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Bar market still booming: no longer niche products for 'fitness freaks,' nutrition bars are taking the mainstream by force.

Having started as a niche category catering only to bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, the nutrition bar category has grown into one of the most dynamic segments of the nutraceuticals industry. The "bar boom" can in part be attributed to a gradual shift in our cultural climate over the years. As contemporary society continues to move faster, a high premium has been placed on convenience. Add on top of that an increasingly sophisticated population seeking healthier lifestyles and alternative methods of treating ailments, and it is no surprise that nutritional bars have become the perfect convenience food. The market continues to offer a variety of bars and there are more on the way.

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The Mainstreaming of Nutrition Bars

According to the "U.S. Market for Food Bars," a report released by Packaged Facts, a publishing division of MarketResearch.com, New York, NY, sales of food bars, which include cereal/granola bars and nutrition bars, are projected to reach more than $3 billion this year, and will double by the year 2007. While cereal/granola bars account for approximately 51% of the food bar market, nutrition bars, including protein bars, sports/energy bars, diet/weight management bars, low-carb bars and other specialty products, account for 49% of the market. From a current category perspective, Packaged Facts says that nutrition bars will surpass cereal/granola bars in sales by 2005.

The future looks bright for nutrition bars, as marketers continue to broaden their target markets to include more mainstream segments. This mainstreaming of nutrition bars became evident when major food companies began to test the waters of the nutrition bar segment. Since 2000, Kraft has purchased Balance Bar, Nestle has purchased PowerBar, Kellogg has purchased Kashi and Unilever has acquired Slim-Fast.

This acquisition frenzy in the nutrition bar category is benefiting from the sort of product development and consumer marketing prowess that has long supported the cereal/granola bar category, according to Dan Montouri, editor of the Packaged Facts report. "With the consolidation and cross-fertilization in the food bar market, the nutrition bar marketers are broadening their target markets to include more mainstream segments, even as the mainstream marketers are sharpening the nutritional profiles of their products," he commented in the report.

One problem that has arisen out of the rapid growth of nutrition bars is that bars are struggling for differentiation on the retail shelves, according to Greg Stephens, vice president, Sales & Marketing, Nurture, Inc., Devon, PA. "The saturation of the bar market has created the opportunity for marketers to create new points of connection with consumers," he said. "Marketers must identify unmet needs for large consumer segments and address those needs through the unique selling proposition of their product."

As the bar market continues to evolve, Karen Holliday, marketing manager, Kerry Sweet Ingredients, Beloit, WI, thinks that differentiation is going to come from offering consumers bars that taste great and provide them with a sense of indulgence. "The industry recognizes that indulgence is important, even when consumers are following a certain health regime," she offered. "Nutrition bars have to taste great and offer health benefits, which is why we use the term 'nutri-candy' to describe such products. Kerry conducted an in-depth primary research study in which we polled approximately 3000 consumers, and their main concern above everything was taste."

Examining Bar Market Trends

As predicted, it appears the bar market is moving away from extreme low-carbohydrate products and focusing more on a managed carbohydrate and reduced sugar approach to diet. As a result, Nurture's Mr. Stephens says that companies will start differentiating products by using the glycemic index, which, Mr. Stephens admitted, is not well understood by the average American consumer at the moment. "There are more books coming out that are focused on glycemic index, so as consumer understanding continues to grow, the demand for these types of products will continue to grow too," he said.

Many consumers began to see carbohydrates as bad due to the Atkins message, but Mr. Stephens suggests that this perception is evolving. "Today's consumers are being educated to understand the difference between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, which are differentiated by their glycemic index or response," he explained.

As the low-carbohydrate trend seems to have peaked, another trend is ready to take its place. Becoming increasingly popular are condition-specific products targeted toward diabetes and obesity. Within these segments, Kerry's Ms. Holliday says fiber will likely play an important role. "Based on some of the consumer research we conducted, fiber is well known by the average consumer and has a positive image for offering a multitude of health benefits. It is heart healthy, helps maintain healthy glucose levels and it helps keep calories down," she said. "Right now we are promoting high-fiber crisps with different types of grains, including multigrain, whole wheat, rye, brown rice and bran."

