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Protein Bar Manufacturing Trends

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By Edited Nov 14, 2015 0 0

Because nutrition bars are convenient, portable, nutritious, and tasty, they make the perfect on-the-go snack for a significant number of health-conscious consumers who often find it challenging to incorporate well-balanced meals into their fast-paced lifestyles. According to the Nutrition Business Journal (Colorado), the value of the Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss (SNWL) market was up by nearly $2 billion in 2010, showing a sales increase of 9 percent over the previous year. In the past 13 years, the SNWL market has seen a remarkable compound growth rate of 10.2 percent. With new delivery methods being developed, sales of nutrition bars are showing signs of being re-energized. 1

Nutrition bars were primarily marketed to serious athletes until 1990 when their improved taste combined with a robust health-and-fitness-message, gained wide appeal among mainstream consumers. Reporting sales of less than $200 million in 1997, the sports and energy bar market quickly climbed up to more than $1 billion in 2003. Since then the market has rapidly grown.

Types of Nutrition Bars

Protein Bar Manufacturing
Nutrition bars can play different roles in maintaining healthy diets. For example, there are sports nutrition bars that serve as meal replacements or snacks. There are also nutrition bars for various health needs, such as multivitamin bars, diabetic-friendly bars, anti-aging bars, beauty bars, energy bars, low-carb, weight management bars, protein bars, etc. Before developing the formulation of a nutrition bar, supplement companies should identify their target consumer market and their desired nutritional needs.

Nutrition bars for serious trainers/professional athletes. In sports bars, pre-exercise bars will typically feature less protein and more carbohydrates and fiber. Recovery bars or post-exercise bars will offer more than 15 grams of protein and a moderate to high level of carbohydrates. 3 According to Mintel, a market research company based in Chicago, both soy and whey protein bars are more popular with younger consumers. 4

If you plan on creating nutrition bars that meet the health needs of Baby Boomers or the elderly, consider adding anti-aging ingredients such as resveratrol and other wholesome nutrients that support healthy aging of bones, eyes and cognitive health.5

Nutrition bars for children. With more parents favoring better-for-you snack options for their children, nutrition bars specially formulated for children have high market value. Formulations should be low in fat and sugar and should contain key ingredients such as whole grains, fiber, natural fruit extracts, calcium, Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and other specific nutrients for growing children.6 Claims such as “made with organic ingredients” or free from artificial ingredients are more attractive options for parents.

Nutrition bars for women including sub-categories such as teenage girls, pregnant women and menopausal women. Health-conscious women use nutrition bars either as meal replacements or as a snack. “Beauty bars” containing skin anti-aging ingredients such as antioxidants like green tea, B vitamins and other nutrients that enhance skin health are extremely popular. For women that are pregnant, nutrition bars that contain omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and vitamin B12 are popular because these ingredients play an important role in the neurological and bone development of an infant.7-8

Trends in Nutrition Bar Manufacturing
Protein Bar Manufacturing(46800)
Trends in nutrition bar manufacturing include formulations for a variety of consumer profiles offering a multiple range of tastes and textures. With so much variety in nutritive profiles across consumer segments, the challenge facing sports nutrition manufacturers today is establishing a point of differentiation between products.

A report released in February 2011 from Mintel observed the following trends in nutrition bar manufacturing:9
  • Granola bars were the most popular subcategory,
  • Young adults consume the most nutrition bars.
  • The desire to improve overall health and wellness is the key reason most people consume nutrition bars. Other market drivers include rising health consciousness, growing number of weight watchers (approximately 50 percent of the adult population) and high incidence of obesity is driving consumer demands for nutrition bars. More Americans are exercising and this could be another market driver for nutrition bars.
  • Reduced-fat and low-calorie nutrition bars generate the highest consumer interest.

According to a report from SPINS, a market research and information provider based in Schaumburg, IL, prebiotics, probiotics, EFAs (flax, hemp, pumpkin seed) and green foods are currently the most popular ingredients to use in nutrition bars. Well-accepted flavors include chocolate and peanut, either alone or in combination, as well as berries, nuts and seeds. SPINS observed consumer preference for the following nutrition bars categories:10

  • High-fiber bars
  • Nutty bars
  • Raw food bars (“naked” bars where consumers can see the ingredients)
  • High in antioxidant value (superfruits)
  • Functional bars
  • High protein bars that include whole grains.
  • Weight control/management bars
  • Energy bars

Formulating a Nutrition Bar
Formulation of a nutrition bar involves the science of taste, balancing flavors and the adept use of functional ingredients that mask flavors. Ultimately, supplement companies need to focus on bars that will taste good, have appealing texture while offering a dense nutrient delivery devise to their target market. Problems usually arise when multiple nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, fiber are combined for increased fortification resulting in unpleasant flavor. This problem can be resolved with the use of masking agents, such as cocoa. Chocolate, a popular flavor appealing to all demographics, can effectively mask unpleasant flavors, but can also serve as a functional ingredient, offering antioxidant benefits. Natural sweeteners such as superfruit extracts not only add mouth-watering flavor and texture, but depending on the fruit extract used, can offer specific health benefits as well. 11 Another key challenge for sports nutrition manufacturers is making certain that the nutrients specified on the label remain stable and bioactive even during storage.

Typical Ingredients in Nutrition Bars

Protein Bar Manufacturing
Typical ingredients found in nutrition bars include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fruit extracts, nuts, fiber such as whole grains, along with other specialty ingredients.

