Nut butter maker Justin’s expands into refrigerated bars


Dive Brief:

  • Nut butter maker Justin’s is entering the refrigerated bar category with Almond Butter Protein Bars, according to a press release. The bars will be available at Whole Foods and Target stores nationwide starting this month.
  • The bars come in three varieties: Almond Butter, Honey Almond Butter and Dark Chocolate Chip Almond Butter. Each flavor has 10 grams of plant-based protein. They also are non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.
  • Justin’s uses organic maple syrup to sweeten its almond butter flavor and organic honey to sweeten its chocolate chip and honey flavors. The company said its bars have 40% less sugar than the leading refrigerated bar brand.

Dive Insight:

Justin’s has steadily added products to its portfolio since Hormel Foods acquired the brand in 2016. The Colorado-based Justin’s has introduced nut butter cups and nut butter-covered nuts as it straddles the line between indulgence and better-for-you snacking. Its latest release follows the same playbook, except this time it will be found in the cold case aisle.

Refrigerated bars have quickly gained popularity in recent years. According to Mintel data cited by Mondelez, the U.S. refrigerated snacks segment generates $20 billion in annual sales and represents a third of the total snacking market. Within that space, healthier snacks — such as nutrition bars, packs with nuts and fruits, yogurts and hummus — represent around $7 billion in sales. The segment is growing faster than other refrigerated snacks at around 8% annually during the past three years, the data showed.

With such a large and growing market up for grabs, it’s no surprise that Justin’s joined the fray. However, the company will be met with some fierce competition from other players with their own products already for sale.

Perfect Snacks, which was the first big brand of refrigerated snack bars, began with organic, non-GMO, nut butter-based protein bars and bites in 2005. Last year, snack giant Mondelez took a majority stake in the company. This year, Kind entered the fray when it launched a refrigerated nut butter protein bar. Brands like NuttZo and OHi also have refrigerated bar offerings and refrigerated Greek yogurt bar brand Clio Snacks recently closed an $8 million funding round.

Nevertheless, there is likely room for new entrants to the space. With consumers eating an average of four to five snacks per day, snacking has evolved into one of the fastest-growing segments in the food space. Sales total more than $89 billion annually, according to IRI.

Consumer interest in snacking has accelerated during the pandemic as people spend more time at home. A study from NPD Group found snack food consumption increased 8% in April as consumers stocked up primarily on frozen sweets and salty items.

Justin’s new line gives a nod to both salty snacks with its nut butters and chilled sweets as the bars feature a dark chocolate and a honey flavor. While Justin’s has had success in the past launching lines that appeal to consumers’ sweet tooths, it may be more difficult for these bars to stand out as they rely on their protein-forward profile to attract attention.

Although protein has been a reliable marketing tool for years, snack bars — particularly protein and meal replacement options – have cooled off as a category during the pandemic. A Bernstein analysis showed sales plummeted in March and April. The firm did say it expected the segment to recover in the long term.

Net sales in Hormel’s Grocery Products category, which includes Justin’s, rose 6.9% for the 13 weeks ended July 28 compared to the same period a year earlier. If the brand’s previous success entering new segments carries over into refrigerated bars, the brand could see sales heat up even more.


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