Western Europe's cereal bars market is 'massively underexploited', according to market research analysts Datamonitor.
Analyst Joanne Birtwistle reports that although cereal bars account for 14 per cent of Sweden's confectionery sales, elsewhere in Europe this percentage can drop to less than five.The report looks at the sector in relation to the larger European confectionery market, currently reaching saturation - in Western Europe annual growth has slowed to around 2.5 per cent, according to the company.
Cereal bars therefore represent a key area of new product development as a way to drive sales growth. Birtwistle notes that while large confectionery manufacturers allocate huge budgets to marketing and promotion, the relatively new cereal bar has so far received little attention.
In the UK confectionery market, by far the largest in Europe worth $8.1 billion in 2001, cereal bars make up just 2.5 per cent of the total market, in comparison to the chocolate sector at a massive 68 per cent, according to the analyst.
In comparison, in Sweden's much smaller confectionery market, cereal bars have achieved much greater penetration with a 14 per cent share of the total market, the highest in Europe.This means that while the UK consumer spends an average $3.89 a year on cereal bars, the Swedes spend $15.09 each.
Datamonitor has estimated that by 2006 the average Swedish consumer will eat almost 4 kilograms of cereal bars, compared to just 360 grams for each UK consumer.
This is perhaps due to Sweden's much stronger tradition for organic and healthy products, explains Birtwistle. There is also greater control over manufacturers' claims on labels than in the liberal UK, she adds. But cereal bars are certainly to be seen as a result of the health trend.
"The Swedish cereal bars market has grown in response to changes in attitudes to healthy eating. Products enriched with fibres and vitamins are finding an ever-increasing market as these products are seen as a healthier alternative to traditional confectionery products," claims the report.
Datamonitor suggests that UK manufacturers could step up their marketing of the cereal bar which can be positioned as a health food snack. The only problem is, according to the report, that many cereal bars in the UK are not all so healthy and often contain high levels of sugar - yet they continue to be marketed as health foods.