Savory flavors gain traction in nutrition bars

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Savory flavors gain traction in nutrition bars
Savory flavors are gaining momentum in the traditionally sugar-saturated nutrition bar category with the entrance of two more companies. 

Start-up Savory Harvest and industry veteran Kind at Natural Products Expo West each showcased nutrition bars with savory flavors and low sugar amounts, placing them on trend with the 2015 Dietary Guideline advisory committee recommendations to reduce calories from added sugar. The flavors also are in-line with consumers’ changing taste preferences for bold, spicy flavors. (Read more about the dietary guideline recommendations HERE​.)

The launches follow the lead of Mediterra Nutrition’s launch last year of two low sugar, savory bars that rely on pea protein crisps to give the bars a chewy texture and compensate for the functionality typically provided by sugar. Since the bars were launched they were named one of Grocery Headquarters 2015 Selling Trailblazers and they won the 2014 The Lempert Report Innovator award and the 2014 Besties Kids Award. (Read more about the bars HERE​.) 

Savory bars are creating a “new territory”​ within the nutrition bar category, which “is wide open for non-sweet bars,”​ said Lisa Mann, executive vice president of marketing for Kind.

She explained that Kind “made the bold move to introduce bold, spicy flavors to change the game,”​ similar to how the computer company Apple changed the technology space.

The savory lineup of Strong & Kind bars includes five flavors with varying degrees of “bold”​ flavor that consumers can differentiate with the “spice-o-meter”​ icon on the back of the bars’ packaging.

The most boldly flavored bars are roasted jalapeno and honey mustard, which Mann says is a “great riff on a soft pretzel with honey mustard,”​ followed by the thai sweet chili, honey smoked BBQ and hickory smoked bars.

The bars all have 6 grams of sugar compared to the 12-25 grams of sugar in many sweet competitors. To some extent the bars compensate for the sugar reduction by hiking up the sodium, which ranges from 115 mg to 140 mg per bar in the line. The sodium in Kind’s sweet bars ranges from 0 mg in the almond cashew with flax + omega-3 bart to 140 mg in the maple glazed pecan and sea salt bar.

The bold, spicy, savory flavors also expand the uses of the bars – making them more appealing as mini-meal replacements beyond breakfast when paired with cheese or an apple, Mann said. She said the bars are not positioned as meal replacements but are on trend with American’s changing habits to eat more smaller meals throughout the day.

Kind also launched at the Expo five new Healthy Grains bars that Mann says will disrupt the granola bar section by combining five super grains that offer health benefits and a “fabulous texture.”​ Like other Kind bars, these are non-GMO and gluten free. They include caramel macchiato, dark chocolate mocha, peanut butter and jelly and two popped bars: salted caramel and dark chocolate sea salt, Mann said.

Beyond nuts and seeds

Savory Harvest further differentiates is savory bars, which launched March 6 at Expo West by going beyond the nuts, seeds and grains that typically characterize the nutrition bar segment.

Savory Harvest’s bars also include kale and cheese. The line includes Parmesan, Tomato & Herb; Hickory Smoked BBQ & Cheddar; and Sriracha, Cheddar & Lime.

Like the Kind bars, Savory Harvest’s bars are low in sugar with only 4 grams and high in protein with 9 grams per bar.

Co-creator of the “UnSweet Snack Bar,” ​Lisa Murray said the bars pair great with beer and wine, with which the young company was toasting at Expo West to celebrate its successful Kickstarter campaign.

Murray said she and her partner Tom Senters raised more than $24,500 from 417 backers by selling more than 10,000 bars in one month on Kickstarter, which allowed the company to launch at the show. Murray and Senters now are pursuing distribution.

While happy about the Kickstarter campaign, Murray said if she had realized how much work it would be to run the campaign, she might not have done it.  (Read more about the crowdsourcing funds for foods and beverages HERE​ and HERE​.) 

Changing consumers’ view

The nascent savory subcategory holds a lot of potential for growth and bringing into the category new shoppers who don’t like sweets, Murray and Mann agreed.

But just as the makers of Mediterra previously noted, the success of the category hinges partly on consumers’ willingness to try something new and shift their mindset about what a nutrition bar can be, Mann said. 

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