She continued, "The market will continue differentiating quite a bit into smaller niche categories that will offer bars for kids, men, women and diabetics," she said, adding, "Consumers are becoming much more sophisticated. They are looking at the label and want everything on the label to be understandable. They also want bar ingredients to come from a wholesome natural source."

What's New on the Bar Front?

Steven Seagal, the world-renowned actor/martial artist, has partnered with a sales and marketing team to form Steven Seagal Enterprises, Boca Raton, FL. Together they have launched the Pure Force Energy Bar. Pure Force Energy Bar is the result of Mr. Seagal's travels in Asia in search of the ingredients believed to keep many locals disease-free. Mr. Seagal said he discovered the Tibetan goji berry, while researching antioxidants in Mongolia. The goji berry is a staple of the Tibetan diet and has been used by local physicians for thousands of years to fortify the immune system. The goji berry also contains a high concentration of branched chain amino acids and beta-carotene. In addition to the goji berry, Pure Force includes 15 grams of protein, 17 vitamins and minerals, calcium, iron, ginseng and green tea, and is available in Chocolate Fudge and Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors.

Hershey Foods Corporation, Hershey, PA, has launched its SmartZone Nutrition Bar, a controlled-release nutrition bar developed in partnership with diet expert Dr. Barry Sears, author of The Zone Diet. These bars are the first to carry the new "Dr. Sears Zone Approved" seal. In accordance with the science-based principles of the Zone Diet, Hershey's SmartZone bars provide a balance of approximately 40% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and 30% from fat. In addition, the bars have both a low glycemic index and glycemic load. By minimizing blood sugar spikes and crashes, the company claims these nutrition bars can help control satiety, which may help to keep weight in a healthy range. Hershey's 200-210 calorie SmartZone nutrition bars contain 14-15 grams of protein, 2-3 grams of fiber and are fortified with 17 vitamins and minerals. The bars are available in Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Lemon and Strawberry flavors.

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Xtra-Health Nutrition Bars are condition-specific bars that have been launched by Supplement Doctors, Stamford, CT. The new line of bars, designed to address specific health conditions, includes Xtra-Health Bars for Healthy Cholesterol, which contain sterols, omega 3 fatty acids and inositol hexanicotinate, in addition to dietary fiber and vitamins; Xtra-Health Bars for Joints, which contain vitamins C and E, boron, B complex, glucosamine sulfate, MSM, bioflavonoids and omega 3 fatty acids; Xtra-Health Bars for Stress, which deliver zinc, selenium, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamins C and E, and CoQ10; and Xtra-Health Bars for Immunity, which contain vitamins A, C and E, zinc, selenium, B complex, CoQ10, bioflavonoids, lycopene and beta-carotene.

Promax Nutrition, Inc., Concord, CA, has introduced the Rampage bar, a high-protein, meal replacement energy bar, which is being billed by the company as the first of its kind with energy drink-like ingredients. Designed to fuse mind and energy-enhancing compounds, Rampage contains caffeine, tyrosine, phenylalanine and taurine. In addition, the bar delivers 28 grams of protein and 190% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin B6, 60% of vitamin B12, 70% of niacin, 40% of pantothenic acid and 25% of calcium. Rampage is available in Caramel Peanut Butter flavor.

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VitaPath Foods, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, has entered the meal replacement and energy bar category with the introduction of Impact, an all-natural, low carbohydrate meal alternative. Impact bars contain 3 grams of net carbohydrates, no trans fats, no added sugar, no wheat and no artificial flavors or fillings. In addition, Impact delivers 20 vitamins and minerals, is a good source of fiber, calcium, folic acid and iron, and is high in antioxidant vitamins C and E. The bars are available in Wild Berry, S'Mores, Lemon Chiffon and Peanut Butter Chocolate flavors.

