Food & Beverage Manufacturing

Nutrition Bars & Gels

Find a U.S. Dairy Supplier

Access to 100+ U.S. Companies

Consumption of nutrition bars and gels has moved beyond the realm of professional athletes and into the mainstream of active, everyday sports enthusiasts and consumers who simply seek convenient nutrition as part of healthy lifestyles. Indeed, ongoing, steady growth of snack bar consumption between meals or to augment small meals is expected to help U.S. snack bars sales reach $7.6 billion by 2017 (2% annual growth). 1

Whether it's protein to build the nutritional profile and improve functionality, whey to extend shelf-life or yogurt to add a delicious flavor, U.S. dairy ingredients offer the nutrition, flavor and functionality desired by energy and snack bar and gel manufacturers. Dairy ingredients and products from the United States help product developers keep on-trend with innovation in the category. Learn more about U.S. dairy products in the Product Section.

Trends in Nutrition Bars and Gels

Nutrition barsOne of the key drivers in the nutrition bars market in recent years has been the global health and wellness trend. The evolution fuels steady growth around the globe in overall consumption and innovation, with 70% of new cereal and energy bars worldwide positioned on a health platform in 2013.2

More than half (51%) of U.S. adults consume regular, all-purpose snack bars, and seek out other types of bar products as well.3 One-quarter of adults use meal replacement bars, 36% use snack or nutrition protein bars, 35% use fiber bars and 22% choose nutrition bars.3  

The category serves the overall demands of consumer health and wellness trends and showcases protein power.   

Health and Wellness

The rise of active consumers who seek healthy attributes from foods present a diverse set of needs, from bulking up to helping prevent age-related muscle loss. Snack bar marketing in the United States showcases health aspects, including fiber and protein content as well as varieties for specific dietary needs, such as gluten-free products.1  

To address consumer concern about the potential health effects of unknown ingredients and preservatives, new product entries often highlight clean label claims like all-natural or pure.1  

Protein Power

After a workout, many athletes look for a nutritious food item that will help with exercise recovery, and protein is a target ingredient. But all types of consumers seek out ways to supplement protein intake to support health and wellness.  

In a recent study, 78% of consumers say protein contributes to a healthy diet.4 Consumers who have purchased protein-enriched foods and beverages support the trend at checkout, as 40% say they pay more for protein-fortified items.4 New product development supports a wide range of consumer protein demands in the bar category, with high protein claims a feature of 42% of new product launches in 2013.2  

Nutrition bars or gels that contain high-quality protein help reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate muscle growth.3 Consuming 20 grams of whey protein- a natural complete protein that comes from dairy- following resistance exercise can increase muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults.5 Dairy proteins, as part of a higher protein diet, can help maintain a healthy weight, curb hunger, get lean and maintain muscle with aging.6  


U.S. dairy ingredients provide flavor, function and nutrition. The below chart illustrates the benefits common dairy ingredients offer.

 Butter(Details)Milk Proteins(Details)Whey Crisps(Details)Whey Protein Conc.(Details)Whey Protein Isolate(Details)Yogurt(Details)
Browning       yes    
Emulsion   yes   yes yes  
Flavor yes yes yes yes   yes
Gelling   yes   yes    
Heat Stability   yes   yes    
Nutrient Fortification   yes yes yes   yes
Solubilizing yes          
Slow-release Energy         yes  
Texture yes   yes yes    
Water Binding   yes        
  Butter Details Milk Protein Details Whey Details Whey Details Whey Details

Formulas & Recipes

Access U.S. Dairy Export Council prototype formulations for inspiration on formulating nutrition bars and gels attractive to today's health-conscious consumers.

Calamansi Protein Gel Snack

Calamansi Protein Gel Snack

This upscale, fun and convenient snack made with high-quality U.S. dairy protein is a great, on-the-go option to fuel your body in between meals or post-workout.


Lemon Ginger Protein Ice Pop

Lemon Ginger Protein Ice Pop

An adult spin on a classic kid treat, this fun flavored ice pop offers excellent nutritive value thanks to a high-quality U.S. dairy ingredient—whey protein isolate.


Smoked Sausage with WPC 80

Smoked Sausage with WPC 80

Smoked sausage with lean pork and WPC 80.


Resources & Insights

Looking for further innovation ideas and technical support? Download the resources below for more information on developing nutrition bar and gel applications with U.S. Dairy.

Enhancing Nutrition Bars, Bites and Gels with U.S. Dairy Proteins

This monograph discusses the benefits of using U.S. dairy ingredients in protein-containing bars, bites, and gels alongside sample formulations as innovation inspiration.

1Euromonitor International. Snack Bars in the US. December 2013.
2Innova Database. Protein Enrichment Starts to Edge into the Mainstream. November 2013.
3Sloan, E. The Top Ten Functional Food Trends. Food Technology. April 2014, Vol. 68, No. 4.
4NPD Group, Protein Perceptions and Needs, 2014.
5Witard OC, Jackman SR, Bren L, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013.
6National Dairy Council, 2013.