Cereal bar trends: balancing health, wellness and indulgence

cereal bar trends

Despite consumers' increasing quest for health and wellness, the cereal bar sector has been influenced by the demand for indulgent products. Faced with this challenge, brands are seeking to balance indulgence with health, reducing sugar content while trying to avoid major changes in taste.

In this context, ingredient innovations such as natural sweeteners and creative strategies to enhance flavors have been key. In addition, there has been a shift toward bold blends, from tropical to smoky notes, offering a diversity of intense flavors. These trends respond to growing consumer demand for nutritious products, but without losing sensory pleasure.

In the next article, we will explain the main trends in the cereal bar sector:

MAIN TRENDS IN CEREAL BARS

1. SUGAR REDUCTION

In Europe, there is growing interest in sugar reduction in snack bars. As reflected in a survey conducted by Mintel, consumers are learning to adopt new habits that are more beneficial to their health, with 32% of UK consumers now ranking "low/reduced sugar" as the most important attribute to value in a bar.

The challenge for brands lies in the fact that consumers are looking for options with these attributes, but do not want to sacrifice either the flavor or the nutritional quality of the product, since sugar not only adds sweetness, but also contributes to the texture, flavor potential and shelf life of the product.

Therefore, the strategies being adopted by manufacturers could be summarized in three ways:

  • New smaller formats: To facilitate portion control.
  • Replacing sugar with natural sweeteners: Instead of resorting to refined sugars, brands now opt for natural sweeteners such as Stevia, agave syrup or coconut nectar.
  • Combination of intense and natural flavors: By combining intense and natural flavors, such as pure cocoa, dried fruits or spices, a more delicious taste experience can be created. An example would be to use dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa, as it can provide a deeper and more satisfying flavor without having as much sugar.

As reflected in the graph below, launches of no-sugar-added bars increased throughout the year, accounting for a quarter of new launches in Europe during the month of July.

Although brands are making efforts to reduce the sugar content of their products, replacing sugar with natural sweeteners is a relatively unexplored area in this category.

Source: Mintel GNPD, August 2021- July 2023.

Cereal bars with carrot and curry Gerlinéa Paüse Dej © (France)

These bars are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It is said that two bars are equivalent to a balanced meal.

2. GLUTEN-FREE BARS

The supply of gluten-free bars is being driven both by people with gluten sensitivity and by those who perceive the absence of gluten as a healthier option. However, it is recommended that gluten-free food manufacturers develop products that go beyond the concept, incorporating attributes related to taste, price and the naturalness to which consumers are accustomed.

For this reason, it is common for this type of bars to be associated with diets such as ketogenic or vegetarian. This is because many of the ingredients used are common, as the objective is that the consumer perceives the bars in this way.

As can be seen in the graph below, gluten-free product launches in Europe have experienced growth over the last year.

In addition, 17% of UK adults are willing to buy a gluten-free food if it has health and functional claims. Brands can leverage this link in a number of ways; for example, by using and promoting ingredients such as fiber, prebiotics or probiotics, which are beneficial to digestive health.

Fermenti Bio Bites raspberry and coconut © (UK)

Fermenti, a UK-based company, recently introduced its organic raspberry and coconut snacks. These feature a cashew butter fondant center and are said to be the best snack for gut health. They are rich in fiber, antioxidants and short-chain fatty acids. They are also ketogenic and are dairy and gluten free.

3. VEGAN BARS

In recent years, vegan, plant-based and flexitarian diets have become more common. This is because consumers better recognize the health and environmental benefits of reducing meat and dairy consumption.

In response to this demand, the category has seen a significant increase in plant-based product launches. Also, as nutrient-rich formulations are growing among health-conscious consumers, these plant-based options often highlight information about their health and nutritional qualities.

As seen in the graph below, the proportion of vegan and plant-based claims registered a significant increase in bars launched between July 2022 and July 2023. In addition, these launches tend to include claims such as "gluten-free", "non-GMO" and "organic".

Source: Mintel GNPD, August 2019 - July 2023.

Sun-Rype Good Bites © (Canada)

They are made with dates, seed butter, seeds, cocoa and chocolate. It is a delicious wellness snack that is made without ingredients with complex names.

4. REFRIGERATED BARS

Some 44% of Americans say they eat bars at home, while nearly one in four of these consumers are willing to try refrigerated bars with fresh ingredients. This situation presents a great opportunity, as brands can distance bars from the negative connotations of overly processed ingredients.

Based on the growth experienced in refrigerated bars between 2021 and 2023, healthy ingredients that have been refrigerated show an improvement in their nutritional quality. Despite this, these bars represent only 4% of total bar launches in North America.

Almond Bar with Blueberries and Banana by Core © (United States)

It is a plant-based refrigerated bar. It contains 7 g of fiber, 6 g of protein, vitamin C and D, zinc, probiotics and prebiotics.

Thinking about launching a new bar that will be successful in the market?

Latest articles

Do you have an idea or project in mind?

RELATED ITEMS