to $396.1 million), and Kind (down 4.1% to %293.4 million).

Source: Circana OmniMarket™ Total Store View | Geography : Total US - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers) | Time : Latest 52 Weeks Ending 03-26-23

Looking back

Bar producers are keenly centered on a number of trends, which include:

  • Providing consumers with a mix of familiar flavors and adventurous tastes
  • Better-for-you benefits (such as lower sugar, organic ingredients, free-from formulations, and more)
  • Sustainability aspects (i.e. upcycling and regenerative agriculture practices, and more).

Jeni Britton, best known for creating popular frozen treats chain Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, is jumping into the bars category with her Floura & Co. line. However, the brand is not looking to tread new ground with its ingredients or flavors.

“We noticed that the nutrition bar aisle is full of flavors featuring expected flavors like ‘peanut butter chocolate chip’ and ‘cookie dough,” she said. “One of the things I have tremendous pride in is our point of view on flavor at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and now at Floura & Co. Our first five flavors include Raspberry Rose, Brambleberry Lavender, Mango Cardamom, Matcha Blueberry, and Vanilla Rooibos. My north star with flavor is pleasure. Is it pleasurable? Is it causing you to stop in your tracks and have an unexpected and delicious experience that engages many of your senses? This is our goal, always. Making food that is good for you, good for the planet, AND pleasurable. That is the goal.”

Bobo’s, a bar known for offering better-for-you oat-based bars and bites, recently launched a new flavor, designed to be both on trend and creative.

Bobo's strawberry lemonade
Courtesy of Bobos

“Bobo's is committed to delivering exceptional products that resonate with our customers while staying in tune with key industry trends,” says TJ McIntrye, CEO. “Our latest launch captures the spirit of Bobo's in every bite—the Strawberry Lemonade Oat Bites offer a refreshing twist on snacking, perfectly balancing flavor and nutrition to meet the demands of today's consumers.”

Other bar producers are playing on classic flavors by adding a twist, such as Barebells’ latest introduction. 

“Cookies and Cream has been one of Barebells’ strongest flavors for a long time. But we wanted to challenge ourselves, by combining some of its best elements with other, interesting flavors and textures, to see if we could come up with something as delicious. The result is the new Cookies and Caramel—a playful and equally tasty variation of the iconic flavor," explains Caitlyn Johnston, Barebells marketing activation manager.

cookies and caramel protein bar
Courtesy of Barebells

Britton’s bar line also aims for the BFY space, built upon the founder’s own health journey. 

“Four years ago, my body was completely out of whack from inflammation, which I was feeling inside and out. My anxiety and adrenaline were off the charts and I was struggling to find a symbiosis,” she relates.

After she made a few positive changes in her lifestyle—eating fiber, walking every day—she noticed her health improved, so she examined the possibility of sharing those changes with the world through a new product line, with the added benefit of sustainability.

“I read a scientific article highlighting the benefits of using prebiotic fibers from fresh watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, mango, and pineapple rinds. I remembered the summer days spent in Jeni's kitchen, making melon sorbet and tossing the cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon trimmings into the compost,” she shares. “Can these trimmings be used to create a product that would benefit the microbiome and the environment? This idea just really excited me and it snapped together in my mind. I called some friends, and Floura was born.”

Junkless is another bar brand out to ‘revolutionize’ its subcategory (in its case, granola bars). Founded in 2017, the company announced a makeover to improve its position and messaging; this consisted of a packaging redesign, revamped website, and renewed call for consumers to “de-junk” their lives. 

“With a fresh new look, expanded distribution, and a powerful marketing push, the sky is the limit for Junkless Chewy Granola Bars,” says Brian Camus, president of the company. “The ‘Junkless’ trademark carries immense potential that can touch any category—we're committed to transforming it into a megabrand and we’re just getting started.”

Junkless chewy granola protein bar
Courtesy of Junkless

Junkless accompanied the brand’s reenergization with a new flavor: Double Chocolate Chewy Granola Bars. In line with the overall Junkless mission, the bar also offers a clean label, with 100% whole-grain oats and less sugar compared to other, leading brands.

Looking forward

In the near future, bar producers plan to innovate in a number of ways. Glanbia Performance Nutrition-owned brand Think!, for example, is releasing versions of its Minis line of downsized bars that have been created in partnership with the Girl Scouts of America. Combining the nutritional profile of the bar brand with popular Girl Scout cookie flavors, the line seeks to give consumers a BFY snack with a nostalgic twist.

“When we were exploring opportunities for think! to broaden our frame-of-reference to better-for-you snacks that are absolutely delicious, the word ‘joy’ kept coming to mind,” relates Alan Brooks, brand director with Glanbia Performance Nutrition. “We believe mindful snacking can be a joyful experience and how can Girl Scout Cookies come to mind without putting a smile on your face? The seven craveable flavors, including three exclusive Girl Scout Cookie-inspired flavors will be available in-store and online beginning in June 2024.”

Britton also advises to expect a range of innovations in the Floura line, which could include new flavors as well as additional products.

“We have SO many items lined up for future development with our superfiber powder and other beneficial nutrient products,” she says. “We decided to start with a nutrition bar because we're working with fruit pastes and fibers that are well suited for the bar format. We also have other products in development with a range of nutrition profiles designed to meet a variety of consumer needs. We’re not stopping at the Floura Bar; we’re only getting started. Watch us bloom!”