Product cycles are short, and the variety of flavors is huge. Manufacturers need to introduce new, innovative bar products to the market to maintain or increase their market share, says Josua Schwab, global product manager, packaging, Bosch.
“Manufacturers seek out equipment that guarantees optimal productivity and maximum flexibility, boosting Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) for the entire system – from bar manufacturing to primary and secondary packaging as well as end of line packaging,” he said.
According to Schwab, there are four trends in snack bar production; convenience + on-the-go; healthy snacks + free-from; functional foods and sustainability.
“As the pace of life accelerates, people try to juggle an increasing number of commitments related to work, family, and leisure time. Consequently, snacks – including bars – have an increasingly important role to play in this kind of lifestyle. Consumers keep them on hand throughout the day, sometimes even replacing actual meals with bars,” he said.
Healthy snacks + free-from
“Due to more accurate food intolerance diagnoses and food scandals, almost all age and consumer groups seek information on ingredients, manufacturing processes and product origins. Consumers demand healthier and purer ingredients and additives. Bars manufacturers not only have to focus on healthy ingredients, but should consider a hypoallergenic packaging environment,” added Schwab.
“Functional foods are all the rage right now. Functional foods include those that are enriched with additional ingredients, the most common of these being vitamins, proteins, minerals, probiotic bacteria cultures and unsaturated fatty acids. These products promise to support a specific health aspect.
“Functional bars include nut bars to increase concentration, special bars for breastfeeding mothers that contain key vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc and folic acid, as well as protein bars to build muscle mass for athletes.”
Sustainability concerns are omnipresent in the packaging industry, says Schwab.
Modern consumers, especially millennials or Generation Y, focus on organic, locally produced products in environmentally-friendly packaging. They feel very strongly about waste and prefer biodegradable or recyclable packaging materials.
According to a study by Nielsen, 55% of online consumers are willing to pay more for brands that are committed to positive social and environmental change. The study compared sales figures for 20 brands in nine countries and came to the conclusion that as many as 52% of respondents made their purchasing decisions based on packaging, including sustainability claims.
But what does this mean for packaging and processing? What are the biggest challenges? Frank Jansen, product manager, processing, Bosch, says hygienic design directly influences the cleaning time requirement for a system.
The lower the accumulation of contaminants and the easier the machines are to clean, the shorter the downtime for cleaning.
“For sticky bars and/or nut products, the level of contamination is very high. Cleaning is an absolute priority, but time-consuming,” he said.
“For long-lasting market success, manufacturers need to be flexible in terms of product recipe, pack style and packaging design. Young millennials, who personify the on-the-go lifestyle, and the ever-increasing consumer group of active super boomers have very different needs and preferences.”
According to Jansen, there is a growing need for more sustainable packaging and processes and in the future, there will be a greater focus on fulfilling the requirements of the circular economy.
“There is a greater demand for packages that are “designed for recycling”, by using easily separable materials, mono-material packaging, and renewable materials,” he added.
“There is also a rising demand for equipment to manufacture functional and nutrition bars, such as protein, energy and cereal bars. These product masses are particularly sticky, which means the machines need to be cleaned more frequently and more thoroughly.
“Hygienic design and fast format changes are key to eliminate cross-contamination and guarantee food safety, especially with regard to handling allergens and manufacturing a large variety of “free from” products.
“Small and mid-sized companies need a bar production and packaging system that is easy to operate, hygienically designed, and offers a level of automation and format flexibility that leaves them room to grow.”