Blog Post #5
Economic side of Consumption- Powerbars
The Sexy in Powerbars
The Restore can be described as PLNU’s very own mini-market. Students are constantly in and out of this venue. I was able to talk with Irene Alvarado, Manager of the Restore, about the best-selling products. The Powerbar was one of the top 2 selling products in the Restore. Most people would agree that the energy bars are quite expensive but the satisfaction one receives from eating a filling, healthy bar is better than a bag of chips. The benefits of the taste and nutritional gains have obviously outweighed the financial costs. As a school, we have proved it by making energy bars one of our top 2 selling products.
Since 2004, energy bars have made steady gains even with the relatively high prices on the energy bars. In 2011, Food Management wrote an article titled Food Bars Growing Fast; Packaged Facts reported that the retail market was $5.7 million dollars in cereal and energy bars.
Energy bars, such as Powerbar, have expanded their markets from the sports nutritional market to recreational and life-style users. A 2010 Market analysis report from the International Market Bureau says that niche markets in sports nutrition are selling products in grocery stores and market outlets; they are no longer just seen at nutritional or sports stores. Sport nutrition markets are using new ingredients in new products to incorporate different target markets. The general American population has athletes, recreational users, and life-style users. The consumption of each of the groups has a different intention and purpose of purchase. Just like the general population, PLNU is a small sub-scale of the energy bar consumption; there are students, faculty, and staff that engage in different sub-categories of exercise.
According to the International Market Bureau, there are 3 specific trends seen in the consumption of energy bars. First, Powerbars have included innovative ingredients such as protein and nutritional boosts like energy; this attracts the athletic population. Second, appearance and fitness concerns have become more openly common. Third, the accessibility of these bars has grown; they are in mini-markets like the Restore and supermarkets like Walmart. The last two trends attract the general population.
The United States has become the biggest consumer for sports-related products. In the global market, it is estimated to consume two-thirds of both the value of retail transactions and volume sales. Consumer behavior has pushed sports nutrition markets to make a variety of energy bars with new specific flavors and purposes. This is why Powerbar has a total of 37 bars in 8 specific categories. Taste is a significant factor and ingredients like cocoa and whey or soy protein can manipulate whether consumers will continue to purchase bars.
Nestle, owner of Powerbar, has easily outstripped cocoa supply from plantations in the Ivory Coast. Corporations like Nestle know the value of cocoa; they know it can be transformed into a great tasting bar with high demand. The problem is cocoa farmers are not receiving a fair share of the end product being sold. Percival’s article, From bean to bar: Why chocolate will never taste the same again, discusses the problem with local community farmers being at the bottom of a multi-layered supply chain. The cocoa-nomics do not allow these farmers to economically benefit from what has become an increasingly demanded market in the United States.
This means that either Powerbar comes up with a new supplement to replace cocoa or they change the way their supply chain is currently operating. If they choose to keep cocoa, they need to be paying farmers a fair amount of the profits gained. This also means better working conditions and the stop to child labor. If they do not choose to keep cocoa, they will lose a large number of consumers, and it would not be the same product anymore.
We know that energy bars have become increasingly popular and trendy. Is it more important to the consumer to buy trendy food items? Are consumers that shallow? Is it our duty to investigate where the ingredients of a Powerbar come from? Are corporations like Nestle using our own consumer behavior for their own economic benefit?