Bars Bonanza at Expo West 2010
Bars were in abundance at the recent Expo West trade show (Anaheim, CA March 12-14). The largest annual gathering of manufacturers of natural and organic products in North America, Expo West is arguably the best place to find a variety of nutritional bar companies all under one roof. This year, more than 70 bar companies exhibited at the show.
Many of the bars on display fit neatly within the typical whole grain, whole-food parameters of the natural foods channel, but they were certainly not the only ones on display. Many were highly processed, non-organic, and relatively mainstream in their make-up. Along with market leading brands like Clif, Balance and LaraBar, there were dozens of smaller brands attempting to carve out their niche in the fast-growing category.
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One such small company was Element Bars, which we visited at its booth in the basement level of the show, where it fought for attention amidst many of early-stage companies. Launched by a pair of tech-savvy Northwestern graduates, Element sells it bars directly to consumers via its website. On the site, Element enables visitors create customized bars, presenting a variety of ingredients that can be mixed and matched according to the customers’ specifications. Element then takes that customized recipe, cooks the bars and ships them to the customer, all within a week of receiving the order. According to the owners of Element, the bars enjoy a freshness advantage over nearly all of their competitors given that they are in some cases less than a week old when they are consumed. Element bars cost $3 apiece and require a minimum order of 12 bars. The company also offers a few stock formulations for $2.50 per bar.
As with many products in the natural foods channel, many bars placed their marketing focus as much on what they don’t contain as what they do. Some of this year’s “least wanted” ingredients included wheat gluten, soy, genetically modified organisms (GMO), and high fructose corn syrup. The fact that soy, which only a few years ago was one of the hottest ingredients in the natural channel, has become so undesirable to some consumers or manufacturers as to merit the mention of its absence demonstrates the sometimes volatile nature of the natural foods marketplace. Given the palpable anti-soy vibe with some bar enthusiasts at the show, we couldn’t help but wonder what some of the conversations were like at the SoyJoy and Genisoy booths during the course of the show.
Although many bar companies at the show took a more whole food, non-supplemented approach to their bars, some brands showcased added nutritional and functional ingredients that might typically be found in supplements or functional foods. These included NaturalEnergy Bar, which contains the branded ribose ingredient BioEnergy Ribose, and WineTime Resveratrol Bar, which contains DSM Nutritional Products’ Resvida resveratrol. Not coincidentally, both DSM and BioEnergy Ribose could be found in the adjacent hall exhibiting at SupplyExpo, a collection of companies that supply products to the manufacturers of natural foods.
Although not a maker of consumer products, DSM, (sponsor of BarsAreFoods’ Expo West 2010 coverage) sampled its own Berry Beautiful skin-enhancing concept bar, which contains an array of DSM proprietary skin-beautifying ingredients. DSM’s focus at the show was to communicate and demonstrate its Quali-Blends solutions for nutritionally fortifying foods, beverages and supplements. Contact DSM’s Todd Sitkowski to learn more about DSM’s capabilities in bar fortification.
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