Protein bars: what do consumers want?

Consumers’ quest for the benefits of a healthy diet has opened the door for health and fitness brands to gain market presence. Sales of take-home snack bars were up 7.1% in 2018 with the volume of bars sold up 3% as cited by the Grocer earlier this year.

Health consciousness has meant more people are buying snacks such as protein bars as a way of eating less sugar and fat but also getting more protein in their diet. Focusing on protein bars, our research aimed to highlight flavour preferences as well as the best on-pack descriptors in terms of positive consumer reaction.

Having a wide variety of flavours on the market to draw inspiration from, we compiled a sixty-strong list in order to test for the favourite. We ran six multi-answer steers, each testing ten flavours, and we ranked the sum in order of popularity. You can find the full list below:

To reliably test the sixty flavours we only targeted those members of our consumer community who had confirmed buying protein-related products to achieve their fitness goals. The top ten flavours were then tested with another multi-answer steer so that we could determine the top five, which we used in a preference steer to isolate an exclusive preference and an overall favourite:

The results from the exclusive preference on the left hand side show that chocolate fudge brownie is a winner by around three percentage points, however, looking at all responses on the right hand side, we noticed that the top three variants have attracted similar number of votes. Rather than a clear-cut winner, we have established three flavours, which test well with consumers.

Not only the top five, but also the whole ranking of 60 flavours revealed a trend for sweet flavours, inspired by popular sweet snacks. Consumers are likely looking for less guilty indulgence, i.e. to substitute familiar desserts with healthier alternatives. Positioned as healthy or functional food, protein bars often feature related claims. We used a single-answer steer to determine what drives purchase decisions most among seven key factors in the segment:

The results show that the top four determinants in consumers’ decision making when purchasing a protein bar are relatively equal in the percentage of responses. Still, we thought ‘Low in sugar’ was worth investigating further. Using a ‘Split by description’ steer, we asked two separate sets of consumers whether they would buy an identical protein bar with a low-sugar related claim, described differently for each of the two panel subsets:

The results show that consumers are relatively insensitive to the claims made about the bar as long as they convey the idea of low sugar. Next, we decided to test multiple claims against a single claim:

Using multiple claims resulted in a lower percentage of people answering positively, possibly due to the additional information diluting the effectiveness of the claims made.

Narrowing down our respondents to frequent gym goers who aim to improve strength and conditioning, we obtained a slightly different result. This subset of consumers would be better targeted by claims of higher protein instead of low in sugar as protein is vital in achieving their goal:

Despite strength building frequent gym goers slightly prioritising higher protein content, the percentages overall are not wildly different. Our findings to a large extent represent the current state of the market for protein bars. A key factor in growth for this market is the expansion beyond fitness into healthy snacking for a wider audience. Still, the ability to verify product concepts and obtain fast results is sought after by brands. Vypr can steer decision making more quickly and efficiently than standard market research.

Design, test, learn. Vypr helps supercharge your product innovation, getting you better products, faster.

© 2018 Vypr Validation Technologies Ltd | Registered No. 8589377 England & Wales | Privacy Policy