ENERGIZING THE MIX

Retailers have begun merchandising energy bars in the candy aisle and at the front end as another healthy alternative for shoppers with a sweet tooth. While traditionally not considered part of the candy mix, the sweet-tasting ingredients in recent energy bar introductions have allowed grocers to vary in-store placement."I've seen immense growth in the energy bars," said Michelle Walker, grocery buyer

Retailers have begun merchandising energy bars in the candy aisle and at the front end as another healthy alternative for shoppers with a sweet tooth. While traditionally not considered part of the candy mix, the sweet-tasting ingredients in recent energy bar introductions have allowed grocers to vary in-store placement.

"I've seen immense growth in the energy bars," said Michelle Walker, grocery buyer at Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, Colo. "It's been astounding and frustrating because the category is so overwhelming."

Philip Lanzarotta, vice president of sales and marketing at Lanzarotta Wholesale Grocers, Vaughan, Ontario, agreed. "Power bars are really growing. They're getting stronger all the time," he said.

Vendors are introducing floor-standing racks to help merchandise, Walker said, "because our shelves are full. We're seeing a lot of counter displays as well."

Lanzarotta added that his customers consider the products health foods and are merchandising them as such.

In Wild Oats and Alfalfa's stores, the bars and displays are merchandised at cash registers, near endcaps and in-aisle with other confections, Walker said.

Companies, vying for position as having the best-tasting bar, continue to develop new products, marketing them as better tasting than the others, she said.

"Those are going more toward candy-like," Walker added. The most recent one she tested, named Mountain Lift, had a chocolatey outer coating.