- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2005

Energy bar and drink makers are targeting more than just athletes and hard-core bodybuilders these days.

They are increasingly going after “couch potatoes” and regular consumers with products with candylike taste and simpler packaging.

The sports nutrition industry, which includes energy bars, drinks, gels, meal replacement liquids and vitamins, made $1.96 billion in 2003 sales, up 13 percent from $1.73 billion in 2002, according to the most recent data from Chicago-based market-research company Information Resources Inc.

Sales for sports nutrition products are expected to surge to $4 billion by the end of this year, said Don Montuori, editor for Packaged Facts, a division of national market research company MarketResearch.com.

Nutrition food companies have boosted sales by winning over children, women and nonathletes with specifically marketed products that have less emphasis on sports, Mr. Montuori said.

Energy bar manufacturers in particular have been successful by improving the taste of their products, said Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights LLC, a Brattleboro, Vt., consulting firm to the natural products industry. Mr. Jacobowitz does not consult for the major energy food companies.

Instead of the high-protein, chalky taste often associated with bars when they appeared in the 1980s, today’s energy bars are modeled to taste more like desserts and candy bars with flavors like chocolate mint, toffee crunch and white chocolate raspberry.

The chocolate taste alone helped Masterfoods USA, a Hackettstown, N.J., subsidiary of McLean candy conglomerate Mars Inc., experience brisk sales for its Snickers Marathon energy bar, which was introduced in July, said spokeswoman Joan Buyce.

Like most companies interviewed, Mrs. Buyce would not give specific sales figures.

While the Marathon bars have almost the same amount of calories as a regular Snickers bar, ranging from 220 to 290 calories, the energy bars have half as much fat at 7 grams per bar.

Sales for the bars have been helped by the company’s aggressive marketing to sell the bars in wholesale stores, gyms and health and wellness centers, Mrs. Buyce said.

But Clif Bar Inc., the Berkeley, Calif., maker of Clif and Luna energy bars, experienced “flat” sales for its energy bars last year, said company spokesman Dean Mayer.

Mr. Mayer, who would not give sales figures for the $100 million company, said the high demand for low-carbohydrate diets hurt sales, adding that Clif Bar introduced bars for women and active children in the past few years.

Brian Robinson, chairman of Vitamin Branding Corp, a New York, licensee of Everlast Worldwide Inc.’s apparel brand, said sales for the company’s Everlast energy bars, drinks and vitamin packets surged six-fold in 2004 from the previous year.

Mr. Robinson would not give specific sales figures or other financial results.

Most of the company’s sales growth has come from the consumer group Mr. Robinson labeled as the “couch potatoes.”

“This is a person who is not active but wants to participate in sports products from time to time to feel like he or she is eating healthy,” he said.

PowerBar Inc., the Berkeley, Calif., pioneer company for the energy bar, would not discuss 2004 sales, but brand manager Stephanie Brendel said the company holds 18 percent of the energy bar market.

The company, a subsidiary of Nestle, in the spring will start selling a new line of energy bars, called PowerBar Triple Threat, for “casually active” men. The bars taste more like a candy bar with 220 to 230 calories each and contain no trans fat, Ms. Brendel said.

Global energy drink company Red Bull, the leader in the market, said sales worldwide jumped 10 percent in 2003 to $1.64 billion from $1.49 billion in 2002, according to the most recent data from the company.

Red Bull would not give specific numbers for U.S. sales, but it did report a 41 percent increase in American sales in 2003.

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