# What Grabs Our Attention Most to Consume A Snack Bar In Brazil? Following Trends In Choice of Snack Bars To Boost Market For Healthier Options

Vinícius Rodrigues Arruda Pinto1, Tamara Beatriz de Oliveira Freitas1, Laura Fernandes Melo1, Letícia Soares de Freitas2, Lucas Guimarães de Souza Araújo2, Valéria Paula Rodrigues Minim1, Thiago Duarte de Souza3, Josefina Bressan2, *
1 Departamento de Tecnologia de Alimentos, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Campus Universitário, s/n, CEP 36570-000, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil
2 Departamento de Nutrição e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Campus Universitário, s/n, CEP 36570-000, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil
3 Departamento de Ciência da Computação, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Campus Universitário, s/n, CEP 36570-000, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil

#### Article Metrics

0
##### Total Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 815
Abstract HTML Views: 317
##### Unique Statistics:

Full-Text HTML Views: 361
Abstract HTML Views: 207

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Departamento de Nutrição e Saúde, Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Campus Universitário, s/n, CEP 36570-000, Viçosa, MG, Brazil; Tel:+55 3138992545 / +55 3138991275; E-mails: jbrm@ufv.br, josefinabressan@yahoo.com.br

## Abstract

### Background:

Health can be a key factor in the choice of foods. Aligned with health trend, literature concerning the snack bars shows that improvements have been made in the snack foods’ nutritional values by modifying their nutritive composition, making them healthy, natural and safe.

### Scope and Approach:

This pilot study aimed to discuss the trends for snack bars in Brazil, focusing on the insights to improve this food category’s competitiveness.

### Methods:

A self-administered survey was made on different days and times, in the city of Viçosa, Brazil, during the winter of 2016, to assess how 408 consumers perceive snack bars and from this perspective link industry, consumers and other stakeholders, considering their attitudes and health perceptions on these foods.

### Conclusion:

Consumers consider the body concern, health benefits, health concerns, convenience and habits to guide their purchase decisions. Cereal and fruit bars were mentioned as the most consumed, while nut and protein bars should be more affordable, maintaining prices that are more attractive for all. Overall, the results showed that more information on sensory aspects, health and ingredient content leads to higher purchase intentions. However, consumers also demand larger portion size and lower price. The expected results corroborated world consumer trends, proposing more healthy, diverse and accessible snack bars to low-income people. It would be interesting to provide older consumers with the background knowledge needed in order to choose healthier varieties of these foods.

Keywords: Snack bars, Portion size, Health, Older consumers, Body concern, Trends in snacking, Cereal and fruit bars.

## 1. INTRODUCTION

The role of the stakeholders who aim to promote health consists to gather the socio-cultural and historical contexts, to know the emerging technologies and their applications and to understand people’s attitudes and acceptance of, mitigating negative consequences of food choice and promoting the successful implementation and commercialization of food [1, 2].

There is no consensus among researchers about the factors and motivations that determine the choice of snack bars, but it is known that there is a set of health and non-health factors related to the purchase intention. Nevertheless, the influence of package position, package information, health claims, nutrition content and the effectiveness of this food in human health has been studied widely [2-7]. If industry is to produce products that match consumer needs, a better understanding of the factors affecting individual variation in perception is needed [8].

Snack bars represent a specific category associated to the home consumption out, which grows on average 2% per year throughout the world [9]. From 2013 to 2014, the average growth of the category of cereal bars in Brazil was 7.5% in volume [10]. According to ABRE [11], the chips and snacks market will grow by 40% by 2018. From 2012 to 2014, 1,136 new snacks were launched in Brazil, being the corn/wheat snacks (1) those that had the greatest number of launches, followed by chestnuts and peanuts (2), potatoes (3) and cereal bars (4). The segment of healthy foods grew 98% over the last five years in Brazil, surpassing the United Kingdom and Germany, making Brazil the fourth largest market for healthy products since the year of 2014 [12].

Although snack bars category includes nutrient-poor products, a lot has been done to introduce new varieties and bioactive components [2], including high content of antioxidants, fibers, essential fatty acids and amino acids [13], with the potential of being healthy to consumers even after processing. Bamford [14] points out that, in addition to the increasing inclusion of different nuts varieties in the snack bars composition, it will soon be possible to observe a wider insertion of vegetables as a strategy to further boost the snack industry; and, therefore maintain the consonance with the healthy trend, motivating consumers concerned with health. This differentiation has already been highlighted by the Kind Snacks, a company that was consolidated in the United States and which has currently been gaining market sales in the United Kingdom with the introduction of snack bars of the lines ‘nuts and fruit’ and ‘nuts and spices’.