Canada-based Solo GI Nutrition has launched a low glycemic line of food bars containing "smart carbohydrates" to help people maintain a healthy weight and support lifelong health. Made with all-natural ingredients, the bars contain 23 vitamins and minerals, no sugar alcohols and no hydrogenated or trans fats. In addition, the bars contain the Solo GI proprietary blend of protein and fiber. The bars come in five flavors, including Peanut Power, Berry Bliss, Chocolate Charger, Mint Mania and Lemon Lift.

Last year E.B. Botanicals, Montclair, NJ, introduced the Health By Chocolate Instant Bliss Beauty Bar, which is designed to help keep the skin soft, smooth and looking healthy. Health By Chocolate Instant Bliss Beauty Bars are made with organic cocoa and are fortified with minerals, omega 3/6/9-containing cranberry seed oil, blueberry extract, lutein, lycopene, astaxanthin and fiber.

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More recently, the company launched the Health By Chocolate Women's Wonder Bar, which is meant to help stabilize the hormonal ups-and-downs of PMS and menopause. Women's Wonder Bar is made using the company's exclusive blend of soy, and is fortified further with chastetree berry and pampering rose essential oil.

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NewTree Belgian Chocolate Bars have been introduced by NewTree USA, Inc., San Francisco, CA. The new chocolate bars are available in six varieties, including Pleasure, which contains pure dark chocolate and is high in minerals and fiber; Renew, which is rich in antioxidants because it contains dark chocolate, grapes and black currants; Forgiveness, which contains dark chocolate, lemon and a type of cactus fiber that aids metabolism and burns fat; Vigor, which contains a blend of chocolate, coffee and guarana; Tranquility, which contains a combination of milk chocolate, lavender and lime blossom; and Rejoice, which contains a combination of bitter orange, lime blossom and crisped rice.

Slim-Fast, West Palm Beach, FL, has unveiled its new weight loss program, Slim-Fast Optima Diet, which includes an extensive line of new products containing as much as 70% less sugar. Slim Fast Optima Meal Bars contain up to 40% less sugar than the original product line, deliver 30% of the DV of calcium, and are fortified with 22 vitamins and minerals, 2-3 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. Optima Meal Bars are available in Caramel Crispy Peanut, Chocolate Cookie Dough, Milk Chocolate Peanut, Oatmeal Raisin and Strawberry Cheesecake varieties. Slim-Fast Optima Snack Bars have 40-70% less sugar than the original snack bars, deliver 15 vitamins and minerals and 20-25% of the DV of calcium. The Snack Bars are available in Banana and Nut Muffin Bar, Blueberry Muffin Bar, Chocolate Chip Muffin Bar, Chocolate Peanut Nougat, Crispy Peanut Caramel and Peanut Butter Crunch varieties. Lastly, Slim-Fast Optima Breakfast Bars contain 13 grams of sugar and are fortified with 22 vitamins and minerals and 10 grams of protein. Optima Breakfast Bars are available in Cinnamon Bun, Iced Lemon, Honey Nut Graham Cracker and Mixed Berry varieties. Earlier last year, Clif Bar, Inc., Berkeley, CA, created the Clif ZBaR, which is a healthy snack designed for kids. Made with organic rolled oats, soy and other natural ingredients, ZBaR provides a balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates and fiber. Each snack bar also contains 12 nutrients, including vitamins A, C, B6 and B12, calcium and iron. Clif ZBaR is available in Chocolate Brownie, Peanut Butter and Caramel Apple flavors.

In other developments, the company has re-launched its Mojo Bar. The new Mojo Bar features two new flavors, a chewy and crunchy texture and new packaging. The two new flavors, Mountain Mix and Fruit Nut Crunch, join Mojo Bar originals Honey Roasted Peanut and Mixed Nuts. Mountain Mix is a trail mix variety, delivering dry roasted almonds and peanuts, organic pretzel sticks, non-dairy dark chocolate chips and organic raisins. Fruit Nut Crunch is a mixture of fruits and nuts, blending the sweetness of dried apricots, cranberries, cherries and organic apples with the crunchy texture of salty almonds. Each 190-200 calorie bar delivers 8-10 grams of protein as well as natural vitamin E.

