Raising the bar for healthy snacks

Brand extensions requires more than just a bit of creative thinking. Tasked with turning a coffee formulation into a healthy protein bar, IMCD Brazil stepped in with nutrition and formulation support and sourced new ingredients to create an innovative solution that also met existing production limitations. Here’s how the team did it.

Can a beverage product be turned into a fast-moving food item to expand market share? That’s the innovation question that the team at IMCD Brazil grappled with recently.


A long-standing customer wanted to extend the brand equity of a successful coffee drink and came to IMCD for help. The challenge was to create a coffee-based protein snack bar to reach new markets – without compromising on taste, value proposition or experience. 


At the same time, there were other considerations. The brand’s value proposition is to deliver functional and healthy products. Accordingly, the new product would need to be low in sugar, which would also tie in with keto and sporty lifestyles. It would also have to help enhance performance and help boost brain functions such as memory and concentration. 


A big ask, you might say, but it’s all in a day’s work for the IMCD team. 


“It’s the way we work,” says Rafael Ferrarese, Food & Nutrition Business Unit Head at IMCD Brazil. “Customers now recognise IMCD as a partner, and not just an ingredients supplier. Our technical experts support customers with formulating new products to anticipate or respond to trends, and we can also connect them to a manufacturer or production facility.”


The global market for protein bars was estimated to be worth $4.66 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $7.03 billion by 2027. The jump represents a compound annual growth rate of 5.6 per cent over the forecast period, according to Fortune Business Insights. IMCD is well placed to meet the demands of this growing market, with established knowledge, equipment and expertise, as well as a collaborative approach that brings together customers and suppliers.


It was just this package that led the snack bar customer to IMCD. The customer brought us an existing formulation that did not meet its requirements. This early iteration was a high-fat, low-consistency mass energy bar that did not comply with its packaging partner’s industrial and scale-up processes. There were also too many ingredients, and the product did not present a clear and compelling proposition for the consumer.

Technical and cost challenges
Recognising the need for nutritional expertise, Ferrarese and the IMCD sales team turned to Carolina Melo, Technical Manager – Food and Nutrition at IMCD Brazil, to help with designing, formulating, and helping produce a protein bar that could meet the brief – without the addition of extra sugar.

“Besides masking the off notes inherent to protein formulations without using sugar, the main challenge was creating a healthy product that could be manufactured by the customer’s existing partner while keeping it cost-effective,” Melo says.

In addition to regular consultations and technical visits to the customer and the co-packer, Melo and her team conducted several intensive technical trials both at IMCD and at the manufacturing facility, in order to establish the correct parameters for the final product, as well as to achieve the desired texture, flavour and shelf life. IMCD also helped source the ingredients and flavours required and provided commercial support to help address the cost target. 

“The concept we created addresses the opportunity for plant and animal protein blends, while reconciling consumers’ demands for high-quality, clean-label ingredients,” Melo says.

With IMCD’s help, the customer not only overcame technical and cost challenges, but also increased total product sales. The new snack bar was launched as limited-edition SKU. It is already a hit with loyal and new customers alike. Consequently, although it is a departure from the customer’s core beverage business, the protein bar is now a permanent addition to the company’s product line.

“Now, the customer has a new product that supports its position as a leader and innovator,” Ferrarese says.

Cross-functional expertise
The process can easily be adapted for other customers. IMCD’s deep cross-functional expertise means that in addition to ingredients and technical information, customers can also count on us for help with marketing, by way of webinars that promote innovation and engagement, as well as to find and develop new ideas.

“At IMCD, we create worlds of opportunity for customers and suppliers in the food business. It all begins with a simple consultation,” Ferrarese says.

To learn more about IMCD's portfolio, expertise or our Food & Nutrition business, click here or visit IMCD Brazil.