Reports of Boustani et al. [15] showed that cereal bars were perceived as healthy; however, it is necessary to understand the gap between the consumer’s perceptions about the desired benefits and the real benefits that the product offer, even if the consumer is favorable to food innovations which enhance the quality and nutritional value of food [16].

Literature concerning the snack bars has shown that improvements have been made on the snack foods’ nutritional values by modifying their nutritive composition, aligning then with terms as healthy, natural and safe, with potential to be considered functional foods [5, 17-24]. Several studies also showed that industry is able to develop nutritious snack bars, made from oats, brown rice, lentils, flaxseed, sesame or quinoa, with an already tested good sensory acceptability [22, 25-27].

## 2. RELATED STUDIES CONCERNING HEALTHIER SNACK BARS

A healthy lifestyle is an important trend that shapes everyday actions, while the packaging influences the behavior of the consumers [28]. Food choices are often habitual and do not involve a great deal of time or a deep cognitive process that leads the consumer to thoroughly evaluate the information presented in food [29].

Some consumers do not have enough time and want something they can eat quickly that will delay the hunger for a certain amount of time, while others are overweight and think that eating a bar or two instead of a meal will help with weight control [7]. The desire to achieve a normal, culturally acceptable body is often seen as the main driver of food-consumption practices adopted by individuals who are concerned about their body weight [30]. The intention to demand products apparently healthier is also linked to the pursuit of a desirable silhouette rather than health or well-being concerns [31]. Therefore, greater concerns about weight do not necessarily lead to healthy habits or health consciousness, but the adoption of healthy behaviors such as healthy eating and physical activity, motivated by health concerns can promote positive self-image [32].

Due to a growing concern about the increase on consumer behavior of snacking on anytime of the day, researchers have identified interest in study of the potential of snacks as healthy food, because risk of weight gain and obesity is associated with meals skipping, such as breakfast [33]. Currently, studies showed an increased frequency of snacking in Western societies, which reinforces the need to improve the communication and to know the consumers preferences, encouraging healthier food choices [34-36].

Layman [37] states that the market for bars, is in constant growth, and it has been leading the industry to diversify the range of sensory aspects and to invest in the fortification with nutrients and in the development of products to specific audiences. In addition, while health increases its importance, convenience, taste and price will remain as key factors in choosing a food.

Up until now, improving healthy eating remains a difficult task, and current efforts have not resulted in substantial effects [38]. Balance-minded consumers are often willing to write their own definitions of “healthy” based on occasion and need-state [39]. On the other hand, low-health consciousness individuals have been the subject of recent studies, because they are less motivated to adopt healthy food choices, being more influenced by hedonic pleasure, which contradicts their motivation to eat healthy [38, 40, 41]. Research is evolving, but it is unknown how consumers interpret “healthiness” and “nutritiousness” terms, because generally they focus more on the type of food consumed rather than the amount of nutrients [42-44]. Unfortunately, the means to connect health and consumer are used mainly for marketing purposes [44, 45]. False or merely advertising statements made about a product, may mislead consumers into thinking that a product is good for their health, when in fact it contains significant amounts of sodium, fats, additives or sugars [44, 46].

Although several studies have tried to defend that warning labels can be a good strategy in reducing the key substances or ingredients demand (i.e. energy, saturated fat, sugars and sodium) [47-49]. Currently the literature has obtained more results through the study of health consciousness and its relationship with hedonic symbols, providing less intrusive approaches to achieve more healthful food consumption [38, 50]. In other words, one can argue that it seems more important to observe the health consciousness than their familiarity with the food, being possible to adopt different strategies between high-HC and low-HC individuals, when it comes to mitigate the negative consequences of food choice. Buhrau et al. [38] found that among low-HC individuals, presenting a healthy food item in picture (vs. text) format results in more favorable hedonic evaluations of that item and increases consumption intentions.

Starting from these premises, researchers consider important to promote the effectiveness of communicating nutrition information to improve health based food selection, leading to choose variety of products that improve intake of essential nutrients and adequate portion sizes [44]. Concentrating attention on green marketing is an important tool for sustainable development and for the satisfaction of the consumers and policy makers concerned about questions related to environmental education and health. The literature indicates consumers who are more aware of health make healthier choices [41, 50-52].

Steptoe et al. [53] developed the food choice questionnaire with the aim of predicting general food choice. Nine dimensions were identified: health, mood, convenience, sensory appeal, natural content, price, weight control, familiarity and ethical concern.

Personal pleasure and nutrition are among the five most present necessities when it comes to the consumption of snack products [9]. For consumers snack bars should become more enriched, providing a balanced nutritional profile of components that include fibers, oleaginous and whole grains [54]. First of all, nutritional and energy bars has been developed to meet the consumer market for women, athletes and others [55]. Palazzolo [56] reports that cereal bars arose because of a greater need to combine convenience and health. Among the attributes, it is included the type of cereal, the carbohydrate selection, the enrichment with nutrients and their stability during processing, being the fiber content the main differential for this product [57].

