Taste by Brand
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 around 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 2 of our comprehensive snack and protein bars report. If you haven’t read pt 1, click here.
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.
Let’s start with some of the basics. Everyone has their favorite flavor, but which flavors are leading across the product category? Which trendy flavors have staying power?
Peanut butter and chocolate flavors dominate the market and have the review volume to match (24% and 18% respectively). However, there are several flavors that have significantly higher consumer sentiment!
Somewhat surprisingly, the flavors with the highest sentiment are slightly more niche. Coconut, caramel, and non-citrus fruit flavors carry the most positive sentiment with lower review volume, showing that these flavors are “cult favorites” with devoted fans who seek these flavors out.
On the other hand, dessert and seasonal flavors have the lowest overall sentiment scores. Often, the reviews for these flavors mention artificial tastes, or imbalanced (too strong or too weak) flavors.
A common theme for dessert and seasonal flavors are unmet expectations. Often when a flavor is named after a common food (such as birthday cake or pumpkin pie), consumers have strong expectations for what the bar will taste like and judge it more harshly than they would otherwise.
But how does this change when we separate protein bars from snack/breakfast bars?
Sweet, syrupy flavors dominate the top of the list for protein bars, with flavors like coconut, caramel, and maple/honey/brown sugar ranking the highest. For snack/breakfast bars, lighter, more refreshing flavors tend to perform better with citrus and mint chocolate out performing the other flavors.
Protein bars often require stronger flavor profiles to mask the additional protein and nutritional ingredients, leading to better experiences with the stronger flavors. While snack/breakfast bars flavors tend to be more closely aligned with the ingredients, with consumers preferring more “natural” and “simple” flavors.
Consumers are looking for healthier alternatives to their favorite candy bar. In reviews that mention candy, sentiment is 74% higher for protein bars and 57% higher for snack/breakfast bars when compared to those that don’t.
Perfect Bar and CLIF lead by a significant margin. These two brands also have the highest use of favorable terms like “favorite” and “love” in the category. These brands have high sentiment scores for taste attributes, and consistently high scores across all their flavors, showing that top performing brands don’t let mediocre flavors pull down their scores.
Nature Valley and KIND sit just behind with excellent sentiment scores. After that, Kellogg’s, FitCrunch, Wonderslim, Gatorade, Barebells, and ZonePerfect fill out the top 10.
SlimFast manages to be the only brand we studied with a sentiment score of less than 0 in Flavor & Taste. Healthwarriors, think!, Kellogg’s, and Garden of Life round out the bottom performers.
A common theme among the bottom tasting brands was neutral sentiment around specific flavors as well as neutral sentiment around more general mentions of taste.
Consumers are sensitive to poor texture experiences, and are quick to point out shortcomings even if they enjoy the flavor and nutritional elements of the product. Texture largely lags behind other sentiment themes, far behind flavor and taste as well as ingredients and formulation.
Significant percentages of reviews specifically call out bars as being dry (3.1%) and stale (2.2%).
Terms with negative sentiment (dry, hard, and stale) are relatively consistent across protein and snack bar subcategories.
These are three words you don’t want to see in your product reviews.
For brands like NuGo, Rx Bars, think!, Kellogg's, and CLIF, reviews mentioning “Dry”, “chalky”, or “hard” are mostly negative, correlating to low sentiment and poor experiences. However, FitCrunch is performing extremely well with reviews containing these terms, many of which specifically pointing out that the bars are NOT dry, chalky, or hard.
Protein and snack/breakfast bar consumers are smart and informed when it comes to ingredients, and the sentiment themes are clear when it comes to artificial vs natural ingredients.
It’s not a big surprise that brands with fewer or more natural ingredients (like Larabar, That’s It, Garden of Life, and Kind) have dramatically higher sentiment around ingredients and formulation. Brands like Larabar and RX Bars that lean in and market around their short ingredient lists benefit significantly.
Protein bars that succeed in capturing high ingredient sentiment (like Aloha Protein bars) stand head and shoulders over the comparatively weak competition. The more complex formulations and larger list of ingredients for top selling protein bars like CLIF and Quest pull down their ingredient sentiment significantly.
Keywords like “Simple”, “Natural”, and “Taste” correlate to high sentiment in this theme. Terms associated with specific dietary needs or ingredients largely have high sentiment, such as “Allergy” and “Gluten”.