Lastly, Clif has added Clif Builder's to its portfolio of bar products. A soft and crunchy protein bar, it contains 20 grams of protein from soy and nuts and is made with all-natural ingredients. In addition, Clif Builder's contains 23 vitamins and minerals and is certified kosher. Each bar is dipped in creamy cocoa, which surrounds two layers--a soft, sweet layer of soy protein and a crunchy layer of organic rolled oats, soy and almonds or peanuts. The new bars are available in Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Cookies 'n Cream flavors.

Natural Bionics Laboratories, Beverly Hills, CA, has enlisted the services of actor Lee Majors, also know as "The Bionic Man", to promote its new Vita Bar, which is a soft, chewy whole oat bar aimed at battling high cholesterol. Vita Bar for Heart Health offers the benefits of beta-glucan in the amount shown to be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease, in addition to the antioxidant benefits of cranberries, raspberries and apples.

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Going "low-carb" in 2004 was DrSoy Nutrition, Irvine, CA, which introduced its Low Carb Snacker product. This triple layer soy protein bar contains 3-4 grams of net carbohydrates per 170-calorie serving. In addition, each bar contains 7-8 grams of soy protein, as well as 17 vitamins and minerals. The Low Carb Snacker is available in Chocolate Coconut Almond, Double Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Caramel Peanut varieties.

EAS, Golden, CO, creators of the Body-for-LIFE fitness program, has introduced a new line of Body-for-LIFE products designed to make the nutrition plan more convenient. Body-for-LIFE Bars contain 15 grams of protein and 18-21 essential vitamins and minerals per each 50 gram, 200-210 calorie bar. The bars are available in Peanut Caramel, Double Chocolate, Cookies and Cream and Chocolate Mint Cookie flavors.

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In other news, the company has launched its first line of breakfast bars. New AdvantEdge Morning Energy Bars are high in protein with only 3 grams of impact carbohydrates. They also deliver 11 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per bar. The bars come in three flavors including Sweet Blueberry, Baked Apple Crunch and Cinnamon Swirl.

EAS has also introduced new formulations of its Myoplex Carb Sense bars, which are designed for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Carb Sense nutrition bars are packed with 28 grams of protein and contain as little as 4 grams of impact carbohydrates. New flavors include Lemon Cheesecake, Cookies 'n Cream, Blueberry and Apple Cinnamon Delight.

Lastly, Myoplex Storm was unveiled last year and is specifically designed for immediate post-workout intake by strength training athletes. The product uses a patented composition of carbohydrates, protein and amino acids, which have been proven, according to the company, to increase protein synthesis and repair, as well as restore muscle glycogen, post exercise. Myoplex Storm is available in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors.

Four new flavors have been added to Berkeley, CA-based PowerBar's Carb Select line of snack bars. Chocolate Peanut Butter Crisp and Chocolate Mocha Crisp are two crispy varieties that have been added to the line of PowerBar Pria Carb Select Crispy bars. Each Pria Carb Select Crispy bar is fortified with 8 grams of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals. Peanut Caramel and Chocolate Caramel Crunch flavors have been added to PowerBar's ProteinPlus Carb Select line. The new bars deliver 20 grams of protein and 2 grams of impact carbs. In addition, the bars include 12 essential vitamins and minerals.

The ZonePerfect Nutrition Company, Beverly, MA, most recently added Chocolate Almond Raisin to its portfolio of ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars. The new bar combines crunchy almonds, chewy raisins and rich chocolate. The 210-calorie bar contains 15 grams of protein and is fortified with 19 vitamins and minerals, including 210% of the DV of vitamins C and E, 200% of vitamin B6 and 100% of niacin.

Young Generation Nutrition, Inc., Venice, CA, has introduced Kidz Bar, a nutritious snack for kids developed and created by Pro Beach Volleyball player Sinjin Smith, nutritionist and three-time Bodybuilding World Champion Alfred Krautgartner and former European Bodybuilding Champion Stephen Hartl. This protein bar is intended to offer kids an alternative way to snack, and contains no trans fats, lactose, gluten, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. In addition, it includes 4 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber and 18 vitamins and minerals. Kidz Bar is available in Chocolate Burst flavor.

