Protein bars getting smaller with less protein, and must satisfy all senses

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

Arla protein bar solution
Arla protein bar solution

Related tags: protein bars, Arla food ingredients, Protein, Sports nutrition

Protein bars are central to the narrative of sports nutrition going mainstream, according to Nutrition Integrated founder, Nick Morgan, speaking at the launch of Arla Foods Ingredients new protein concept.

“Everyone needs to be on the cusp of what is coming next in terms of taste, texture and functionality within protein bars, including a shift towards lower protein and smaller bars,”​ he said.

New bars (launched in the last 12 months) contain 8% less protein and are 6% smaller than 12 months ago, said Morgan, which demonstrates the “difference in position, perception, and mindset between an ‘indulgent protein bar’ and a ‘chocolate bar high in protein’​”.

He cites Milky Way HiProtein, Woo Protein Bar and Quest Candy Bar as key examples that demonstrate the increased emphasis on size to protein ratio.

“Protein bars have only scratched the surface of healthy confectionery and the next generation will become more and more ingrained in our everyday life as functional nutrition and food.”

High rate of innovation

Industry innovation is high with a reported 25% net increase in European launches between August 2021 and 2022, and 9% in North America, said Morgan.

“The industry is turning over every 12 to 6 months – which means there is a new best bar launching every 12 to six months that is superseding the current best bars on the market.”

However, the trend for small, high protein bars presents a challenge for manufacturers with a general trade-off in the sensory profile of high protein products, which consumers are not willing to tolerate.

“They are not willing to compromise on taste or texture and expect protein bars to match their favourite confectionery bar​,” said Arla Foods Ingredients Business Development Manager, Laima Liopinyte.

She added that despite high innovation turnover, there is still a lack of specialised solutions for multi-layer bars: “Manufacturers are facing a challenge to bring up protein levels high enough while keeping the same indulgence and texture.”

Robust and tolerant

Arla Foods has developed a solution for producing high protein, multi-layer nutritional bars to satisfy growing demand for functional nutrition bars in mainstream markets.

Dubbed ‘plug and play’, the concept harnesses three Lacprodan ingredients – EasyBar, Micelpure, and SP-7017 – developed with whey and milk protein to deliver 17g of protein per 55g bar.

The ingredients offer improved product performance and consistent nutritional content without affecting quality and desirability (taste or texture), according to Senior Application Scientist, Christian Jonassen.

“Lacprodan ingredients are flexible for multiple applications to allow high protein incorporation with smaller serving sizes. The solution has processibility, meaning it is robust, tolerant, and doesn’t require special treatment. It also guarantees great texture during the entire shelf life.”

Multi-layer solution

The concept includes three ingredients that target bar mass, filling, and coating, and can be used in parallel for multi-layer formats or as the basis for individual brand formulations.

Lacprodan EasyBar is designed to boost bar mass properties. It contains 85% protein, 5% fat, and 7% lactose and delivers 32.8g per 100g serving, while the fudge filling and coating concepts - Lacprodan Micelpure and Lacprodan SP-7017 (co-developed with Hungarian manufacturer, Goteborgs Food) - provide 31g and 20.7g of protein per 100g bar, respectively.

Micelpure has “great viscosity​” and high heat stability and is suitable for co-extrusion and slab processing. The whey coating fraction, SP-7017, is non-tempered, ensures a glossy aesthetic finish, and provides “four to five times higher protein than you would normally except”,​ according to Jonassen.

Total concept composition is 64% bar mass, 21% caramel taste filling, and 15% dark coating, with overall protein content of 17g per 55g serving. As well as being high in protein, the bars contain high fibre and calcium, and contribute to growth and maintenance of muscle mass and normal bones.

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