Cereals and Health Bars
For several years now, the editorial team at Mintel International (Chicago), proprietor of the Global New Products Database (GNPD), has observed breakfast cereals losing market share to more convenient, on-the-go cereal bars and nutrition bars. Why should consumers eat breakfast at home when they can just drop a bar in their bag and have it when they please?
In the U.S., there are more and more products that focus on health and wellness. And that trend is borne out in other parts of the world as well.
Health and WellnessIn this broad category, the number of products that bear some sort of claim concerning health and wellness continues to grow. In breakfast cereals, the trend has gone beyond simply listing vitamin and mineral fortification to including claims concerning lowering cholesterol, reducing heart disease (claims approved by the FDA) and, sometimes, even fighting free radicals and removing toxins. For example, Kellogg's (Battle Creek, Mich.) not only has fortified its Complete Oat Bran flakes with 11 vitamins and minerals, but claims that that fortification helps support the immune and digestive systems.
The popular organic trend also has made its impact on the cold breakfast cereal market. Again, smaller companies have driven the sector, with few introductions from mainstream players. Kellogg's, however, has interests in the organic cereals market via its Kashi subsidiary in North America. Many of the organic products include those for children, including EnviroKidz Organic Cheetah Chomps Cereal from Nature's Path Foods (Blaine, Wash.) and private label organic cereals from Whole Foods (Plano, Texas).
To market hot cereals as even healthier than they naturally already are, manufacturers are using low-fat, fortified (vitamin and mineral) and all-natural claims. U.S. product lines, such as Nutrition for Women from Quaker (Chicago), take fortification a step further by targeting a specific audience. The instant oatmeal line is fortified with high levels of calcium and folic acid.
There are limited functional health claims within the snack bars segment, leaving room for expansion and continued development. Many functional claims focus on aiding digestion (probiotics), lowering cholesterol (often with the use of soy) and improving heart health. In addition, a few varieties offer unique benefits such as memory enhancement or immune system support. Health from the Sun (Sunapee, N.H.), for example, launched the Omega-3 Flax Snax All-Natural Snack Bars for “busy health-conscious people who want to add flax to their diet.” Legacy For Life (Melbourne, Fla.) launched a Wellness Bar under the Immune 26 label, described as “a healthy snack alternative for people on the go.”
In North America, dietary practices shifted considerably in response to the enormous media attention surrounding low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets. In response, many producers developed snack bars with reduced carbohydrate content, including EAS, (Golden, Colo.) with the introduction of the AdvantEdge Carb Control Nutrition Bar. This has 26g of protein and only 3g of impact carbs (non-impact carbohydrates such as glycerin, fiber, maltitol and sugar alcohol have little to no effect on blood sugar levels). Peak Performance Foods (Bowling Green, Ky.) launched its Pro Bites, touted as a delicious, nutritious, low-carb, low-fat, soy protein source that serves as a snack, supplement or meal replacement. Interestingly, the line offers selections commonly encountered in the salty snacks category such Ranch, Sour Cream and Onion, Bar-B-Que and Nacho Cheese.
Many energy and sports bars claim to promote recovery by replenishing lost vitamins and minerals after strenuous activity. Additionally, products are formulated to maximize athletic prowess during sporting events, providing the necessary nutrients to improve endurance and increase energy levels. MET-Rx (Irvine, Calif.) repackaged its line of Protein Plus High Protein Bars to allow consumers to easily identify the four segments: Muscle Strength, Weight Loss, Endurance and Fitness. Included in the launch were Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Roasted Peanut and Chocolate Fudge varieties. Life Time Fitness (Eden Prairie, Minn.) introduced its Fast Fuel Chocolate Crunch Energy Bar, made with an increased energy formula to maximize energy, stamina, and muscle recovery. It has a blend packed with 12g of protein and balanced nutrients to control appetite.
We continue to see plenty of bars with energy-related claims, but without any direct association to sports. These are sometimes positioned as giving a quick boost or burst of “power,” or even being a replacement for meals. They often are fortified with vitamins, minerals and protein, and are formulated with high-energy ingredients such as nuts and chocolate. Although the category is growing slowly, there now are product lines formulated with high-energy ingredients often found in energy drinks (such as guarana and taurine). Perhaps one of the most important of these types of products is from Masterfoods USA (Hackettstown, N.J.). It leveraged its Snickers name to offer Snickers Marathon, a 2oz. energy bar with 16 vitamins and minerals and 10g of a “special protein blend” that builds on the brand recognition of Snickers, a popular chocolate bar. The launch marks the confectionery giant's first entrance into the energy bar segment.
