Americans love to snack. The researchers at Mintel say about half of all consumers snack every day, and because we're constantly on the go, almost one in five does so in the car.
But we're not all just eating junk food. Nutrition bars are a growing business and are expected to hit $2.6 billion in sales this year after growing 14% in 2012. They're expected to continue expanding at double-digit percentage rates through 2017 and grow to almost $4 billion.
The on-the-go consumer is part of the reason PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) is leading a revamp of its Quaker Oats brand to capture the snack-bar movement, and it's leading DuPont (NYSE:DD) to leverage its investment in soy-based ingredients maker Solae that it took full possession of from Bunge (NYSE:BG) last year. DuPont is introducing a soy-based nugget ingredient for nutrition-bar manufacturers that is 40% protein and 30% fiber, giving nutrition-bar makers an opportunity to substitute it for more expensive dairy proteins.
No doubt that's what it wants. DuPont is the largest manufacturer of genetically modified seeds for soy, ahead of even Monsanto (NYSE:MON), and GM soy is so pervasive that the USDA says 94% of all soybeans grown in the U.S. are now genetically modified. Monsanto scored a major court victory over farmers earlier this year after one planted a soybean crop with seeds not purchased directly from the seed maker but was forced to still pay it royalties.
While it's difficult to avoid soy if you're consuming processed foods, as about 60% of all such products contain soy, DuPont is seeking to widen the market for the bean and expand its presence through this growing avenue of business.
According to the analysts at Packaged Facts, of the 28 million people who eat nutrition bars, more than half (55%) tend to be women. Men, on the other hand, tend to consume more sports drinks, with almost two-thirds drinking the beverages, and while that's helped Pepsi revitalize its Gatorade brand and gain market share -- nutrition drinks as a whole are expected to grow 6% this year -- growth in this niche is seen as slowing in the years ahead.
Soy is already a major component of nutrition bars, no matter whether it's called soya, yuba, TSP (textured soy protein), or lecithin. DuPont's innovation, though, just seeks to make its dominance more complete, though whether that means it's more nutritional is up for debate.
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Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of PepsiCo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.