In Bars, Health Claims Gain Edge

Articles
February 10, 2011

In Bars, Health Claims Gain Edge

Bars with health claims are zooming off of retail shelves, as consumers seek small ways to improve what they eat, indicate Nielsen LabelTrends data.

The better-for-you marketing umbrella was made to order for the expanding granola/yogurt/snack bar/stick category. Products start with healthful ingredients at the core, but are often surrounded by sugars, chocolate, nuts and other tastemakers to add appeal.  

These portable, convenient bars and sticks also often carry the health cachet of cereal brands. People eat them as snacks and breakfast substitutes when tight schedules prevent a sit-down meal, and perhaps equate them nutritionally - though one expert says they shouldn't. "They're not health food. They're basically cookies masquerading as health food," Jayne Hurley senior nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The Globe and Mail recently.

Nevertheless, many kinds of bars and sticks with health claims are zooming off of retail shelves, as consumers seek small ways to improve what they eat, indicate Nielsen LabelTrends data in U.S. food stores (excluding supercenters) for the 52 weeks ended November 27, 2010. For example, the equivalized unit volume (16-ounce basis, prepackaged, UPC-coded products only) of:

  • Health bars and sticks with fat claims on the package rose 34.0% in this period;
  • Granola and yogurt bars with vitamin and mineral claims jumped 69.0%
  • Health bars and sticks with calorie claims were up 66.5%
  • Granola and yogurt bars with antioxidant claims soared 437.1%
  • Health bars and sticks with fiber claims climbed 52.0%

The category overall is showing robust performance. Granola and yogurt bars, its #1 segment, is on a four-year growth streak and dollar sales just passed the $1 billion threshold in U.S. supermarkets (excluding supercenters) for the first time, reported Nielsen. In the latest 52 weeks, dollar sales were up 4.1% to $1.03 billion, on a 7.8% EUV increase. This followed three successive years of 11.1%, 0.1% and 3.0% dollar gains, much of that during the recession when people became pickier about the foods they bought.  

Branded sales accounted for $939.3 million of this $1.03 billion segment total in the latest 52 weeks; both branded and private label sales rose.

Breakfast bars, the #2 segment at about half the size, show a different trend. Over the past four years, this segment's growth rate has decelerated to the point where it posted a 0.4% decline to $495.9 million in the latest 52 weeks, albeit on a 0.5% EUV increase, the Nielsen data show.  

While brand growth in this segment has been negative the past two years (down 1.7% most recently to $446.3 million), private label advances have been in the double digits in each of the past four years.

Health bars and sticks, the #3 segment, shows the most dramatic recent gains. After three straight years of dollar sales growth of less than 1%, it posted breakout results in the latest 52 weeks, up 21.0% to $359.7 million, on a 23.6% EUV gain.  Brands account for virtually all sales in this segment - $353.2 million, up 20.6% -- while private label continues to gain traction too.