Marketing and Meta-Review Data
Welcome to Yogi’s Q1 2023 Snack and Protein bar industry report. In this research, we analyze how brands, products, and product attributes are perceived by consumers, and how brands can capitalize on market opportunities. This report has been constructed by Yogi’s expert team of research analysts using the Yogi platform and nearly 1 million data points.
This report is split into two parts. The first part covers Consumer Segments, Shopping Habits, Marketing, and Meta-Review data. Part 2 of the report will be published in the coming weeks and will cover flavor, taste, and texture preferences.
Yogi helps consumer brands get closer to shopper preferences through review analysis and sentiment insights. Using AI, Yogi breaks down consumer feedback and ratings into granular data insights, helping brands like Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft make smarter decisions every day.
Our team created a Yogi dashboard focused on Protein and Snack/Breakfast bars, populating it with over 500 products and pulling in over 900,000 product reviews. From there, our analysts used only the Yogi platform to uncover the following industry insights.
This is part 1 of our comprehensive snack and protein bars report. Part 2 will be released in the coming weeks.
Some of our insights refer to “sentiment”. At Yogi, our platform uses sentiment scores to quantify the way consumers feel about brands, products, features, and even granular attributes. Sentiment is measured between -1.0 (a completely negative sentiment) and +1.0 (a completely positive sentiment). Sentiment scores help brands to quickly make accurate and fair judgments about consumer preferences, and make apples-to-apples comparisons, fueling data-backed decisions.
Yogi analyzed 934,762 reviews, for 528 products, from 31 brands. Reviews spanned over 5 years, from Q1 2018 through Q1 2023. Products were selected for popularity, rankings in common marketplaces, and review numbers. The average product rating for snack and protein bars is 4.53/5, with an average sentiment score of +0.45.
Families are increasingly busy, and quick snacks or meal replacements that are both enjoyable and healthy can be hard to come by.
Since 2018 the number of reviews identifying children as primary consumers of both snack and (somewhat surprisingly) protein bars have increased dramatically.
Parents are relying on both snack/breakfast and protein bars to give their children something that is both nutritious and enjoyable.
Reviews that mention children have extremely positive average sentiment ratings, demonstrating higher satisfaction when these products are purchased and consumed by the whole family.
By filtering for mentions of children, we can see exactly which attributes are most important to parents (shoutout to Yogi’s granular filters and attribute sentiment analysis!)
We can see that reviews that mention children are overwhelmingly positive for most attributes, and relatively consistent between protein and snack/breakfast bars. But three primary focuses become apparent in the data:
1. Parents love bars that are mini or kids' size, making them quick to eat and not wasteful for smaller appetites. Reviews for small bars that mention children have a 4.92 average rating compared to a 4.72 rating for all other reviews that mention children. Offering small form options may put your brand ahead of the competition.
2. Parents chose bars that balance great flavor with good nutritional value. Sugar content is pulling down sentiment significantly, especially for snack/breakfast bars. Offering a bar with great flavor and less sugar than competitors can make a significant difference to parents.
3. Texture is a major pain point, and is not correlated to flavor and taste sentiment (IE, great sentiment around flavor does not equal great sentiment around texture). Offering a chewy bar that isn’t dry or chalky is incredibly important especially when it comes to families selecting a bar that will please everyone, even the pickiest eaters.
Convenience and nutrition are key for this audience. Kid-targeted bars like Clif Z, Chewy, and Larabar Kids are frequently praised for their flavor, but are also consistently called out for having too much sugar, highlighting the need to find a balance.
By looking only at reviews mentioning children, we also see that bars in both the protein and snack/breakfast categories don’t need to be specifically targeted at children to be successful. Brands like Quest, ZonePerfect, and “That’s It” perform very well despite not focusing on this in their messaging.
Many protein and snack/breakfast bar brands focus on active consumers in their marketing, at a glance this seems like a somewhat homogeneous segment, however, deeper analysis shows a divide in needs and sentiment between two sub-segments: Gym Goers and Athletes.
As you can see, these sub-segments care about very different things. There is a sizable discrepancy between these groups around price and value.
Athletes show much greater sensitivity to price, and significant numbers of athletes have called out brands they rely on for increasing their prices.
We can all agree our lives are getting busier and more chaotic, and reviews back that up. For both Protein and Snack/Breakfast bars, the number of reviews mentioning being “on the go” have seen significant increases since 2018.
Protein and snack/breakfast bars sentiment and review volume mentioning “On the go” have extremely similar trends, showing that “On the Go” is a category-wide movement.
On the go has extremely high ratings and sentiment attached to it, however when it comes to this segment, it is clear that traditional protein bars tend to perform a little worse than snack and breakfast bars.
Consumer shopping has changed drastically over the past few years, and shoppers are more likely than ever to change their habits. Reviews can show how consumer experiences are impacted by the places they shop.
The vast majority of product reviews for protein and snack bars are on Amazon, though other sources including Target and Walmart are closing the gap.
Amazon’s sentiment is dramatically lower than other retailers and has been steadily decreasing. This lower sentiment seems to primarily be around the Amazon purchasing and fulfillment experience. The poor sentiment largely comes from issues around quality and shipping.
Like other food and beverage categories, protein and snack bars deal with quality control issues that are beyond the brands’ control, especially on Amazon. With products often coming from different sellers and a variety of fulfillment methods, reviews often are lowered with complaints of expired products, crushed bars, and damaged boxes.
Many brands in the category promote their products using celebrity endorsements, advertising campaigns, and viral social media marketing. However, our data shows that these strategies might not be working very well.
The only brand with any significant review volume mentioning marketing campaigns or endorsements was Atkins, with 16 mentions of Rob Lowe. But of those 16, only half were positive reviews!
Brands like CLIF, That’s It, FitCrunch, and Perfect Bar had virtually no mentions of marketing campaigns. And brands with significant investment into social media and influencer marketing like Quest, Barebells, and Alani Nu only had a handful of reviews mentioning their campaigns each.
There are two types of reviews: those directly from customers who care enough to go out of their way to post, and promotional where consumers receive free product or other compensation in exchange for their feedback.
Let’s take a look at what brands have the most promotional reviews and some of the trends we found there.
KIND, Nature Valley, CLIF, and Kellogg’s Special K dominated other brands in promotional review volume. However, these brands are popular, well-known industry leaders who generate a high number of organic reviews as well.
When we look at the promotional review percentage, we see a very different picture.
For Alani Nu, a massive 38% of reviews are promotional, demonstrating a strategic decision to purchase reviews at a large volume to close the review gap with larger more established brands. Most of the largest brands sit somewhere between 5 and 10 percent.
So, how do these promotional reviews differ from organic reviews?
For most sub-types of protein and snack/breakfast bars, promotional reviews are slightly higher than organic. However, for more niche bars such as Keto and vegan/plant-based bars, promotional reviews are significantly lower.
This could potentially be due to poor selection of promotional reviewers, sending keto or vegan products to people who wouldn’t normally purchase something like that.
Even on the high end, promotional reviews have less of an impact on the protein and snack/breakfast bar industry than they do in others industries. Other similar product categories have between 0.4 and 0.8 average star ratings increases over organic reviews.
Across all protein and snack/breakfast bar promotional review sources, Amazon reviews were the most critical, averaging 0.33 stars lower than organic reviewers. While Walmart promotional reviewers were the most complimentary, averaging 0.13 stars higher than organic reviewers.
Target organic reviewers were by far the most critical, and Costco organic reviewers were by far the most positive.
In Part 2 of the report, you’ll get customer sentiment & review insights about: