Health claims dominate nutrition bar segment

Growing interest in health and convenience has seen the popularity of nutrition bars rise considerably in recent years, new research has revealed.

According to Innova Market Insights, the nutrition bar sector is enjoying rising levels of interest, in-line or even ahead of cereal bars as a whole.

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said health is a big factor is the product's popularity.

"While convenience is the leading positioning for cereal bars overall, used on over 90 percent of total launches in the sector, health has also been a key driver," she said.

"This is not only in terms of the importance of nutrition and performance bars, but also in the perception of offering a healthier snack alternative to products such as confectionery, biscuits and cakes."

Over three-quarters of global launches in the 12 months to the end of April 2013 were positioned on a health platform of some kind, ranging from 'passive health', which includes natural, organic or low calorie claims, to 'active health' including vitamin-fortified, digestive health and weight management claims. This rises to over 90 percent in Australasia, just under 85 percent in the US, but just two-thirds in Asia.

Just over 22 percent of global cereal bar launches were marketed on a sports/recovery and/or energy/alertness positioning, down from just under half in 2005, when launches of bars with a sports or energy positioning peaked.

The most popular health claims overall in the cereal bars sector are additive-/preservative-free or natural claims, displayed on 27 percent of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights. This rises to over 38 percent if organic claims are also included.

Interest in fibre content is also high, with 25 percent of introductions featuring high-fibre or source of fibre claims, rising to over 31 percent if wholegrain claims are added. 'Low' and 'light' claims (i.e. low in fat, calories and/or sugar) were also popular, used on over one-fifth of launches.

"The cross-pollination between more specialist nutrition and performance bars on the one hand and more mainstream cereal and snack bars on the other, has been key to continued growth in the market as a whole," Williams said.

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