Healthy snacking: Taking bars to the next level

Published: 15-Nov-2019

With in-demand ingredients and an extensive portfolio of functional formulations, Glanbia’s innovations help customers to meet the ever-growing demand for healthy, on-the-go snack options. Paul O’Mahony, Product Strategic Manager, Dairy and Plant Proteins, Glanbia Nutritionals, reports

The trend for healthy snacking shows no signs of abatement. In fact, the global healthy snack market is expected to reach US$32.8 billion by 2025.1 Changing daily routines have meant that on-the-go is a necessity, with snacks now becoming mini-meals or healthy “add-ons” to make nutrition on the move more natural, healthier and tastier.

Snacking is not only concerned with the creation of indulgent moments, but the fact that this indulgence can be achieved guilt-free.

Alongside this growth, we have seen a similar increase in the bar market; there has been an impressive 22% CAGR between 2013 and 2017 in launch claims for “healthy snacking bars,” according to Innova.2

Once a staple of the sports nutrition market, high protein bars are now seeing growth in the mainstream category with the introduction of bars that encompass protein, fibre and other functional ingredients as part of a healthy lifestyle.

New research from Mintel supports this, with the UK seeing a five year high of new bar launches in 2019.3 One of the fastest growing categories for bars is those with a high protein claim; more than 400 product launches featured this claim in the UK alone in the past five years.3

Paul O’Mahony, Product Strategic Manager, Dairy and Plant Proteins, Glanbia Nutritionals

Paul O’Mahony, Product Strategic Manager, Dairy and Plant Proteins, Glanbia Nutritionals

Protein packed

Although additional protein is desirable in snack bars, it can be difficult to formulate with a palatable taste and texture. Working with experts in bar development and formulation can help to ensure that you use the correct protein sources and manufacturing processes to achieve the desired flavour, colour, texture and functional variances.

The challenges surrounding formulation make it a balancing act for manufacturers. Appealing to mainstream consumers with bars that encompass added functional ingredients, as well as interesting tastes and textures, improved mouthfeel and using multiple layers, is becoming increasingly important.

Glanbia Nutritionals has a broad portfolio of ingredients to help brand owners and manufacturers overcome these challenges, such as the Bar Pro and BarFlex range of products that enable a soft texture while maintaining a long shelf-life. Although protein continues to grow and consumers seek high quality, clean tasting functional nutrition in their bars, other trends are also shaping the bar market as we move into a new decade.

Boosting plant-based nutrition

With vegetarian and vegan diets growing in popularity, many consumers are turning to plant-based ingredients for their protein. In fact, the plant-based ingredient market is growing at a rapid rate and is estimated to increase from $18.5 billion in 2019 to $40.6 billion by 2025, according to recent research from Markets and Markets.

Plant-based proteins in particular are becoming more commonplace. The growth in alternative proteins is evident with the number of healthy bar launches, with plant proteins increasing by 34.9% between 2013 and 2017.4

Ingredients such as peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, rice, wheat and soy are helping to meet the demand for added protein in savoury snack bars.

In particular, pea protein is rising in popularity, as it is high in fibre and meets the vegan/vegetarian trend. With products such as Glanbia Nutritionals HarvestPro Pea Protein, consumers are able to enjoy complete protein in a nutritious, sustainable and allergen-free way.

Using HarvestPro Pea Protein not only benefits the nutritional profile of a snack bar, it also delivers good flavour and texture, which many manufacturers struggle with when using pea protein (owing to its naturally bitter aftertaste and poor texture).

Grains and seeds also continue to be popular among consumers looking for added natural protein, nutrition and flavour, while still meeting the trend for plant-based options. For example, oats, flax seeds and chia seeds are all becoming increasingly popular additions to healthy snack bars.

Healthy snacking: Taking bars to the next level

Seeds have grown in popularity for more savoury snacking, with solutions such as Glanbia’s HarvestPro chia and flax proteins, which contain ALA, omega-3 and provide an excellent source of fibre. The addition of finely milled grains and seeds ensures that consumers can enjoy a satisfying texture and strong nutritional profile within an easy-to-consume bar form.

Raising the bar

Although protein and other functional ingredients will remain at the forefront, consumers are now demanding innovative new flavours, textures and tastes, all of which contribute to their overall enjoyment and experience. For example, using innovative proteins such as Glanbia Nutritionals Crunchie Milk Protein Crisps helps bar manufacturers to produce products that differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

These new innovations will help bar manufacturers to take their products to the next level and create a standout bar in a crowded market. However, all come with challenges when it comes to product formulation. Bar hardening and shelf-life continue to be issues for manufacturers; but, by using the right functional ingredients and formulation, Glanbia helps brand owners and manufacturers to overcome these issues.

Speed of innovation

During the next few years, we will see bar manufacturers continue to introduce new formats, such as protein bites, clusters and chips, which are designed to make indulgence more permissible but also fit with the healthy on-the-go lifestyle that mainstream consumers crave.

We will also see more layered bars, creating new textures with added ingredients such as caramel, lighter aerated fillings and new flavours to tempt consumers.

As demands change quickly, manufacturers need to adapt to meet this speed of innovation. There is a need to partner with companies that have strong R&D and technical teams who can provide the market insight and industry leading technology to ensure that they stay ahead of the curve.

It will be interesting to watch how this area of the snack market unfolds during the coming years as manufacturers continue to focus on distinguishing themselves through the use of the latest ingredients, proteins and technologies to become more innovative with their offerings. One thing is definite; as the bar category continues at pace, manufacturers will need to speed up their time-to-market to gain a competitive edge.

At Glanbia, we have a longstanding heritage in the bar market; we’ve been helping customers to produce innovative, tasty products that resonate with consumers for more than 15 years. We have global expertise at a local level and offer unrivalled market insights and formulation expertise. We collaborate intensively with customers to develop advanced solutions so that they can launch faster and expand in their markets.


  2. Innova Market Insights, “Number of New Bars and Healthy Bars Launches Tracked (EMEA),” (2017).
  4. Innova Market Insights, “Healthy Bars EMEA,” (2017).

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