ConvenienceNaturally, competition from alternative “on-the-go” breakfast items has had a major impact on cereal manufacturers, encouraging the development of more convenient lines. It also has prompted another important move: the idea of presenting breakfast cereals as an “on the go” snack. Many cold cereal manufacturers have moved into the hand-held cereal bar market, using established cereal brands. Kellogg's, for example, extended its Nutri-Grain brand with Nutri-Grain Minis, a bite-sized version of the bars, to be consumed as a snack straight out of the bag, and they are ideal for sharing, snacking and lunch boxes. There are some more traditional, convenient forms in this broad category. Cream of Wheat Instant Hot Cereal on the Go!, from Kraft Foods (Northfield, Ill.), is said to be “quick and ideal for the person who is always in a rush,” and is packaged in a disposable plastic tub.
Bars, on the other hand, are convenient substitutes for a meal or another type of snack. A large number of new introductions appear each year. A few examples from 2003 include the following.
CSA (Houston) introduced Shape Up! with Dr. Phil McGraw, a popular psychiatrist that hosts a television talk-show. The Complete Nutrition Bars are available in two flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownie, with 210 calories per package and 24 vitamins and minerals. Slim-Fast Foods (West Palm Beach, Fla.) introduced Caramel Crispy Peanut, Caramel Cafe Mocha, and Strawberry Cheesecake Meal Bars, and Kellogg's launched a line of “deliciously moist oven baked muffin bars” in the U.S. and elsewhere. The apple, blueberry and apricot individually wrapped bars are convenient, portable and the company claims they are “great for school or work.”
The FutureMany parents are adamant about supplying their children with healthy snack choices, leading to a market expansion for children's snack and energy bars. In particular, expect to see low-fat, fortified products with calcium and vitamin C--two common ingredients found in children's products.
For many adults, the current selection of snack and energy bars is simply too sweet. Therefore, future products will incorporate savory flavors such as sesame or garlic to appeal to the mature palate.
Fortification is set to continue, perhaps with more gender-specific varieties (e.g., Quaker Nutrition for Women). Breakfast cereals also can expect to see more varieties targeted to specific consumer segments. Beyond children, expect to see more foods specifically targeting women, as well as brands targeted to older consumers or to teens.
Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.
Sidebar:On-the-go breakfast items, whether cereals or bars, have developed a bit differently outside the U.S. So far, the convenience trump card has focused on packaging concepts. A few key products stand out. Maizoro Presto, in Guatemala, offers a line of instant cold cereals. They are ready-to-go cereals with milk powder and need the addition of cold water. Two varieties are available: Azucaradas, frosted flakes, and Choco Flakes. A similar type of product is offered by the company Simba in Indonesia. Its Tuffis comprises a pot with cereal bites filled with chocolate, a spoon and a sachet of milk powder to prepare with either hot or cold water. In Germany, Immergut Dauermilch Müsli+Milch Mobil is a single package that contains a portion of muesli, shelf stable low-fat milk and a spoon. Kellogg's has similar products in various forms in Europe (some with milk, others with yogurt or quark).
The Asian market for hot cereals is well established. However, when compared to European and North American markets, a marked difference is that hot cereals in Asia are not always positioned as a breakfast item. They often are consumed as a meal throughout the day, sometimes as a thick “cup-a-soup”-style meal. They also sometimes have a healing or “supplement-style” positioning to aid recovery after ailments. As such, the market also includes some interesting savory flavors. A few examples include: Quaker oatmeal porridge in Hong Kong, with an anchovies flavor; Vitamax instant nutritious pumpkin cereal in China, from Tastyfood Industries, described as a vitamin-enriched hot cereal with added fiber and calcium; and Vitagen Instant Nutritious Cereal in Indonesia, from Plantago Naturale, enriched with calcium and vitamin B12--each serving is said to provide enough energy to help individuals to carry out their daily activities. On the front of the pack is the picture of a lunch box, indicating it is a lunch time snack.