Article

The Growth of the Energy Bar Market in Europe

30/09/2022

The rising popularity of energy bars in Europe says a lot about today’s meal culture. Once the reserve of serious athletes, the energy bar market has now diversified both its offering and its target audience and entered into the mainstream. Quick, nutritious and easy to eat on-the-go, the energy bar is the ultimate symbol of convenience. In this report, we take an in-depth look at the energy bar market in Europe: who the main players are, what the growth projection is, how they are marketed and to whom.  

A region well-known for the importance it has long placed on slow food and family meals, it may come as a surprise that the energy bar is becoming increasingly present in European diets. But before looking at what drives consumers to choose energy bars, let’s look at the different types of energy bars.    

 

What is classified as an energy bar?

If you’re in the market for an energy bar, there are hundreds of different types to choose from. Not only is the market heavily saturated with brands, the term ‘energy bar’ itself can be split into distinct categories. From pre-workout and protein bars to high-fibre and breakfast bars, there is a pre-wrapped, pocket-sized boost of nutrition for all occasions.   

 

According to Wikipedia, an energy bar is defined in the broadest sense as a “supplemental bar containing cereals, micronutrients and flavour ingredients intended to supply quick food energy.” Basically, it’s an on-the-go snack that packs a higher nutritional or energetic punch than an average packet of crisps or a chocolate bar. In that sense, they can be used functionally - for a post-run protein boost, for example - or as a meal replacement. 

 

Different types of energy bars

Protein bar

As the name suggests, protein bars have a high protein content, which makes them a great way to help the body recover after an intense workout. They tend to be dense and are often consumed in lieu of a meal. Protein bars can come in a variety of forms - from nuts held together with an emulsifier or syrup to a chocolate-flavoured bar fortified with whey or pea protein. 

 

Fibre bar

 

Many people who don’t consume sufficient levels of fibre turn to fibre bars as an easy way to boost their intake. They often contain ingredients such as nuts, fruits, seeds and oats but can also contain fibre-rich powders such as psyllium husk powder and chicory root fibre. Being in a pre-wrapped, shelf stable bar format makes them an attractive option for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack that’s high in nutrients. 

 

Energy bar

Although the term ‘energy bar’ can refer to protein, breakfast and fibre bars, an energy bar can also refer to a bar designed to supply a boost of energy for a short time. This kind of bar provides the body with fuel in the form of glycogen and tends to contain oats, seeds, nuts and granola. Since they’re carbohydrate- and calorie-dense, energy bars are often used as a way to give the body energy before a workout. Energy bars tend to be lower in sugar compared to chocolate bars, making them a better choice for the health-conscious.  

 

Cereal/breakfast bar

 

Cereal or breakfast bars contain cereal grains such as wheat, rice or oats and can also have extra ingredients such as yoghurt and fruit. The levels of sugar can vary, depending on the brand, meaning there are some options that are healthier than others. These bars are also designed to give the body an energy boost and are a good replacement for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. 

 

Main energy bar players in Europe

The European market is heavy with big players in the energy bar game, the most notable being General Mills, Kellogg’s, Quest, Probar and Clif. Each represents a distinct segment of the European market.

 

Probar, for example, caters to consumers looking for plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO protein bars and its range of products is marketed at athletes looking for functional snacks that are good for their body and the planet. 

 

Kellogg’s, a household name in cereal, has marketed its bars as containing all the familiar grains and nuts of one of the brand’s healthier cereals but in a bar form and with a higher protein content. 

 

CLIF’s marketing is more progressive, the brand having partnered with Venus Williams to support diversity in sport as well as holding an annual women-led film festival under its sister brand LUNA.  

 

Fulfil bars are marketed as a healthy, nutrient-rich alternative to chocolate bars, claiming to have higher levels of protein and a reduced sugar content.

 

General Mills has several brands of energy bar, including Nature Valley, LARABAR and Fiber One. Nature Valley sells high carb energy or breakfast bars while LARABAR bars are marketed as more natural, containing very few ingredients, and Fiber One is a fibre-rich breakfast bar.  

 

Breakdown of the energy bar market

The global market was valued at almost $3 billion USD in 2020 by Maximize Market Research. The energy bar market in Europe is expected to experience growth of 7.3% CAGR in the period of 2021-2027. 

 

Breaking it down into country, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are the biggest players, with the UK market showing a CAGR of 7.2% in the forecasted period and the French market a CAGR of 9.6%.  

 

While the largest market segment is supermarkets, the segment expected to experience the fastest growth is that of online stores.

 

What is fuelling the growth of this sector? 

 

The energy bar market’s impressive growth is being fuelled primarily by a growing consumer interest in health and exercise. With information around nutrition and fitness constantly becoming more accessible, consumers want products that align with their goals around weight loss, muscle building or eating healthier foods. Equally, the snack food market is seeing considerable growth and consumers are demanding more and more diversity and personalisation in their convenience foods. 

 

Conscious snacking

Particularly after the pandemic, consumers are increasingly aware of what they consume and are attracted to products that allow them to get a range of micronutrients and vitamins in a quick, easy-to-eat form. Energy bars are an attractive choice as they deliver convenience, nutrition and flavour. 

