Protein continues to build strength

Protein bars have been flying off the shelves in mass outlets lately. Sales of nutritional bars were up 3.4% to $2.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended April 16, according to IRI across total U.S. multi-outlets.

One reason for the increase is the multitude of consumer segments now shopping the category. First, there is the core group of performance athletes who have incorporated protein supplements into their pre- and post-workout routines. “These are dedicated athletes, bodybuilders and weekend warriors who are interested in benefit-driven products that help them achieve an edge, drive harder and recover faster to meet fitness goals and gain muscle,” Timothy Monk, general manager at EAS Sports Nutrition, told Drug Store News. “And these consumers are looking for efficacy and specific benefits, whether it’s energy, power, muscle mass or recovery.”

Then there are also the holistic health enthusiasts who are “interested in clean eating to achieve a general healthy lifestyle. They look for organic, non-GMO, 100% plant-based natural products to supplement protein in both vegan and flexitarian lifestyles,” he said.

They’re also the early adopters of the category, who help identify emerging brands or ingredient trends for the other two consumer segments. For example, there are the consumers in pursuit of an active lifestyle and/or weight management. “They are looking for low-calorie, high-protein products to help them manage hunger between meals and to nourish muscles post-exercise,” Monk said. In terms of flavor trends, the category is broadening beyond traditional chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors and into more coffee varieties and novel options, such as cinnamon or birthday cake.

(Click here to view the full Special Report: Weight management, sports nutrition and vitamin)