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Snack Bar Brands Lose Ground to Healthier Options

Sales are slumping for older cereal and granola bar brands including Nature Valley, Special-K and Nutri-Grain, reported The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 6).

Changing consumer appetites and a trend toward snack bars that are higher in protein and low in sugar are causing older brands to miss a wave of sales growth for products much like their own, although Americans are eating more snack bars and more snacks in general.

Snack bar sales in the U.S., including nutrition and performance bars, rose 3.2% in 2018, according to research from Mintel. Meanwhile, Nielsen found that sales for older cereal-and-granola bar brands fell 3.7% in the year through August.

In September, General Mills said U.S. retail sales of snack bars dropped 4% in its latest quarter. The company struggled to revive growth amid competition from new, trendier products as well as cheaper store brands. It is also facing pressure to sell foods perceived as healthier and fresher.

“We got off to a slower start, but we’re on the right track,” said CEO Jeff Harmening, noting the company is investing in improvements such as a crispy wafer Nature Valley bar and a Fiber One bar with more protein and less sugar.

Kellogg’s Special K bars, which are associated with low-fat diets, have fallen out of fashion as consumers move toward diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrate, according to CEO Steve Cahillane. “We have to do a better job at innovating and making our foods relevant for today’s food beliefs,” Cahillane said when speaking about Special K bars.

Bigger companies are acquiring and investing in faster-growing brands. For example, in 2017, Kellogg bought Rxbar, a protein bar made with egg whites and dates. It put the protein bars in more stores and sales jumped by about 18% in 2019.

“Now it has all kinds of copycats,” said Victor Lee, Rxbar’s chief marketing officer. General Mills-owned Epic introduced similar date-and-egg-white bars in 2018.

In 2017, Mars Inc. took a stake in the company that makes KIND bars which was estimated at more than $1 billion. The brand has been successful but, according to founder Daniel Lubetsky, the introduction of similar products from other companies has taken a toll on KIND’s sales. “There’s not room for 400 whole-nut bars,” he said.

However, KIND recently revealed it would remove it’s Fruit Bites line from retailers after two years on the market, noting that when it comes to children they unfortunately prefer items with artificial coloring and shapes over the dried, whole fruit that it uses. The company will continue to offer Strawberry Apple Cherry, Cherry Apple and Mango Pineapple Apple on its website.