It doesn’t seem that long ago that we all got our protein from things like meat and cheese. Today though, consumers are increasingly turning to bars and shakes as a convenient way of getting extra protein into their diets. The first consumers to do this were, of course, athletes and gym enthusiasts but now it seems everyone is getting in on the act.

In its report on Sports Nutrition, Mintel states that protein is widely seen as healthy because of its links to weight loss, muscle gain and satiety ie giving you that ’full’ feeling. "Its popularity is helped by it being something people can eat more of, rather than something that needs restricting, aligning with a positive nutrition mindset," says the report.

Mintel explains that the traditional sports nutrition category is facing strong competition from high-protein products "especially when the latter are positioned as ’active’ or ’lifestyle’ nutrition.

Its report found that 38% of adults used high-protein products which were not ’explicitly’ tailored for sports/exercise nutrition in the three months to April 2019. And 25% of adults use both sports nutrition and high-protein products. Thirty-six per cent of energy bar users have purchased them in convenience stores and 32% of ready-to-drink protein drink users have bought those products in c-stores.

One brand that’s been particularly successful in the forecourt sector is Grenade with its range of low-sugar, high- protein products.

Last year the company added two new flavours to its best-selling Carb Killa range: Dark Chocolate Raspberry and White Chocolate Salted Peanut. While both sound very decadent, the bars actually contain 2g or less of sugar and a whopping 20g of high quality whey protein.

Grenade describes the bars as the "perfect food-to-go snack", whether for a post workout pick-me-up, an afternoon alternative or a mid-morning snack.

Grenade recommends placing Carb Killa bars in high footfall locations such as front of store, due to the highly impulsive nature of the product. CEO and co-founder of Grenade, Alan Barratt, says: "Shoppers purchase Grenade as they opt for healthier alternatives; combined with the fact that Carb Killa generates more cash through the till and more profit for retailers means that Carb Killa offers retailers a massive opportunity to drive incremental sales."

The latest launch from Grenade is Reload, which it describes as a "healthier oat bar" thanks to its blend of complex carbohydrates, with higher protein levels to help consumers feel fuller for longer between meals. It is available in three flavours: Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Chunk and Billionaires Shortbread.

Barratt says: "We want consumers to get the most out of their day and Reload makes sure they’ve got more in their tank!

"We identified that consumers want a snack that is not only good for them but is going to be satiating and boost energy levels. With slow-release energy from wholegrain oats and all-natural nut butters, Grenade Reload caters to these needs, thanks to its high-protein and fibre levels, as well as its low- sugar content. This brand-new tasty treat is the perfect guilt-free option for those looking to fuel themselves during the day in a healthier way plus it is vegetarian certified."

While Grenade is doing well, it has loads of competition, with big brands such as Cadbury Boost and the Mars bar available with added protein. Last year Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK launched Mars More Protein and Snickers More Protein, both of which contain 10g of added protein. But as well as this added protein the Mars More Protein has 40% less sugar than a standard Mars bar while the Snickers More Protein has 30% less sugar than standard bars.

Meanwhile, Mondelez has been busy supporting its Boost+ protein range with a campaign centred on avoiding that ’afternoon lull’. Boost+ comes in Standard and Peanut variants, with both bars containing 12g of protein which is four times as much protein as a standard Boost.

More recently Mondelez turned its attention to its Cadbury Brunch Bar, when it launched a Choc Chip variety in a single bar format for the first time. At the same time, the confectionery giant launched Cadbury Brunch Bar Peanut Protein and Cadbury Brunch Bar Cranberry and Nuts Protein in multipacks.

Mondelez says Cadbury Brunch Bar Peanut Protein is a new version of the brand’s original peanut flavour, with the added benefit of protein. Peanut is the number-one flavour in protein, accounting for 43% of value sales of protein products (Nielsen). Both new flavours are available in five x 32g multipacks at an rrp of £2.

Anna Petsi, brand manager for Cadbury Brunch Bar at Mondelz International, says: "Our research tells us that two in three cereal bar buyers are interested in protein bars, associating them with energy and broader health benefits. We know therefore that there is a great opportunity for retailers to tap into this demand, especially from a trusted brand like Cadbury Brunch Bar.

"Ninety-nine per cent of cereal bar buyers see taste as the most important criteria when buying a protein bar, so by enabling consumers to enjoy the classic Cadbury taste combined with protein, the range is certainly set to be a hit with shoppers."

Spar Fortfield in Carrickfergus, Antrim does well with protein and energy bars but John Larmer at the store reckons that’s because there’s a gym close by.

"We stock about five different brands right next to the confectionery," he says, "and they sell well but I am not sure if they would if the gym was not so close by." He says the bars can be quite expensive but often there are offers on them.

Chris Lord at Jet Mill Hill Garage in March, Cambridgeshire, says his main clientele ’white van man’ are big fans of protein and energy bars. "The white van men who come in here also go to the gym a lot and so want energy bars and energy drinks. We have two one- metre shelves dedicated to bars and the best sellers by far are the Grenade Carb Killas and in particular the White Chocolate Salted Peanut, Fudge Brownie and Peanut Nutter varieties. Sometimes they are on offer but mostly they sell out for £2.69.

"People are swapping chocolate bars for protein bars but most of our protein bar customers are still men. That said the Boost, Mars and Snickers protein bars sell better to women even though they are twice the price of the standard chocolate versions.

"Protein is definitely a big trend and sales are growing steadily. We also have a good range of meat snacks and they sell well especially things like Peperami Protein Kick."

