The cereal bar category is one of the fastest growing food segments, benefiting from the confluence of the desire for healthier snack and meal replacement alternatives, the demand for portable snacks and meals, as well as some ongoing consumer interest in high-fiber, whole-grain foods. Mintel International (Chicago) estimates the U.S. consumer market for cereal bars at $2.2 billion in 2004, excluding sales through Wal-Mart (Bentonville, Ark.) and natural food stores. The market grew at a compound annual growth rate of 13.4% between 1999 and 2004.
Based on Mintel research, overall growth in the market should slow but remain strong--with sales expected to rise 7.6% at an inflation-adjusted annual rate between 2004 and 2009. Growth is expected to result from increases in penetration and frequency of use, driven by aggressive product development to improve and broaden the flavor choices.
From a flavor development standpoint, Kerry Sweet Ingredients (New Century, Kan.) has developed innovative fruit filling technology, and holds the market leader position in the U.K. However, differences between the U.S. and U.K. markets exist, and Kerry sought to understand the differences and similarities through primary consumer research. By conducting research in both U.S. and U.K. households, Kerry moved forward with the objective of discovering what attributes are most relevant for the respective countries' consumers. The research included surveys with some 5,000 households who had purchased cereal bars in the past year (equally divided for the U.S./U.K.).
Kerry further investigated the perceived lack of flavor variety; of several concepts presented, berry flavors sparked the most interest (more than 60% of U.S. consumers and almost 50% of U.K. consumers).
The U.K. market for fruit fillings has thus far yielded more innovation, and yet U.S. consumers could well benefit from some of those efforts. Based upon expertise and consumer research, Kerry has developed several options to address a broad spectrum of “niche” consumer needs, such as no-sugar-added, organic and protein-enhanced. Several of these are highlighted in the Fillings Plus product line, which now includes Fruit Burst and Caramel Plus fillings.