bars_bodyThe keys to developing a team of bars include a knowledgeable staff, yummy ingredients and a packaging concept that screams “pick me, pick me.” But when it comes to creating a portfolio of winning products, the minor league attributes simply don’t cut it.

That’s why many of today’s bar producers are formulating a lineup that’s sure to score some major league-style points.

Nutrition meets functionality
“To be a most valuable player (MVP) in their respective industries, companies need to be innovators,” says Michelle Ferguson, executive vice president of marketing for Clif Bar & Co. “In our case, that means never being satisfied, and making a variety of delicious offerings for consumers’ changing taste buds. Not only that, but making that food in a way that is respectful of the communities and the planet.”

That’s why the Emeryville, Calif.-based company started the year off with a series of home-run product introductions. This summer, consumers can enjoy a cool lakeside breeze while munching on a CLIF Bar Coconut Chocolate Chip bar. This 70%- organic energy bar combines coconut with chocolate chips for a unique flavor profile, Ferguson says. Meanwhile, CLIF CRUNCH, the 70%-organic crunchy granola bar, now comes in Blueberry Crisp and Chocolate Peanut Butter options. Blueberry Crisp delivers bursts of blueberry in every bite, while Chocolate Peanut Butter features peanut butter and chocolate chips along with a topping of peanut butter drizzle.

In the CLIF MOJO brand, there are three new types of sweet and salty trail mix bars made with 70%-organic ingredients. The Chocolate Almond Coconut option, for instance, blends toasted coconut, chocolate chunks and salty whole roasted almonds, while the White Chocolate Macadamia one combines freshly roasted macadamia nuts with richly-flavored soy white chocolate chips. Dipped S’Mores is a healthy take on a classic campfire favorite, featuring crunchy graham cookies, creamy soy white chocolate and organic chocolate chunks.

Clif Bar & Co. also tweaked the recipes of two existing CLIF Bar varieties. Apricot now features 50% more organic apricots and fused with lemon juice concentrate, whereas the Peanut Toffee Buzz maintains a new type of toffee and more peanuts and peanut butter. CLIF Bar’s seasonal flavors will be joined by Peppermint Stick, a classic holiday flavor brought to life with a natural version of peppermint candy.

For the nutrition bar category, research shows that consumers want “purposeful enjoyment,” according to Tim Quinn, vice president of sales development for Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J. “Flavor fatigue is common within the energy/nutrition bar category, so consumers develop a range of flavor choices that deliver the appropriate levels of nutrition,” he adds.

That’s why Mars launched Marathon SMART STUFF bars, a healthful snacking option that provides balanced nutrition for active minds and bodies. Its nutritional content is designed specifically with teens in mind, Quinn says, and meets the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Guidelines, New York, for competitive foods/snacks. Marathon SMART STUFF bars are made with wholesome ingredients, such as blueberries, cranberries and peanuts, are fortified with a blend of eight essential vitamins and minerals, are an excellent source of calcium and contain 3-5 g. of fiber per serving. They come in Crunchy Multi Grain, Crunchy Chocolate Crisp, Crunchy Honey Graham and Crunchy Trail Mix varieties.

In the snack bar segment, Mars unveiled a team of KUDOS granola bars that are created with noteworthy candy confections—KUDOS with SNICKERS, KUDOS with M&M’s milk chocolate candies and KUDOS with DOVE chocolate drizzle.

“The keys to delivering a winning product team are expanding distribution to reach ‘daily performers’ in a variety of outlets and making it even easier to fit into their on-the-go lifestyles,” Quinn says. “We know more and more moms are buying packages to be shared among the whole family, so our offerings will give moms the nutrition they want and the variety their families will love to eat.”

Furthermore, Journey Bars are 100%- natural, savory-flavored “travel” bars that combine the nutrition of organic whole grains with real-food flavors, says Chris Kerslake, founder of Chicago-based Journey Bar.

For instance, the Italy-inspired Parmesan Romano variety contains oats, flaxseed, amaranth and millet mixed with Parmesan and Romano cheese and Italian spices, whereas the Thailand-inspired Coconut Curry kind blends a host of curry flavors to deliver a soft, but firm texture.

The key to producing a winning product is “identifying a need/hole in the market, and convincing potential customers that your product fills it,” says Chris Kerslake, founder of Chicago-based Journey Bar.

Simple mechanics
Simple is better, says Michael Sands, chief executive officer for Balance Bar Co. “Be clear about the product’s functional benefits, and make the products convenient and accessible for all occasions, as consumers are more and more on-the-go,” he adds.

As a result of this ever-growing trend, the Valhalla, N.Y., bar producer launched three indulgent 40-30-30 nutrition/energy bars in September 2010—S’mores, Lemon Meringue Crunch and Double Chocolate Brownie.

They are all-natural, contain 14 g. of protein with 40-30-30 balanced nutrition for lasting energy, 23 vitamins and minerals and an excellent source of antioxidants (vitamins A, C, D and E), he adds. “Consumers want great-tasting products that fill them up, give them energy and provide them with good nutrition so they can feel good about what they had to eat. These bars taste great and two of them (S’mores & Lemon Meringue Crunch) also incorporate a new aerated technology, so that the same weight bar can actually be bigger to help fill you up more,” Sands says.

In February, Balance Bar released Cinnamon Bun and Chocolate Almond Biscotti varieties under the Café sub-brand. “This new product line includes flavors to complement your morning coffee or tea and helps to expand the morning usage occasion for bars—one of the fastest growing snacking times for people,” Sands says.

