Launched 12 years ago in Canada, SimplyProtein is now owned by publicly-traded Simply Good Foods (parent company of Atkins Nutritionals).
Is there a such thing as 'bar fatigue"?
According to IRI's State of the Snacks Market report, it's now table stakes for a bar to have some sort of nutritional benefit to capture a consumer's attention.
And while there's no shortage of bars with added nutritional value on the market, said SVP of SimplyProtein, Linda Zink, consumers are still confused when faced with the overwhelming amount of options at the grocery store.
"There is some fatigue in bars, but if you look at the category, it’s actually growing," Zink told FoodNavigator-USA.
"Bars have become a mainstay in consumers’ lives. They’re trusted, they’re a go-to snack, both from a convenience and nutrition standpoint."
Sales of nutritional bars grew 1.8% in 2018 compared to 2017, and other snack/granola bars, such as nut and seed bars, grew by 22.6% over the same period.
SimplyProtein also makes barbecue and sea salt & cracked pepper crunchy bites with 15g and 16g of protein (from pea protein) and 0g of sugar per package.
"People are looking for protein from other sources as well," said Zink.
'People first want something that fits their nutritional needs'
In order for SimplyProtein to stand out in the "wall of bars", the brand spent a lot of time talking to consumers on what type of packaging and labeling they gravitate towards.
"We spend a lot of time talking to consumers. I gave them different packages and asked, 'What are the things you look at?'," Zink said.
SimplyProtein made sure to set aside enough room on the front of the package to display Non-GMO Project Verified and gluten-free certifications, but the main real estate went towards calling out the calorie count as well as protein, fiber, and sugar content of its two bar lines (baked and crispy).
"People first want something that fits their nutritional needs," she said.
"Calories are always going to be important, but people are really starting to look beyond calories into getting good, high quality protein, making sure they have enough fiber in their diet, and of course sugar."
SimplyProtein bars all contain at least 11 grams of plant-based protein (from soy) and 12g of dietary fibers with 3 grams of sugar or less (sweetened with stevia leaf extract).
Zink added having a low-sugar profile was an absolute must for SimplyProtein, but that the company has been careful not to constrain itself to a specific diet.
"Low sugar is here to stay. The science around it so compelling. Any study you look at, the vast majority of Americans are trying to reduce their sugar intake. It started with juices for children and it’s expanded from there," Zink noted.
"I think this product appeals to anyone watching their sugar and carbs."
Alongside nutrition, taste and texture is also extremely important, stressed Zink.
"We really spent a lot of time on texture with these products, focusing on providing a different eating experience," she said. "Many protein bars tend to be heavier, they’re denser and hard to chew in some cases. We wanted to provide the same nutritional benefits in something that was lighter, crispier."
Capturing the US market
According to Zink, SimplyProtein made some tweaks to the original formulation to fit the American palate, making the bars slightly sweeter with stronger flavors.
As SimplyProtein rolls out across more US stores, shoppers can find the bars and crunchy bites in the 'wellness snack section next to other protein products to capture more health-conscious consumers.
"People go to that set looking for a different type of product. They’re already in a healthier mindset; they’re looking for protein products, fiber products, low sugar," she said.
"We're so excited to bring this great brand from Canada into the United States, and we're very excited about how it's doing. When consumers build their ideal product, SimplyProtein really does check all the boxes without having to compromise on taste."