The aforementioned Peperami Protein Kick is a Peperami and cheese snack box which contains 20g of mini salami and cubes of Cheddar cheese (30g).

The Peperami brand has, of course, been around for years but it’s received a big sales boost of late thanks to its protein credentials. And according to Mintel data, the meat-snacking industry is now at an all-time high, having grown by more than 9% in the past two years.

Recent additions to the Peperami range include the Beef Bar, which is described as a meaty blend of beef and pork in a convenient bar format. The 20g bar, which contains just 69 calories, retails at 99p.

Pavan Chandra, marketing manager at Peperami, says the new beef bar meets consumer demands for ease and value, while satisfying the increasingly nutritionally aware shopper with an alternative to the predominantly sweet products in the snack bar space.

"As the category continues to evolve and grow, retailers can capitalise on the opportunity to drive sales in their snacking category by responding to consumer trends, providing shoppers with a healthier alternative to crisps and confectionery."

Peperami has also entered the jerky category with Tender Jerky in two flavours: Original and Hot.

Meanwhile Jack Link’s recently announced the launch of an improved recipe for its Beef Jerky, which aims to deliver a "juicier and even more tender bite".

Kenneth Ruigrok, marketing manager for Jack Link’s, says that while meat snacks growth has flourished, the jerky and biltong category is still relatively underdeveloped.

"With less than 5% of the UK population purchasing jerky and biltong, there is still huge headroom for growth.

"Jack Link’s current growth of 50% year-on-year (Nielsen) alongside the new recipe launch will represent an exciting opportunity for retailers looking to drive incremental sales amongst shoppers searching for the ultimate snack."

A Premier proposition

Premier Protein, a brand that’s already popular in the US and across Europe, is launching in the UK, with a targeted plan for distribution in the convenience and forecourt channels. 
The bars contain 20g protein and 1.3g sugar per bar (50g) and come in three flavours: Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Peanut Butter and White Chocolate & Vanilla. Rrp is £1.49.
Premier Protein will be offering independent retailers category management advice on how to grow protein sales, as well as supporting the brand via digital, social media and sampling activity. An influencer campaign will target fitness and lifestyle bloggers to raise awareness.  
Zoe Stroud, active nutrition brand manager at the Weetabix Food Company (which is bringing Premier Protein to market in the UK), says: "There is a huge opportunity for protein in the convenience and forecourt channel and we’re confident that the Premier Protein brand can meet consumer demands. Taste is paramount when it comes to repeat purchase and Premier Protein performed extremely well in all of our testing. The product also offers excellent nutritionals with a high- protein but low-sugar content, at an accessible price point.
"Protein is becoming more mainstream but is still yet to reach its full potential. While more protein brands are entering the lifestyle nutrition and healthy snacking market than before, there is a real opportunity for a protein brand which offers taste, nutrition and value. We know there is confusion, especially relating to category management and where to stock in store, so we’re eager to work with retailers."

PRO 2Go offers ’swavoury’ option

Following the successful launch of the PRO 2GO protein brand last year, SCI-MX Nutrition is adding a new ’super-indulgent’ Cookies & Cream Gooey Bar to the range. It has a creamy white chocolate centre and is topped with a layer of cookie crumb.
Jo Dell, category controller at PRO 2GO, says Cookies & Cream Gooey Bar should appeal to consumers who want healthy and accessible high protein snacks throughout the day. "Cookies & Cream delivers a unique ’swavoury taste’, the perfect combination of sweet and savoury. The bar is packed with 24g of protein while also being low in sugar, containing only 1.2g."
As well as the gooey bars, the PRO 2GO range includes Raw Bars, which are vegan and come in two convenient portions each delivering less than 100 calories; Vegan High Fibre Flapjacks; and Gluten-Free Bakes, which provide a ’healthy, savoury alternative’ to everyday crisps. Retail prices range from 89p to £2.49.
Dell continues: "People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of well-being in their lives and the physical and mental benefits that can be attributed to nutrition and exercise, to the point that health is now lifestyle.
"The snacking space is becoming much more sophisticated as consumers seek out products that support their lifestyle, ensuring their choices contribute to help meet their overall health demands."
A £5m spend supported PRO 2GO’s launch last year and activity included the brand ’taking over’ Oxford Circus, London’s busiest tube station as well as an outdoor poster campaign.

Say YES! to recyclable packaging

Nestlé’s YES! nut bar is vegetarian, high in fibre and a source of protein (each bar contains 35g). The YES! fruit bars are vegan, gluten free, lactose free, high in fibre, have no added sugar and contribute to one of your five a day.
Three new flavours were recently added to the range to coincide with the introduction of the bars’ new paper wrapper. Delicious Dark Choc, Banana & Pecan; Luscious Raspberry & Chia Seeds; and Heavenly Pineapple & Coconut have joined existing varieties, which include Tempting Dark Choc, Sea Salt & Almond and Sumptuous Cranberry & Dark Chocolate.
As for the new paper packaging, experts working at Nestlé’s confectionery R&D centre in York, have found a way to use a recyclable paper wrapper in a high-speed ’flow wrap cold seal’ packaging line. It represents a ’world first’ for a process that, in the past, was only suitable for plastic films and laminates. The new packaging is made of a coated paper that is widely recyclable with other paper. The paper itself comes from sustainable sources, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
Nestlé’s ’YES!’ range is the first brand to convert to the new recyclable paper wrapper.
Stefano Agostini, CEO for Nestlé in the UK and Ireland, says YES! represents exactly what more and more people are demanding from manufacturers like Nestlé healthier snacking options and sustainable packaging.
YES! bar wrappers now carry the message "carefully wrapped in paper".