David Ingalls, a registered dietitian, practicing nutrition counselor and co-founder of Zing Bars, explained to FoodNavigator-USA that many single-serving snacks and bars weigh in around 200 calories, which is enough to tide most people over for two to three hours.
But, he says, this is too big for many people depending on how they eat and their daily caloric needs. He explained increasingly consumer pair snacks with high-calorie coffees, juices or whole fruits and veggies, creating an eating experience that is as caloric as a traditional meal, but which they think of as “just a snack.”
Likewise, research shows 76% of Americans are impulsive snackers, which means they often absentmindedly snack without registering how many calories they ate or they feel compelled to eat the entire single-serving product even if they feel satiated with only part of it, he said.
Similarly, while a 200 calorie bar might be the right choice for tall, active men or athletes between meals, it might be too much for a 100- to 120-pound woman or an office worker who doesn’t exercise but who is looking for a pick-up to get through the afternoon, Ingalls said.
Recognizing the underserved need for smaller snacks for smaller people and those who like to consume their calories from a variety of sources at once, Zing Bars launched at Natural Product Expo West a “mini” 100-calorie version of its popular nutrition bars.
Just like the larger bars, the mini bars are gluten free, nonGMO and made with a “smart balance” of high quality protein, slow-burning carbs, good fats and dietary fiber, Ingalls said. He also noted they are free from soy, additives, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives so they offer “clean, consistent energy.”
Small bars launched against retailer advice
The smaller bars are launching against the advice of several retailers, Ingalls acknowledged. He explained they told Zing Bars three years ago that a smaller bar would not work in their shelf sets because people use them as a trial mechanism to find a brand and flavor that they like. Once they do, they buy bigger bars and there is insufficient repeat purchase to justify the smaller bars.
While the company held off on the mini bars at that time, it decided to move forward now because consumers are asking the company co-founders, who all are practicing registered dietitians, for smaller options.
“This advocacy for smaller bars is coming out of the increasing trend for even smaller, more frequent meals and snacking or all day grazing,” Ingalls said. Plus, he added, the millennial generation has “really come on very strong in the last few years demanding smaller on-the-go options.”
Even in just the past few years, the traditional work day has evolved with increased flex time and working from home to be a longer day without a traditional hour for lunch – creating a new demand for smaller grazing options, he said.
Macro bar trends
In addition to tapping into the emerging demand for even smaller snacks, Zing Bars also fulfill many of the other macro trends in the snack bar category that once were nice-to-have, but now are considered basic requirements.
These include being gluten free, Ingalls said. He explained that when Zing Bars initially launched in 2008 there were few gluten free options, but now almost all bars are gluten free – providing consumers with sufficient choices that they don’t have to settle for a bar that does not check this box.
Similarly, “another recent change we have seen in the bar category is being non-GMO verified,” he said. He noted that Zing Bars have been certified non-GMO since 2012.
Vegan is another necessary check box for many nutrition bar shoppers, Ingalls said. He explained that nine out of Zing Bars’ 12 current flavors are vegan, with the exception being those that include whey protein.
Finally, he said, Zing Bars are well positioned to meet bar consumers’ growing demand for low-sugar products. Ingalls said his bars have between 9 and 12 grams of sugar, which is about half the amount in many mainstream competitors. In addition, he said, “the type of sweeteners we use – an agave and tapioca combination – are low GI so they won’t spike your blood sugar.”
While the company is excited to see how the 100-calorie mini Zing Bars perform, it will continue to innovate in the coming years to meet consumers’ constantly evolving demands, Ingalls said.