 

Functional foods

COVID-19 sparked a fitness craze, with more and more people working out from home during lockdowns. Wanting to capitalise on their exercise regimes, an increasing number of consumers are educated about nutrition and, as a result, the energy bar has moved from the diets of athletes and bodybuilders and into the mainstream. Their stable shelf life, easy-to-eat shape and pre-wrapped nature make the energy or protein bar the easiest choice to get some energy before a workout or refuel afterwards. 

 

On-the-go meals

Europeans are also living increasingly fast-paced lives and, with so many things to do in the day, sit-down meals often slide down the list of priorities. Consumers are opting for an energy bar in place of breakfast or an afternoon snack and even foregoing dinner for a protein bar after an evening workout.   

 

Clean label

In Europe, free-from, natural products are leading the way in the energy bar market. Increasingly health-conscious consumers are more demanding about the ingredients in products and are attracted to “clean-label” products. General Mills’ LARABAR fruit and nut bars, which contain only five or six all-natural ingredients as compared to other bars that can contain up to 30, are an example of a product that uses innovative ingredient suppliers and alternative protein sources to meet the clean label trend. 

 

The clean label trend is strategic for the energy bar market as it fits into the natural, outdoorsy image many brands align themselves with. Particularly in Europe, where outdoor activities are gaining popularity and consumers are looking for more and more products to fit with this lifestyle, a snack that can easily provide them with energy and nutrition while out and about is a no-brainer.  

 

Energy bar target market

The target market for energy bars can be generally defined as health-conscious consumers who lead an active lifestyle and can be further divided into five subsections.

  

People on a diet or trying to lose weight

Energy bars are appealing to consumers wanting to lose weight as they look for snacks that are low in calories but will still fill them up. Since many energy bars are delicious and often coated in chocolate, they constitute a guilt-free snack that packs a nutritional punch without compromising on flavour or undermining weight-loss goals.

People looking to improve their health

Consumers taking an active approach to improving their overall health will often look to energy bars to help them make an easy but effective switch in their dietary habits. Eating energy bars, for this type of consumer, is often part of a larger diet of eating healthier foods that are low in calories and contain good fats, protein and other micronutrients. 

People trying to eat more protein

Protein-rich ready-to-eat foods are a big trend in Europe as consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of this micronutrient on the body. Everything from yoghurts to bread is now being boosted with extra protein to meet the demand for functional products that are easy to consume. This trend has also caused an uptake in popularity for energy bars, particularly those with a high protein content as it is a quick and easy way to increase consumption. 

 

Likewise, fitness-conscious consumers look to both protein bars to help them build and repair their muscles after a workout and energy bars to give them fuel before.    

 

Athletes

People who are in training for a specific sporting event often follow an extremely functional diet designed to optimise their performance. Energy bars are popular with this segment as the range of options and brands means they can find the right bar to help maximise their training sessions. Equally, their small size means they are easy to bring along for a session or event. Cyclists or runners, for example will often use high-carb energy bars to give them fuel before a big race as well as a protein bar for recovery, too. 

 

People who want a quick and healthy snack

Thanks to their stable shelf life, portability and delicious flavour, energy bars of all types are popular snacks. Whether for people looking to lose weight and follow a healthy lfiestyle, or just those who like to eat on-the-go and prefer the taste and filling effect of energy bars to high-sugar chocolate or candy bars, energy bars fill a gap when consumers reach for that afternoon pick-me-up or mid-morning break. Energy bars are often marketed as healthier alternatives to fast food, making them a guilt-free, delicious snack for anyone and everyone.  

 

Movement in the energy bar market

The mergers and acquisitions taking place in the energy bar market are proof that it is an industry with serious growth potential. Indeed, General Mills was a forerunner of the clean label energy bar trend when it acquired LARABAR in 2008 and the brand has continued to grow and expand into new flavours while keeping the same recipe it always had.   

 

In the summer of 2022, Mondelez bought CLIF Bar for $2.9 billion USD. The owners of CLIF clearly knew they were onto something big when they turned down a $120 million offer from Quaker Oats more than two decades ago. In turn, the acquisition will allow Mondelez to increase its annual snack revenue from $300 million to over $1 billion. The move continues Mondelez’s purchasing of leading brands in fast-growing snack segments in key regions. 

Earlier this year, Irish energy bar company Fulfil was bought by Ferrero. Interestingly, Hershey has had a minority stake in the company since 2019, when the brand was estimated to post sales of around EUR 100 million.  

 

 

Clearly, the energy bar market is brim-full of potential and its capacity to satisfy several consumer demands in one go has caught the attention of global conglomerates looking to profit off the trend. With constant innovation and development in the market, it’s evident that energy bars are here to stay. 

 

As expert field marketing agencies across Europe our EFMP Partners are on the ground working to launch and merchandise energy bars across Europe. 

If you are looking to launch a new brand or enter the European market, get in touch with our team today to discuss how we can help you.  

 

© 2022 European Field Marketing Partners Coöperatief U.A.
VAT number: NL860658223B01