Consumers are asking for a lot of bars these days. Some want bars to be a healthy, easy snack, while others demand that their bars act as a supplement to an active lifestyle. Many prefer a bar that can substitute for a meal or act as a diet aid. Either way, bar manufacturers are making products that satisfy all of these requirements, so it’s just a matter of picking which bar is right for the job.

Bars are often perceived as a health food. Walk into any organic or vitamin store and you’ll see that many of these products promise to strengthen the immune system with vitamins and superfruits. Many health-focused bar manufacturers are making more natural products with fewer preservatives to up the ante of their healthful products.

“It’s no secret that natural food bars have been and continue to be a major trend in the food industry,” states Leila Uslander, director of marketing for Athena’s Silverland Desserts, Chicago. “Most recently, the development of 100%-natural raw bars made with fruits, seeds and nuts are reigning supreme.”

Athena’s Silverland Raw Bar line contains no added sugars, oils, fats, flavors or colors and is named to signify its contribution to the consumer’s well being. Additionally, the line is all-vegan. “The inclusion of super foods such as turmeric, ginger, cherries and flax seeds drives home the point that our bars are made with ingredients that have real health benefits,” says Uslander.

  The company’s Apricot bar boasts a label signifying “Defense,” while Dark Chocolate Apricot is shown to “Revitalize.” There is also Spiced Ginger for “Detox,” Mocha for “Uplift,” Flax for “Protect” and Cherry signifying “Superfruit.” The latter is made with cherries, dates, oats and walnuts. The Oatmeal Raisin boasts the “Boost” label and contains dates, oats, raisins and cinnamon, bringing together the familiar flavor profile of an oatmeal cookie. There are also two peanut butter options—Peanut Butter as “Rebuild” and Peanut Butter Flax as “Repair.”

“Our line of raw bars is very filling, nutritionally rich and helps satisfy a sweet tooth without the negative effects of added sugars and fats,” says Uslander.

Immunity boosters

While some manufacturers focus on all of the health benefits bars can provide to a daily lifestyle, ResVes, Inc. of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. is focusing on just one: Boosting immunity. “We feel that bars aimed at helping specific health conditions are the wave of the future,” states Malcom Nicholl, president and chief executive officer.

The new line of bars from this company, called TravelTime, contains resveratrol and Wellmune WGP, an ingredient designed to activate key immune cells within the body, helping to ward off colds and flus. Nicholl states that the bars are designed for travelers as an everyday meal replacement or snack.

“We all know that airline food leaves something to be desired, assuming that there is some food,” he says. “For the commuter jammed into close quarters with hundreds of other people, a nutrition bar like ours is not only convenient; it’s an immune-boosting snack.”

Travel Time bars come in two varieties: Granola Citrus Burst, which contains oats, flaxseed, almonds, cranberries, raisins, cashews and blueberries; and Almond Coffee, made with dates, almonds and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The bars each have 190 calories, 6 g. of protein and 25- to 40% of the daily recommended value of essential vitamins and minerals. They are also gluten-, cholesterol- and dairy-free and are vegan and kosher.

Exploring the exotic

While many vitamin-boosting bars offer familiar fruits, seeds and nuts, others are exploring the benefits of exotic ingredients to enhance consumers’ health. Samba99, Brooklyn, N.Y. is doing just that with its line of enhanced bars.

“All Samba99 bars are made from organic exotic fruits from the Brazilian Amazon rainforest,” points out Robert Flam, CEO and founder. “Although these fruits are for the most part unknown to the domestic U.S. market, they offer function as well as taste.”

The Guarana bar, the newest addition to Samba99’s line, is a six-ingredient bar that boasts sustained energy and mental clarity through the caffeinated and taurine-laden guarana seed. “Many people would like to see a less ‘scary,’ more natural way to get a boost of energy and focus, so I created an alternative, and hope that it is received in the marketplace,” states Flam.

The Cupuacu bar is made with the cupuacu fruit found in the Amazon and known for its antioxidant phytonutrients not found in any other plant on Earth. The Acai bar boasts the more familiar acai berry and contains 10 g. of fiber and is robust with Omega 3, 6 and 9.

“Both of these bars contain Brazil nuts, a rich source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant that is not easy to get with a normal diet,” adds Flam.

Many folks are searching for an energy boost, not just in their daily lives, but to support their active lifestyles. Balance Bar, Valhalla, N.Y., strives to produce a product that promotes wellness, nutrition and energy.

Gradual digestion

“Balance Bar offers convenient, single-serve bars that travel well, are portioned for a snack or meal replacement with 120 to 200 calories, and come in a variety of delicious flavors—perfect for busy, active moms and other on-the-go consumers,” says Peter Wilson, president and CEO.

The company recently introduced a BARE Blueberry Acai bar into its Balance Bar BARE line, created for active, outdoor, on-the-go lifestyles. Made with rolled oats, blueberries and acai fruit flavor, the bar offers 15 g. of protein, 7 g. of whole grain and has 200 calories. It joins the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Almond and Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter varieties in the trail-mix inspired line. The company strives to create a product that consumers will gravitate to when snacking or replacing a meal.

“Balance Bars are designed for relatively gradual digestion, which translates into longer lasting energy and reduced urge to eat again too soon,” states Wilson.

Balance Bar also focuses on nutrition for women with its nimble line of bars. The company added Peanut Butter and Yogurt Orange Swirl varieties, both of which have 120 calories and contain seven essential ingredients for women’s nutrition: Protein; fiber; calcium; iron; folate; and vitamins D and B6.

