Breakfast Bar Boom

The most important meal goes mobile

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- For Americans, breakfast is happening sans milk, bowl and spoon. A table and chair are also more and more unnecessary. As breakfast becomes a meal on the go, nutritional bars are becoming a daily staple. And according to Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, convenience stores are as important a retail channel for the nutritional bar market as Walmart.

The nature of nutritional bars is a comfortable fit for c-stores. First, they’re consumed primarily as a breakfast food. Research shows consumption peaks first thing in the morning and wanes as the day goes on, which plays well in convenience since breakfast has historically been a strong meal for the industry. Bars are also designed to be convenient to eat. Nearly 39% of consumers eat bars in the car, 38% eat them at work and 36% eat them anywhere anytime they feel they need a snack, according to Packaged Facts.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that c-stores have an estimated 18% of the retail sales of nutritional bars, second only to grocery stores at 37%. In 2015, nutritional bars are expected to generate $544 million through the convenience channel, while similar cereal/granola bars are expected to generate $807 million in 2015 through convenience. That’s 13% of retail sales in the United States.

These numbers are the result of a recent popularity boom for breakfast bars. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of adults using nutritional bars increased 11%. And according to David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts’ research director, 44% of adults used cereal/granola bars in 2014.

“Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition,” a Packaged Facts report, attributes the boom to a broad range of trends affecting Americans’ eating habits, including a shift toward snacking rather than the traditional-three-square-meals-a-day model. Consumers are also seeking alternative foods to start their days, and have specific concerns about health and weight management. Packaged Facts believes manufacturers and marketers of nutritional and cereal/granola bars have been innovative and responsive to these trends.

“Bars provide a way for food marketers to offer alternative, exotic sources of protein; bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and ‘natural’ characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free,” said the report.

Whether your customers are after a “shiny health halo” or just a meal they can eat with one hand as they drive down the highway, breakfast bars will continue to penetrate the new-product pipeline—and your store shelves.