How protein bars became mainstream | Empwr
How protein bars became mainstream

How protein bars became mainstream

Protein bars are no longer simply associated with active nutrition, but are now seen by many consumers as a viable, healthy confectionery choice. Delivering taste and texture – as well as nutrition – is the key to success.

Protein bars have evolved from niche, active nutrition, ready-to-eat snacks aimed at athletes, to healthier alternatives to confectionery that taste great and appeal to a much wider audience.


Becoming a popular lifestyle product

There used to be an increasing focus on formulating new bar products as this was emerging as a particularly fast-growing product segment. Twenty years ago, the European market was not that big. Europe was mainly focused on small volumes and specialty stores. In the US protein bars were already a mainstream lifestyle product that could be found in supermarkets.

Nevertheless, the protein bar market in Europe is growing year after year. Improvements in taste and texture have been crucial in attracting a broader target group and increasing consumer awareness of different product ranges. Protein bars are now reaching a broader target group because they become closer to confectionery.

Formulating for a fast-moving market

Bars have always been seen as an ideal food product to provide consumers with specific nutrition, as you can build a bar from multiple food blocks. In addition, bars have a long shelf life and are of course a convenient on-the-go snack.

The move towards confectionery means that the taste and texture of bars have never been more important. To make a protein bar taste good and have a good texture, you really need knowledge of ingredients and technology. It's not that easy to get tasty bars.


High pace of innovation focused on taste and texture

It is a very fast moving market. Some bars made five years ago no longer exist and have been replaced by newer and better formulas. The pace of innovation in this industry is very high. Yet it remains a challenge to find a high runner which will last more than ten years. Brands' innovation and quality demands are constantly increasing, meaning that even successful bar lines on the market are constantly evolving. Currently, the demand is very high for core bars with a liquid filling and soft dough textures, providing more indulgence to the end consumer.

Bars on the market that promise high protein content must also increasingly deliver on a low or no added sugar basis. The prediction is that consumers will continue to demand taste and texture in addition to nutrition. The mainstreaming of protein bars will also likely lead to more defined product differentiation, with formulations targeted at specific nutritional needs.