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Functional Ingredients and Formulation Strategies for Building Better Bars

Bars have exploded beyond the sports arena and appeal to a wide range of consumers. But as the global bar category evolves, so too have consumers’ expectations for convenient, portable products that deliver taste and functionality.

Bars have come a long way since the early 1980s, when they were a go-to energy source for runners. Today, bars have exploded beyond the sports arena to include breakfast bars, energy and nutrition bars, fruit bars, granola/muesli bars and other snack bars appealing to a wide range of consumers. But as the global bar category evolves, so too have consumers’ expectations for convenient, portable products that deliver taste and functionality.

What’s more, growth in the energy and nutrition bar segment is being driven by increased demand for products with healthy halos and transparent ingredient lists. In particular, protein, fiber, probiotic and non-genetically modified organism (GMO) claims are in high demand, noted Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confectionery & bakery, Ingredion Inc.

In addition to convenience, nutrition bars offer consumers various health benefits via the addition of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Plant-based proteins are gaining in popularity and projected to stay on-trend, particularly since the United Nations named 2016 as the “Year of the Pulse." In addition to the nutritional benefits of protein, pulses address consumer need for, clean-label products.

However, protein fortification in bars typically presents challenges relating to texture, taste and shelf life, and manufacturers must continue to invest in research and development to ensure the ingredients don’t compromise those attributes in the end product.

Fiber is also a go-to ingredient for nutrition bars because many consumers fall short of the recommended daily amount of fiber in their diet, and bars offer a small, portable way to increase fiber intake. But when formulating with fibers, it is important to understand the digestibility of the fiber source, as well as key functionality, such as viscosity, binding property, flavor profile, and impact on bar processing and shelf life.

What’s more, bar texture—important for creating a satisfying sensory experience—can be challenging. People want a bar that’s not too hard, nor extremely soft. Achieving an ideal texture and pliability comes from understanding ingredient functionality.

For more information about functional ingredients in today’s bars and tips to formulation success, download INSIDER’s free Bars Digital Issue.

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