Functional food bars: Marketing trends and techniques

Functional food bars have grown in popularity with consumers, as they seek products that help them reach their health and exercise goals.

Lindsey Carnett, CEO and President

August 31, 2020

5 Min Read
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Consumers are conscious of their health and well-being, and this shift has given birth to the popularity of new markets. The functional food bar is just one of these new products that has grown in popularity. With consumers looking for specific assistance with their health, well-being and exercise goals, these new products provide an opportunity to boost wider health markets, such as organic, vegan and clean-living diets.

According to Mordor Intelligence forecasting, the global energy and functional bar market is set to grow at a CAGR of 4.9% between 2019 and 2024.

Plant-based, nutrient dense, prebiotic, probiotic, wholegrain, keto, collagen—the healthy living market has soon become saturated by many different functional food bar types, each offering myriad health benefits, functionalities and flavors.

Consumers are looking for targeted ingredients to help achieve their specific health and well-being goals. Whether it’s additional key minerals and vitamins, such as iron, iodine, zinc or folic acid, or extra protein for athletes and fitness fans, there is a functional food bar for everyone.

But with so many choices, manufacturers must be proactive in keeping consumer interest high while still introducing new concepts and flavors, and satisfying the latest trends. We can all remember when birthday cake exploded onto the health and well-being scene with bars, supplements and drinks all containing this “exciting, new” flavor.

Similarly, it is important that manufacturers adapt to the ways consumers want to eat food bars. This means offering flexibility in the size of available bars and packs. They should also consider the ease of use, such as consumption post-workout, while on the go or even as part of a meal.

With such a big scope, what are the current trends popular within the functional food bar market? How are companies marketing them to eager consumers?


Touting low-carb and high-fat nutrition, keto diets are associated with effective weight management. Many keto bars are available in a range of both sweet and savory flavors. With most aiming to provide a well-balanced nutritional profile, many keto bars also contain calcium, vitamin A and essential fatty acids.

The Keto brand is perhaps the most recognizable and most established, with products that are vegan, soy free and also contain no dairy or gluten. Other alternative brands include bars that are refrigerated, ones that are vegan and others containing keto-friendly nuts and seeds.

The Keto brand uses social media to encourage the “keto movement,” enlisting influencers and user-generated content to fill its feeds.


Another growing trend in the functional food bar market involves refrigerated products.  Mintel has reported the fresh perimeter is growing at a rate of 3.8%, with many new brands springing up in this space. Refrigerated bars have a shorter shelf life and tend to contain ingredients such as water. Consequently, they need to be chilled to preserve these ingredients as well as maintaining their consistency, texture and freshness.

Pact Foods is one brand innovating in this space, creating small refrigerated bites that contain collagen as well as prebiotic and kombucha. The brand markets itself as “flavor meets function,” with both nutritionists and chefs crucial to the production process.


Typically associated with skincare, collagen is increasingly a popular ingredient in functional bars. New brand Kalumi has embraced this trend, using marine collagen in its products and branding itself as providing a “beauty boost” for hair, skin and nails.

Promising effortless beauty “wherever you go,” the brand was created by fashion models Chrissy Blair and Jayla Harnwell, and it is focused on appealing to beauty-driven Millennial and Gen-Y consumers. It uses social media to promote a lifestyle of wellness and positivity and a branded hashtag (#BEAUTYfood) to encourage customers to share their photos and tips.

Alcohol absorption

Another trend is using functional food to handle the consumption of alcohol. Sobar is one protein bar created to help consumers achieve this, using natural sugar and no sugar alcohols to help consumers boost their fiber intake. This is an interesting concept poised  to expand in popularity in the near future.

Products for athletes

Athletic training and targeted exercise goals are another niche market.

Supra was founded by a registered dietician Debbie Milne, a national championship professional cyclist. The brand is specifically marketed for athletic training, performance and recovery from exercise.

It makes it easier for customers to weave it into their active lifestyle, with subscription options and sample pack options in three flavors: beets, turmeric and berry. The brand offers add-ons, making it a truly robust product offering with nutrition services, cycling club and training/wellness camps for a whole concept.

Alternatives to breakfast and desserts

For those who still want a sweet kick but in a healthier way, the dessert bar trend remains strong. Barebells, a U.K.-based company, has embraced the afternoon tea trend, offering bars in flavors such as lemon curd and white chocolate. This has helped to cement the company in the alternative-to-dessert market, but Barebells also offers “traditional” bar flavors such as hazelnut, almond, mint, peanut, and cookies and cream.

The company also taps into the lifestyle benefits and appeal of the functional bar, with recipe ideas for followers to try. Similarly, it has embraced the successful strategy of working with influencers and brand ambassadors to market and promote its products to an audience of Millennials and Gen-Y buyers.

As consumer health and well-being goals continue to change, so must the functional food bar market adapt with their preferences. This provides manufacturers with exciting opportunities to create and market new formulations, new flavors and new ways of keeping their customers satisfied and entertained. In a world where nothing is certain, brands have the chance to work with their customers to create products that truly satisfy.

Lindsey Carnett is CEO and president of Marketing Maven, an Inc. 5000 ranked integrated marketing firm recognized nationally in the health space by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She specializes in PR, social media marketing, influencer marketing and reputation management.

About the Author(s)

Lindsey Carnett

CEO and President, Marketing Maven

Lindsey Carnett is CEO and President of Marketing Maven, an Inc. 5000 ranked integrated marketing firm recognized nationally in the health space by third-party ranking company O’Dwyer’s PR. She specializes in PR, social media marketing, influencer marketing and reputation management. Lindsey is a 2019 Enterprising Women Honoree, 2017 PR News Top Women in PR, FOLIO Magazine 2015 Top Women in Media Honoree and is noted for helping to launch consumer brands with substantiated ingredients. Lindsey can be reached at [email protected]

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