Combine protein sources, reduce sugar content to increase bar sales

The bar category, negatively impacted by COVID-19, has recovered well in 2021, judging by sales data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. The industry could keep sales numbers up in 2022 by choosing ingredients that promote healthy aging, protein content and sugar reduction.

The pandemic has kept consumers from being on the go, which has hurt sales of convenience products like bars. The decline in sales was evident in IRI data for the 52-week period ending July 11, 2021. Compared to the previous 52-week period, U.S. snack bar/granola bar retail sales were down by 1.6% to $5.53 billion. Unit sales in volume fell 9% to 1.49 billion.

A recovery was seen in IRI data for the 52-week period ending January 23 this year. Compared to the previous 52-week period ended, US snack bar/granola bar/cluster retail sales increased 11% to $6.77 billion. Volume unit sales increased 2.7% to 1.92 billion.


Dairy protein has long been a go-to ingredient for bars, and plant-based protein has also entered the category.

FrieslandCampina Ingredients, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, in January listed five trends for 2022 in its “Shaping the Future of Nutrition” report. Bar innovation could touch on three of the trends: celebrating healthy aging, holistic health starts in the gut, and the future is flexitarian.

The report cites findings from a 2021 FMCG Gurus Top 10 Trends report showing that 90% of aging consumers said they choose foods and beverages over traditional supplements. Dairy products contain calcium, protein and vitamins A, D and B12, all of which support healthy aging, said Vicky Davies, global marketing manager, performance, active and medical nutrition for FrieslandCampina.

“As we age, we need more protein to stay healthy, but some older people may struggle to get enough protein, whether it’s because of a loss of appetite, dental problems, or ‘a disease,’ Ms Davies said. “For manufacturers, this means making protein easy and enjoyable to consume is critical. Research also recommends spreading protein intake throughout the day. That’s why easy-to-consume protein bars that can supplement existing protein at mealtimes can help people stay healthy and active as they age.

High-protein bars can harden over time, making them difficult to chew, especially for older consumers, she said. FrieslandCampina has developed Excellion Textpro based on patent-pending technology that contributes to a smoother mouthfeel in protein-rich bars, which reduces hardening throughout the bars’ shelf life.

According to the 2022 Top 10 Trends report from Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands, two out of three consumers said they recognize gut health as essential to achieving overall well-being. To aid digestion, FrieslandCampina offers the Biotis brand of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), milk-derived prebiotics. It is a mixture of 100 oligosaccharides resulting from an enzymatic transformation of lactose from cow’s milk. Scientific studies on Biotis brand GOS show that it influences the balance of the intestinal microbiota by producing beneficial effects on intestinal health.

Dairy proteins could also combine with vegetable protein sources. Consumers are increasingly incorporating plant-based ingredients alongside traditional protein sources, according to the Innova report, which found that around 25% of consumers consider themselves flexitarians. However, they don’t want to miss out on taste, texture and nutrition, which could lead formulators to combine multiple plant and dairy protein sources, according to FrieslandCampina.

“This is a relatively new area as the demand for nutritious and flexitarian-friendly products continues to grow in popularity in the stratosphere,” Ms Davies said. “We expect to see more vegetable protein sources like legumes combined with dairy proteins like whey and casein in future applications.”


While protein remains a big driver of bar sales, food formulators are increasingly looking for plant-based protein sources that aren’t major food allergens, said Chad Rieschl, senior food research technologist. for Cargill, Minneapolis.

“That’s causing some brands to experiment with options like peas, beans, or lentils,” he said. “We are also seeing a lot of innovation around protein formats, as ingredient suppliers are moving beyond traditional powders, adding hydrolyzed and inclusion chips to their product lines. These advancements provide formulators with more options as they seek to increase protein levels in bars.

Proteins in bar applications can potentially lead to texture issues.

“Protein absorbs water, and bars don’t have a lot of free water to begin with,” Rieschl said. “Especially at higher inclusion levels, it’s easy to end up with a bar that has a crunchy, hard texture. However, an experienced ingredient supplier can help brands achieve their product development goals through careful protein selection and, if necessary, adjusting other ingredients in the formula.