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Following last year's launch of the Snickers Marathon Long Lasting Energy Bar, Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ, broadened the line with the launch of the Snickers Marathon Low Carb Lifestyle Bar and the Snickers Marathon Protein Bar. Snickers Marathon Low Carb Lifestyle Bars contain 3 grams of net carbohydrates, 14 grams of protein and 16 vitamins and minerals. They come in Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavors. The Snickers Marathon Protein Bars contain 20-26 grams of protein, five grams of fiber and 16 vitamins and minerals. They are available in Caramel Nut Crunch and Chocolate Nut Burst flavors. All Snickers Marathon bars are made with the company's Quadratein Protein Blend, which contains a four-protein blend of soy, whey, casein and peanut proteins.

This year, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., New York, NY, added Wild Berry, Golden Oats, Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter granola bars to its line of Atkins Advantage Bars. Each bar contains 3 grams of net carbohydrates, and has no added sugar or trans fats. In addition, the bars serve as a good source of protein, calcium and fiber.

In terms of new developments at bar producer Universal Nutrition, New Brunswick, NJ, it recently added Lemon Meringue to its line of Doctor's CarbRite Diet Bars. The new bar contains 1 gram of net carbohydrates, 20 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 30% of the DV of calcium. In addition, Doctor's CarbRite Diet Bars are sugar-free and lab-certified gluten-free.

The Balance Bar Food Company, Rye Brook, NY, has joined the current "carb conscious" trend with the launch of Balance CarbWell, which contains 2 grams of net carbohydrates, 14 grams of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals per each 200-calorie bar. The bars are available in Caramel 'n Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge and Chocolate Peanut Butter varieties.

Premier Nutrition, Carlsbad, CA, most recently unveiled its Odyssey Bar. The triple layer protein bar delivers 30 grams of protein and contains 3-9 grams of net carbohydrates. Odyssey Triple Layer protein bars are available in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rocky Road, Caramel Nut and Chocolate Coconut Almond.

Gatorade, Chicago, IL, has added Gatorade Energy Bars to its Gatorade Performance Series of products. Based on the same science developed for the company's widely known thirst quenching sports beverages over 30 years ago, the new bars contain 15 grams of protein, in addition to a balanced blend of carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals. Gatorade Energy Bars are available in Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Crunch varieties.

Protein candy bar innovator, Next Proteins, Carlsbad, CA, makers of Designer Whey, has launched four new flavors of its Detour bar. The new Detour bars are available in White Chocolate Peanut Butter, S'mores, Peanut Butter and Low Sugar varieties. Each bar is available in either a 43-gram bar, which delivers 15 grams of protein, or an 85-gram bar, which delivers 30 grams of protein.

In other developments, the company has introduced its Slim Whey protein diet bar. The SlimWhey bar delivers 9 grams of Designer Whey protein in each 30-gram bar, 250 mg of calcium, and contains 2-3 carbohydrates. In addition, the trans fat-free bar is fortified with 100% of the DV of folic acid. SlimWhey is available in three, triple-layer flavors, including Caramel Peanut, Peanut Butter and Coconut Almond.

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Odwalla, Half Moon Bay, CA, has added Berries GoMega to its portfolio of bar products. The new bar is made with whole fruit and cereal grains. Containing 6.2 grams of ground flax, Berries GoMega delivers nutritious amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.

GNC, Pittsburgh, PA, most recently launched its Pro Performance Pro Crunch bars. The bars contain 16 grams of Pro Crunch Protein Blend, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 16 vitamins and minerals. Pro Crunch bars are available in Chocolate Crisp, Peanut Butter Crunch, S'mores and Cookies 'n Cream flavors.