Fiber is associated with a host of health benefits and is found in whole grains such as flax, wheat, oats, nuts, etc. A growing number of consumers are seeking out fiber in order to improve their digestive health and help with weight management and satiety. Fiber is also used to help regulate healthy cholesterol levels. Many consumers turn to nutrition bars to boost their fiber intake.12

An optimal balance of both soluble and insoluble fiber achieves the desired texture, functional properties, flavor and performance.
  • Maltodextrin, polydextrose and various types of gums contain very few calories, if any, and may be used to enhance functional properties.
  • Quinoa naturally grows in the higher latitudes of the Andes in South American and although it is actually a seed it is known as a “supergrain” because of its popularity among food makers. It is gluten-free and adapts very well to a number of food applications.
  • Flax contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid known for an array of health benefits.

Protein is useful for building muscle, as an aid in weight management (promoting satiety) and for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. The need for more protein in the daily diet is being increasingly recognized by health-conscious consumers. Proteins such as whey, soy and rice are common components of nutrition bars. Each of these proteins has a different FDA-approved health claim. In the current economy, soy protein may prove to be an excellent alternative to dairy-based proteins, in terms of supply stability and price predictability.13-14

Nuts contain oleic and palmitoleic acids which support healthy cholesterol levels. They are also a rich source of rich source of important omega-3 essential fatty acids such as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Nuts also contain vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants.15
There’s a plethora of superfruit extracts that can be included in a nutrition bar adding flavor and antioxidant value. Many of them add condition-specific health value such as cranberry, known for its anti-bacterial properties particularly supporting female urinary health. Other popular flavors include Acai, apricots, blueberry, cherry, grape, pomegranate, strawberry, etc.16

Specialty Ingredients in Nutrition Bars
One way to differentiate your nutrition bars is by adding specialty ingredients. These may address long term health trends such as cardiovascular health, digestive health, anti-aging, etc. Gender and age-specific formulations also hold opportunities for creating unique selling point advantages. Specialty ingredients may include:

Probiotics. The new microencapsulation techniques have opened up new possibilities for the application of probiotics in nutrition bar manufacturing. Consumers are now accepting the concept of friendly bacteria and are recognizing its potential to improve digestive health, prime the immune system and support a myriad of health concerns. According to Nutrition Business Journal, since 1998 probiotic supplement sales have multiplied four times totaling $425 million in 2008. 17

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their wide range of health benefits, and thus may be targeted for all consumer demographics, A vegetarian source of DHA is found in canola and flaxseeds.18

Fast-paced lifestyles are changing traditional eating patterns. With no time to consume “scheduled” meals which offer wholesome nutrition, nutrition experts promote smart snacking between meals. Nutrition bars are the perfect nutrient delivery devise for smart snacking helping consumers obtain their daily requirements of micro and macro nutrients such as protein and fiber. An innovative sports nutrition manufacturer can help you design smart nutrition bars for your target market in a GMP-certified facility. Customizable manufacturing solutions beginning from nutrition bar formulation to label design and packaging make manufacturing your nutrition bars an easy, efficient and quick process.


  1. Top 5 Market Trends in Sports Nutrition and Weight Loss, Nutrition Business Journal, February 2011, (newhope360.com/sports-and-fitness-performance/top-5-market-trends-sports-nutrition-weight-loss-0)
  2. Sports Energy Bars, Mintel International Group Ltd., (mindbranch.com/Sports-Energy-Bars-R560-0126/, July 2003)
  3. Effects of ingesting protein with various forms of carbohydrate following resistance-exercise on substrate availability and markers of anabolism, catabolism, and immunity, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007; 5: 18. Published online 2007 November 12. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-18.
  4. Nutrition and Energy Bars - US - February 2011, Mintel, (bizreportshop.com/product/mt/Nutrition-and-Energy-Bars-US-February-2011_171729.html)
  5. Resveratrol: Anti-aging properties of resveratrol: review and report of a potent new antioxidant skin care formulation, J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Mar;7(1):2-7.
  6. Child Nutrition, Medline Plus, (nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childnutrition.html)
  7. Skin photoprotection by green tea: antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects, Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2003 Sep;3(3):234-42.
  8. Nutrient requirements and fetal development, The Journal of Family Practice, November 2007 • Vol. 56, No. 11 Suppl: S1-S8.
  9. Nutrition and Energy Bars - US - February 2011, Mintel, (bizreportshop.com/product/mt/Nutrition-and-Energy-Bars-US-February-2011_171729.html)
  10. The Next Frontier for Nutrition Bars, January 2011, (nutraceuticalsworld.com/contents/view/30497)
  11. Cacao seeds are a "Super Fruit": A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products, Chem Cent J. 2011 Feb 7;5:5.
  12. Health benefits of dietary fiber, Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205.
  13. Benefits of high-protein weight loss diets: enough evidence for practice? Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2008 Oct;15(5):416-21.
  14. Soy Protein, J Perinat Educ. 2003 Summer; 12(3): 42–45. doi: 10.1624/105812403X106946.
  15. Beliefs, benefits, barriers, attitude, intake and knowledge about peanuts and tree nuts among WIC participants in eastern North Carolina, Nutr Res Pract. 2009 Autumn; 3(3): 220–225. Published online 2009 September 30. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2009.3.3.220.
  16. Exotic Superfruits: Literature Update, Natural Products Insider, November 2007. (naturalproductsinsider.com/articles/2007/11/exotic-superfruits-literature-update.aspx)
  17. Growing Potential, Nutritional Outlook, February 2010. (nutritionaloutlook.com/article/growing-potential)
  18. Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, Nurs Stand. 2004 Aug 11-17;18(48):38-42.


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