Studies have shown that consumer consider flavor and texture to be the most important factors in choosing snack bars, but non-sensory attributes as price, health, nutrition content and claims that demonstrate a self-directed benefit may affect flavor perception and to overlap to the sensory characteristics [2, 7, 58].

Pinto et al. [2] report that package attributes, price and flavor were the most important factors that influenced the purchase of snack bars; the presence of omega-3s, sugars, preservatives, flavorings and colorings on package of snack bars were the most preferred claims. Miraballes et al. [7] have been argued that consumers of meal-replacement bars only paid careful attention to nutritional information in the absence of distracting elements of the package design (colors, pictures, font size). In a previous study by the authors Fiszman et al. [59], health benefit-related images were positively associated with “natural”, “organic” shapes; explicit images like a tape measure evoked a vivid, direct association with the “slimming” concept. Mahanna et al. [60] found that sensory claims and types of bar categories were not crucial to consumers, although calorie elements played a vital role in decision making for snack bars.

The aim of the current study was to assess how consumers perceive snack bars and to promote for consumers, industry, and stakeholders the links between the market perceptions, attitudes towards snack bars and health perceptions related to consumers. It is hoped that these findings permit to boost this market segment, emphasizing their potential of being a healthy food to consumers. This study is exploratory in its nature and does not aim to test an existing theory or model.

## 3. METHODOLOGY

The study was guided in the cross-sectional, exploratory and descriptive nature, conducted according to the guidelines laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki and the Committee on Ethics in Human Beings Research approved all procedures. Data collection was made based on the consumer intercept method at places, such as supermarkets, gyms, natural products store, emporium and convenience stores, with the maximum geographical scattering and socioeconomic scattering of target consumers [46], in the city of Viçosa, Brazil, during the winter of 2016.

The survey application was made on both weekdays and weekend days, in different times, taking good care to vary days and shifts (morning, afternoon and evening), in the same place of application. In addition, in order to avoid possible mistakes that could impair the quality of the research we performed a pretest before handing out the official questionnaire [46]. The pre-test did not identify any question that needed to be modified, because all respondents perceived and understood clearly the questions content; we assessed internal validity of questionnaire by Cronbach's alpha (αc).

Surprisingly though, of the 1081 individuals invited to the interview, only 37.7% called themselves consumers of snack bars. Due to the exploratory nature of this study, a sample size of 408 was chosen as adequate [61] and each respondent took on average 8 minutes to answer the questions. Previous similar surveys reported that the importance of making this food more attractive to the consumers should be reinforced [2, 62]. Varied reasons for non-consumption were presented in this study, such as ‘because I do not quench’, ‘because I do not like’ and ‘because I do not have a habit’. Other reasons included ‘no habit’ (28%), ‘do not like’ (26%), ‘expensive’ (8%), ‘high sugar content’ (5%), ‘prefer fruit’ (3%) and ‘others’ (30%) that include ‘diabetic’, ‘media influence’, ‘poor in nutrients’, ‘unattractive’, ‘medical/nutritionist recommendation’, ‘artificial’, ‘low fibers’ and ‘very industrialized’.

The respondents were randomly selected, approached to participate in a self-administered questionnaire, consisting of exploratory nature questions, composed by five sections: sociodemographic data, individual aspects of the consumers, consumer behavior in choice of snack bars, motivations for consumption and importance of claims on package of snack bars (Table 1). In order to avoid bias concerning the choices, in each issue, non-hierarchical circular cards of symmetric dimensions were provided. During the questionnaires application, care was taken to vary the cards position.

Table 1. Summary of issues presented to consumers of snack bars.
 Identification (‘Sociodemographic’ section) Gender | Age | Education | Income | Occupation Closed-ended questions (‘Individual aspects of the consumers’ section) Frequency of consumption Most consumed snack bars 1 Places for purchase 1 (‘Consumer behavior in choice of snack bars’ section) Most observed attributes in purchase 2 Habits associated with consumption 1 Preferences for the consumption of snack bars 3 Open-ended questions (‘Motivations for consumption’ section) Reasons why you consume as cited snack bars Reasons that would increase the consumption of snack bars Importance of claims in snack bars 4
Note.1Questions with the possibility to mark more than one answer.2Questions with given answers according to order of importance. 3Issues evaluated in Likert-type scale (3 point: 1- ‘Strongly agree’; 2- ‘I don’t agree or disagree’; 3- ‘Strongly disagree’). 4Issues evaluated in unstructured scale of nine centimeters (0 cm – Little importance; 9 cm – Too much importance).