Rexall Sundown, Boca Raton, FL, has been active with several of its brands on the bar front. Within its Carb Solutions line, the company has introduced Triple Layer High Protein Bars in Blueberry Crumb Pie and Caramel Peanut Crunch flavors. The new bar contains 13 grams of protein, 4 grams of net carbohydrates, and is fortified with 16 vitamins and minerals. The company has also launched its Good Morning! Breakfast and Lunch Bars in Cinnamon Apple Crisp and Pecan Cinnamon Bun flavors. The new bars contain 2.5 grams of net carbohydrates or less and 13 grams of protein.

In other news, Rexall has launched Met-Rx Big 100, a 100-gram meal replacement bar. Met-Rx Big 100 contains 27 grams of Metamyosyn protein blend and is additionally fortified with 17 vitamins and minerals. Met-Rx Big 100 is available in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Graham Cracker Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough varieties.

RELATED ARTICLE: This article in a nutshell:

* Nutrition bars going mainstream

* Examining bar market trends

* The rise of condition-specific bars

* A look at the latest new product offerings

RELATED ARTICLE: Healthy Snacks Update

The Snack Food Association, Alexandria, VA, has found that 93% of Americans snack, with 50% doing so at least twice a day. In terms of children, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that snacks contribute nearly 20% of the daily calories for more than 80% of the kids who eat them. With obesity having been declared an epidemic for both adults and children by the U.S. Surgeon General, manufacturers have begun to venture into more healthful snacking territory, bringing fortified snacks to the forefront.

A recent report from Packaged Facts, titled "The U.S. Snack Market," predicts that the "good-for-you" segment of the snack food market is poised for an explosion of products that are appealing and nutritious. Packaged Facts forecasts strong growth in the overall snack food market, with retail sales expected to rise from $47 billion in 2003 to $57 billion by 2008. However, it predicts that real growth in the snack market lies in making healthier snack options available to a new breed of consumers concerned about nutrition and obesity.

Recent Healthy Snack Introductions

Balance Bar Go Mix is a new energy snack mix that has been introduced by Balance Bar, Rye Brook, NY. The snack mix delivers 14-15 grams of protein and is fortified with 11 vitamins and minerals. The mix is available in Chocolate Nut Crunch, Toffee Crunch and Mixed Berry varieties.

Early in 2004, Carbsense Foods, Inc., Hood River, OR, launched its low-carb, heart healthy snack food called Mini-Carb Soy Thins. Made with all-natural ingredients, Mini-Carb Soy Thins are high in fiber, protein and other nutrients, and contain 5 grams of net carbohydrates per serving.

PowerBar, Berkeley, CA, most recently introduced its PowerBar Energy Bites. Like the original PowerBar, Energy Bites stick to the company's philosophy of delivering more complex carbohydrates as a percentage of calories because they are the body's most efficient source of fuel for lasting energy. Fortified with 17 vitamins and minerals plus protein, Energy Bites are available in Chocolate Crisp, Oatmeal Raisin Crisp and Peanut Butter Crisp varieties.

Capitalizing on the success of its FruitBowls, Dole, Thousand Oaks, CA, has introduced its new Fruit-n Gel Bowls. The product combines fruity gel flavors with real fruit pieces and is high in vitamin C. Fruit-n-Gel Bowls are available in three varieties, including Peaches in Strawberry Gel, Pineapple in Lime Gel and Mandarin Oranges in Orange Gel.

Kraft Foods North America, Northfield, IL, has launched its new Jell-O Smoothie Snacks. The new smoothie snacks are made with real fruit and milk, and each cup is low in fat and contains only 100 calories. Varieties include Strawberry-Banana, Mixed Berry and Peach Mango.

Kellogg, Battle Creek, MI, has added Caramel Nut Crunch to its line of Nutri-Grain granola bars and bites. The bite-sized snacks, which are a good source of seven vitamins and minerals, are designed to provide energy for people on the go. Nutri-Grain's chewy granola bars and bites are also available in Chocolate Chip.

By Tim Wright

Associate Editor
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Author:Wright, Tim
Publication:Nutraceuticals World
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Date:Jan 1, 2005
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