Protein levels in bars range from 5 grams in 20 gram bars to 20 grams or more in 60 gram bars.

“It’s also worth noting that protein can come from a variety of sources, including nut butters, nuts and seeds, as well as vegetable protein chips and powders,” Rieschl said. “A single bar could harness all of these sources to meet its protein goals.”

The 2021 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council, Washington, found that more than 60% of respondents said they were trying to eat more protein. The number of protein ingredients available for bar applications continues to grow.

Finnish food technology company Gold&Green Foods offers protein granules and flakes containing three ingredients: oat bran, pea and bean (chickpea) protein. They contain 52 grams of protein per 100 grams and add fiber, potassium and iron to the formulations. According to the company, the granules and flakes have a neutral, mild flavor. The ingredients are shelf stable, which means they can be used in dry snacks like protein bars.

Rice protein has a neutral flavor and works well in combination with other plant proteins, said Steven Gumeny, product manager for rice ingredients for Beneo, which has a US office in Parsippany, NJ. Rice protein is also gluten-free and non-GMO.

“Formulators should be aware that rice protein is an insoluble protein,” Gumeny said. “Another consideration is the amino acid composition. If a near “perfect” PDCAAS score is desired, rice protein can be used in conjunction with a lysine-rich protein to achieve this goal. “

PDCAAS stands for protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, with 1.0 being a perfect score.


Consumers in general are looking to reduce their sugar intake. IFIC’s 2021 Diet and Health Survey found that 72% of respondents said they try to limit/avoid sugars.

“While sugar substitutes, intense sweeteners and alternative sugars can be used in a variety of applications, each has an individual sweetening profile, taste and technical characteristics, often making them a product better suited for certain applications than to others,” said Kyle Krause, Product Manager, Functional. fibers and carbohydrates, North America for Beneo.

Beneo offers Palatinose, a low-glycemic carbohydrate that has been shown to replace high-glycemic carbohydrates, he said.

“It works much like sugar in food and beverage applications while providing a slow release of glucose into the body,” he said. “Glucose is the main fuel for the body and the brain.”

Another Beneo sweetener, Isomalt, has half the calories of sugar.

“Isomalt and palatinose also work well in combination with high-intensity sweeteners, whether natural or artificial,” Krause said. “As some intense sweeteners can impart undesirable aftertaste, the sweetness profile of these ingredients may work well as masking agents in these instances, providing a synergistic sweetening effect.”

Chicory root fiber, including inulin and oligofructose, promotes digestive health by improving bowel regularity and increases the fiber content of snacks and bars. Oligofructose can be used in conjunction with high-intensity sweeteners to help mask bad tastes.

Corn syrup, a sweetener once common in bars, has fallen out of favor, Mr. Reischl said.

“In the past, formulators relied on corn syrup for moistening and binding, but today many brands want ingredient solutions that fulfill these roles without adding a lot of sugar,” he said. he declares. “While the best solution will vary depending on a brand’s other requirements, we’ve had good success using ingredients like liquid and powdered soluble fiber, polyols like maltitol and sorbitol syrups, and maltodextrins. .”

When working with most polyols, especially at higher levels, formulators should be aware of possible digestive tolerance issues. High utilization rates of soluble fiber can also lead to digestive issues.

“Within the polyol family, erythritol has the highest digestive tolerance, but it can have a cooling effect,” Reischl said.

Erythritol, since it has a high negative heat of solution, creates a cooling sensation when dissolved in the mouth, he added.

“To maximize its level of use, it’s often paired with ingredients like soluble fiber or maltitol, which help reduce its cooling effect as well as its tendency to crystallize,” Reischl said. “We are always looking for that one-stop solution to solve all our sugar reduction problems. Until then, it usually requires careful blending of multiple ingredients to create the flavor, texture, and nutritional profile a brand is aiming to achieve.

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