China’s snack bar market was valued at $35.9m last year and is expected to grow 9.9% over the next year in volume terms, according to Euromonitor International.
Despite this growth, Andrew Kuiler, founder and managing director of China food strategy and insights firm The Silk Initiative, said the sector remained largely untapped and ripe for development.
“There are likely to be multiple consumption occasions where clever bar formats could occupy spaces relatively uncontested,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Joel Bacall, analyst at The Silk Initiative, said one area that showed potential was ingestible beauty.
While not a new concept in South East Asia, he said advanced manufacturing technology presented opportunities to develop tastier, on-the-go products that fulfilled beauty needs.
“Japan and China lead this market because of their differences to Western consumption and how they seek functional ingredients that make them look and feel good. Collagen consumption is a traditional practice sought after in Chinese cuisine and is commonly sourced from the likes of chicken feet, chicken joints, cartilage, pork fat and many other dishes that are considered by Western eaters to be a bit too chewy or grisly,” he said.
“…Without re-inventing the wheel, a key selling point of a snack bar would be its ability to deliver a large dosage of sought after functional ingredients in one hit versus traditional approaches of obtaining similar nutrients through stove top cooking that might require hours of brewing.”
Kuiler agreed: “Chinese dishes can take a long time to prepare, so the promise of combining those flavors they need in a bar at the start of the day, or perhaps when they’re not feeling so well, might provide an instant win for this category in China.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘renaissance’
In addition, Kuiler said there had also been a “renaissance” of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredients in everything from toothpaste and shampoo to breakfast cereals – a trend that could be tapped into by snack bar makers.
“Quaker Oats is the poster-child success of incorporating traditional functional ingredients into their morning oatmeal products, such as mountain yam. Since doing so, their sales in the breakfast meal market have skyrocketed.”
However, he suggested manufacturers combined both TCM ingredients and Western ingredients and ‘super foods’ like acai berries or chia seeds to draw in a variety of consumers.
Bacall said this combination would help draw in younger consumers, in particular. “It cannot be assumed that the Chinese, the youth in particular, will use the Chinese medicinal ingredients in the same fashion their parents have.”
Kuiler agreed that younger consumers knew a lot less about TCM than the older generation. “While we would hope there isn’t a lot of education required, we do see younger consumers knowing less about traditional culture on all fronts. The aforementioned renaissance in ancient cultural practices is not necessarily driven by the youth.”
Communication and education
Kuiler and Bacall both said communication and education on benefits and uses for functional bars would prove key to success.
“The education isn’t just about the functional benefits. Education should also be provided around the format; it’s suitability for certain usage occasions and reasons to believe it can deliver something that other snacks can’t,” they said.
Kuiler suggested traditional and social media advertising to do so and Bacall said celebrity endorsements and product placements in gyms could drive mass awareness with relevant consumers.