Protein is currently the top functional bar ingredient and is often what comes to consumers’ minds when sports nutrition is mentioned. Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) called protein “the last macro standing,” as its public perception remains unscathed in comparison to carbohydrates and fats. Ever-evolving fitness trends have led to a higher demand for protein-rich diets. Combined with consumer desire for convenience, protein snacks and bars offer the perfect solution, as they provide a means to increase overall protein intake without adding unnecessary calories.
With such a competitive landscape, the question then becomes how brands can innovate within the protein bar space. Some feel as though the nutrition bar market has reached its level of maturity with not much room left to innovate or expand. As so many brands and ingredients are on the market, each attempt at innovation could start to feel like a me-too maneuver. How are brands combating this me-too stigma and seeking to be innovative in this space by bringing something new to the table?
Animal protein is a longstanding protein champ with consumers—and what most commonly comes to mind when people think about protein. However, as consumers have become more educated about the foods they eat and the industries that produce them, they’ve become increasingly concerned about the wellness and sustainability attributes of the animal protein they are consuming.
The influx of plant-based protein products has been a godsend for those following diets such as vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian. Plant-based has also started to make an impression on everyday consumers.
Protein and nutritional bars have traditionally consisted of whey, collagen, nuts and soy, but the list is growing. Plant-based proteins have expanded marginally within the sports nutrition space as the vegan trend continues to grow.
With the use of plant-based proteins comes the challenge of creating products that still deliver on the texture and flavor consumers desire. To combat this, brands are partnering with various manufacturers to address potential formulation issues.
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