These 40-30-30 balanced nutrition bars deliver 14 g. of protein, 23 vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of antioxidants (vitamins A, C, D and E).
Additionally, the Balance Bar Bare portfolio has been reformulated to include more fiber (5 g. vs. 3 g.), more whole grain (6 g. vs. 5 g.), more protein (15 g. vs. 13 g.) and a simpler sweetener source of organic agave syrup and brown rice syrup.

For its part, PowerBar, Inc., a Florham Park, N.J., division of Nestlé USA, Glendale, Calif., provides “nutrition for the athlete in you,” through its Iron Girl energy bars.
“Female-focused nutrition products are an emerging trend that we see will have a big impact on the category,” says Neel Premkumar, brand development manager. “Women have specialized nutrition needs, and Nestlé will seek to provide them.”

Iron Girl bars are made with whole grains (14 g. per bar) and real fruit and are available in Strawberry & Cranberry and Cocoa Crunch varieties.

At the same time, EatStrong energy bars from EatStrong, Denver, Colo., contain a finely-crushed fusion of flax, sunflower and hemp seeds and omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids, whereas the Trail Mix version is made of a hearty blend of walnuts, cashews, pistachios and almonds. Both options are flavored with chocolate drops from organic cacao.

Gaining ground on the gluten-free trail
While the growth of bar category as a whole has somewhat peaked, Bakery On Main gluten-free granola bars fall into the sub-category of gluten-free bars, which has become a hot spot within the bar category, according to Michael Smulders, founder and president of Bakery On Main. “Gone are the days where gluten-free consumers would accept poor-tasting products with limited nutritional value,” he adds. “Whole grains, fiber, protein and healthy fats in allergen-free products are now the standard.”

In March, the East Hartford, Conn.-based producer introduced Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Almond and Apple Cinnamon varieties. Made with certified gluten-free oats, amaranth, quinoa, flax and chia seeds, these bars are a great source of whole grains and Omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids.

“The MVP awards will go to companies with the greatest transparency about what goes into their products, where the ingredients come from and how they’re made,” Smulders says. “Today’s consumer is a discerning one who wants the most information about the food they eat as possible.”

Meanwhile, Lavi Enterprises, makers of the Smart for Life brand, developed gluten-free Green Tea and Chocolate protein bars that contain omega-3 heart-healthy oils, a proprietary super fiber called ThinAdventure Fiber, and Lepticore, which is a nutraceutical ingredient containing several types of plant polysaccharides, fatty acids, pomegranate extract, betacarotene antioxidants and blue green algae, says Richard Kayne, chief operating officer of the Boca Raton, Fla., company.
“Our category is growing, as the educated consumer wants healthy, nutritious, grab-and-go, dashboard-dining meal-replacement products,” says Kayne.
Plus, LUNA Protein, made by Clif Bar & Co., now comes in a gluten-free offering, Ferguson says.

Cereal bars steal home
The cereal bar aisle has always been the go-to arena for a quick on-the-go supplement to a sit-down breakfast. Now, this segment is stealing home with a plethora of dessert-inspired options to provide a tasty—and healthy—morning pick-me-up.

For example, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., unveiled Kellogg’s Special K line of cereal bars in Chocolatey Chip Cookie and Raspberry Cheesecake kinds. Each bar delivers 90 calories and 3 g. of fiber.

Dubbed as the “sinfully healthy snack,” HALO bars, produced by PROBAR LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah, are certified organic, dairy-free, vegan bars that boast 150 calories per bar and are a good source of Omega-3 and 6. They come in S’mores, Nutty Marshmallow, Rocky Road and Honey Graham varieties.

New to the TLC line of bars is a Cherry Vanilla variety that is lightly sweetened with vanilla and folds over a dark cherry filling. Produced by Kashi Co., La Jolla, Calif., this all-natural breakfast on-the-go option is made with seven whole grains and contains no trans-fat or high-fructose corn syrup.

Making good packaging calls
There are several incidents that can throw off the outcome of a game—overthrows, strikeouts and the ever-annoying bad calls. Thankfully, bar producers are staying ahead of the game by making some logical packaging calls so as not to offset the outcome of their own ending.

Clif Bar, for example, changed the packaging to its CLIF MOJO bars to include a transparent section on the wrapper. “This window gives consumers an opportunity to see CLIF MOJO’s ingredients, including nuts, chocolate chips, pretzel pieces and dried fruit,” Ferguson says.

“From a sustainability standpoint, we have been doing a lot of work on our packaging, but much of this work has been largely behind the scenes,” she adds. “Our efforts have focused on reducing our material use as well as identifying and working with suppliers who are reducing their own environmental footprints and who are in closer proximity to our bakeries (thus reducing the use of fossil fuels).”

Throughout the year, Mars will be unveiling enhanced packaging and a 360-degree marketing campaign, designed to improve shelf impact and focus on improved branding, likeability and taste by featuring the Mars brands of DOVE, M&M’s and SNICKERS, Quinn notes.

“In 2010, Marathon underwent a complete communications refresh, including new packaging, digital media campaign and merchandising programs,” he continues. “The changes were a direct result of consumer feedback. All packages now have better shopability with improved flavor differentiation, easy-to-read nutritional information and updated sub-branding with the phrase ‘Powered by SNICKERS Brand.’”

And the folks at ResVez recently changed its bar wrap and caddies to highlight better-for-you ingredients, Nicholl says. “This came after it became very obvious to us that consumers were specifically asking these questions—particularly whether or not there was gluten in the bar,” he says.

Today’s bar producers have what it takes to make the team and score the major league points.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about these and other new products in the bar category, go to and check out our online new products section.