“Balance Bars satisfy consumers’ indulgent cravings for great tasting healthy food,” says Wilson.

Feeling fuller

Many consumers are also turning to bar manufacturers to aid them in dieting and weight loss. While some bars can be considered a meal replacement, thinkThin developed a product that it says aids in weight management.

“At thinkThin, we believe strongly in the premise of weight wellness,” says Lizanne Falsetto, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based company. “We have the only zero g. sugar, 20 g. protein nutrition bar on the market. That’s why thinkThin is ranked the number-one weight management bar in the natural channel.”

The company’s latest bar, Crunch Fruit and Nut, offers 60% less sugar than other bars and comes in three varieties: Blueberry and Mixed Nuts; Cherry and Mixed Nuts; and Cranberry Apple and Mixed Nuts. All of the bars are vegan and dairy-free.

Another bar making headway in the dieting market is Fullbar of Greenwood Village, Colo. “Our challenge was to create a bar that stands out in the market, offering a benefit that no one else can own and drive that home,” states Michael A. Snyder, MD, FACS, inventor of Fullbar. “All of our products provide the opportunity for busy women and men to lose weight effectively.”

The company’s newest innovation was to add Slendesta, an all-natural hunger block, to its products which help reduce hunger and increase weight loss.

“Slendesta releases a fullness hormone already present in your body called cholecystokinin, which tells your brain you are fuller, longer,” states Snyder.

Available in Cranberry Almond, Double Chocolate Cocoa Chip, Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Carmel varieties, the all-natural bars are meant to be eaten prior to a meal to create a full feeling within the consumer, thereby driving them to eat a smaller-portioned meal.

“By simply adding Fullbar products to your current daily habits, you will still be able to eat the foods you love in significantly more sustainable portions,” states Snyder. “Lowering that daily caloric and fat intake will then drive the weight loss.”

Where Fullbar is intended to be eaten prior to a meal, other manufacturers create bars that are intended to replace a meal.

PROBAR, Park City, Utah, offers four new 100%-organic and vegan options of its PROBAR Meal Replacement bars, Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Superfruit Slam.

“Superfruit Slam is particularly interesting because it has a PROBAR Superfruit blend containing mangosteen, camu camu and purple corn powders, all very nutritious ingredients,” says Luke Sword, marketing director.

Other varieties included in the line are Old School PB&J, Whole Berry Blast, Superfood Slam, Nutty Banana Boom, Cran Lemon Twister, Apple Cinnamon Crunch, Koka Moka—which contains chocolate, Brazil nuts, almonds and coffee flavor—and Original, made with cashews, oats, pumpkin seeds and papayas.

 “Interestingly we have one of the highest calorie products on the market with our PROBAR Meal Replacement,” says Sword. “Logic would suggest that moms, kids, teens and dieters may not be interested in our PROBAR Meal Replacement because the calorie levels are some of the highest among nutrition bars, however once consumers try the fresh taste and then feel the satisfaction from good wholesome nutrients, we’ve won them over.”

For consumers looking to enjoy a snack and not replace a meal, they can turn to PROBAR’s fruition line of fruit-based, gluten-free snack bars.

“Fruition is not only gluten-free, but made with chia seeds which support hydration and provide a good source of Omega 3,” says Sword. “Fruition also has a full serving of fruit and provides a good source of fiber, overall a truly unique product.”

The new variety, Chocolate Orange made with blood oranges, chocolate, dates and chia seeds, joins the Lemon, Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Peach and Cran-Raspberry offerings in the line.

Got milk?

Most consumers are interested in snacking in bar form, mainly because of its convenience. While they can find bars that offer protein, fruits and veggies, it has been tough to find a calcium-rich bar. That’s why Kraft Foods, Glenview, Ill., introduced the MILKBITE bars.

“With Kraft MILKBITE, we are creating a new genre of snacks that combine the convenience of the bar category with the wholesomeness and great taste of dairy,” states Michelle Lorge, senior brand manager.

The bars offer 30% of the daily recommended value of calcium, contain 5 g. of protein, 7 g. of whole grains and come in five varieties, Chocolate, Strawberry, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Raisin and Mixed Berry.

“The inclusion of real milk and calcium in our product delivers the calcium of an 8-oz. glass of milk,” says Lorge. “This will continue to fuel the trend toward wholesome snacking products where consumers no longer feel a need to compromise on either taste or convenience for the sake of a better-for-you option.”

When turning to bars for snacks, today’s consumers generally rely on getting a simple, good-for-you product with minimal ingredients. Liberty Orchards, Cashmere, Wash., has created clean-label vegan, kosher, gluten-, dairy- and cholesterol-free Orchard Bars.

“We believe the greatest opportunities for growth in the health bar category will come from products made with the most nutritious and tasty ingredients—fruits, nuts and seeds,” says Greg Taylor, president. “These are the basis for Orchard Bars, and make a delicious and wholesome snack.”

Liberty Orchards added Cherry Almond Crunch and Banana Mango Macadamia options to its existing Orchard Bars line, which includes Pineapple Coconut and Macadamia, Blueberry Pomegranate and Almond, and Strawberry Raspberry and Walnut. High in antioxidants and Omega 3, Taylor asserts that the company is providing a better tasting, higher quality bar made with superior ingredients.

So whether consumers are looking for a simple snack, an energy boost, a diet supplement or a meal replacement, bar manufacturers have a product for every need. With so many varieties of ingredient combinations and flavor profiles out there, choosing the best bar might just be the hardest part.