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A brief history of protein bars: from nutritional aid to popular snack

Updated: Feb 20, 2023


Protein bars were invented in the late 1960s as a nutritional aid created by Dr. Forrest Shaklee. The first protein bars were designed as meal replacements and contained soy protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Throughout the 1980s, protein bars became popular among bodybuilders and athletes as a convenient and nutritious snack. Bodybuilders and athletes often had to travel to competitions and needed a snack that was easy to transport and gave them the necessary nutrients to stay energized and focused. Protein bars were the perfect solution. Not only were they convenient, but they also provided a high-protein, low-fat snack that was easy to digest. The popularity of protein bars exploded in the 1980s and has only grown since then. In the 1990s, mass-marketed protein bars were introduced and contained a variety of protein sources, such as whey, soy, egg, and casein.


Dr. Forrest Shaklee and his Role in the Invention of Protein Bars


(1) Dr. Forrest C. Shaklee was an American entrepreneur, health activist, and philanthropist who dedicated his life to the pursuit of health and wellness for all. Shaklee was born in 1894 in Iowa. After graduating high school, he went on to study chemistry at Iowa State College. Following his graduation in 1917, he moved to California to pursue a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, which he completed in 1921. (2)


Throughout his career, Shaklee held various positions related to health and wellness. After completing his doctorate, he worked for the United States Department of Agriculture to develop food-based nutrition supplements. In 1934, he founded a company called Nutrition for Health, which was the predecessor of the Shaklee Corporation. He then developed the first multivitamin in the United States in 1941. In 1956, Shaklee founded the Shaklee Corporation, which would become one of the largest natural health and nutrition companies in the world. (3) He was the President and CEO of the company until 1968, when he developed the first protein bar. The bar was an instant success and revolutionized the nutrition industry


In addition to inventing protein bars, Dr. Shaklee was a pioneering environmentalist and was one of the first to advocate for sustainable practices. He was also an early advocate of preventive health care and was a pioneer in the development of natural health products. Throughout his career, Dr. Shaklee has been a leader in the health and nutrition industry and has made a lasting impact on the way people eat and take care of their health.


Protein Bars in the 1900s


With its invention, protein bars were a relatively new food item that had the potential to revolutionize nutrition. At the time, protein bars were seen as a convenient way to get the necessary nutrients. They were a good choice for people who lacked access to fresh foods or who were on the go and needed a quick source of nutrition. Ingredients varied from product to product, but some of the ingredients used to make these bars included wheat flour, corn meal, and plant proteins, such as soy, peas, and other legumes. In order to provide essential vitamins and minerals, some manufacturers added dried fruits and nuts to their bars. Herbs and spices were also added for flavor, and some bars contained sugar or molasses for sweetness.


The bars were designed to provide the energy and nutrients needed to fuel the body. The protein helps to build muscle, and the carbohydrates provide energy. The fats in the bars helped to slow down digestion and provide a feeling of fullness.They definitely provided the necessary protein, carbohydrates, and fat needed to fuel the body, as well as vitamins and minerals. The bars also contained other ingredients such as herbs, spices, and nuts, which provided additional health benefits. In addition to providing essential nutrients, the bars were also designed to be convenient and portable. As more people became interested in getting the benefits of protein without the hassle of mixing it into drinks, more companies began to produce and market protein bars.



Popularization of Protein Bars


The late 1900s saw a market increase in health consciousness among the general population. This shift in attitude towards fitness was driven by a number of factors, including the rise of health organizations, the growth of the internet, and the emergence of TV-fitness. This newfound focus on health led to an upsurge in the availability of health-related information and products, as well as an increased emphasis on health lifestyle choices.


As people began prioritizing their health and well-being, the popularity of protein bars increase to match demands for products in the health and wellness industry. Healthy diets, exercise, and lifestyle changes along with increased availability of fitness and nutrition related information pushed the general public to more healthy food alternatives like the protein bar, which is packed with the macronutrients to fuel a healthy body.



Mass Produced Protein Bars


In the 1990s, protein bars skyrocketed in popularity as they became widely available in the mainstream market. This was due to the increased interest in fitness and health, as well as the development of more convenient and tasty protein bar recipes. This led to the mass production of protein bars, which allowed people to easily incorporate the nutrient-rich snack into their diet with minimal effort. At the time, protein bars were primarily marketed towards athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts. (4) After all, protein bars provided a convenient and tasty way to refuel after a hard workout and bodybuilders used them to help build muscle mass. However, as protein bars became more widely available, they began to catch the attention of those who were looking for a healthier snack option. In the 1990s, the protein bar industry began to expand into the general public market as companies began to introduce different flavors and recipes. This allowed people to find a protein bar that suited their tastes and dietary needs. There were now bars for those who wanted a snack that was high in protein, low in sugar, or a combination of both.


Protein Bars as a Popular Snack


In the 2000s, protein bars became popular as not only a nutrition aid but also as a popular snack for health-conscious individuals. With their high protein and macronutrient content, these bars are marketed as a convenient way to increase protein intake without the inconvenience of cooking other proteins like chicken or other meats, and can be used as a meal replacement for pre-workout meals. These bars were still a favourite snack for athletes and bodybuilders, who relied on protein to help build muscle and recover from intense workouts. Additionally, the bars often came in a variety of flavours, making them more enjoyable and palatable for students and young adults who need that burst of energy to get them through the day. The bars also had the advantage of being portable, making them perfect for busy people on the go.


Moreover, in the steadily increasing popularity of functional foods, foods that are not only tasty but also nutrient-dense, protein bars have become more of a staple than ever in the general public’s backpacks and gym bags. Macrosocial trends like the growing importance of fitness and nutrition as well as the increased awareness of the need for a balanced diet plastered all over social media greatly influence this surge, with functional foods being the perfect solution to provide this concentration source of nutrition. This combination of convenience, nutrition, and portability made protein bars a popular snack in the 2000s and continues to be a popular snack today.



Evolution of Protein Bars


While in the 1900s, protein bars were not yet widely available and made from simple ingredients like nuts, seeds and dried fruit, modern protein bars have evolved to maximize nutrient density to the desire of consumers. Often, modern bars include a variety of ingredients, including protein powders, carbohydrates, vitamines, minerals, and other nutrients. Today’s protein bars are designed to not only provide the necessary energy boost but also help with muscle recovery and growth with ingredients such as collagen and provide a convenient and nutritious snack to help the general public through their day. (5) Some other common ingredients include whey or plant-based proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and natural sweeteners, with a multitude of gluten-free and vegan options with no artificial flavors or preservatives.


To begin indulging in this powerful functional food, do some research about what you are looking for in a protein bar, or visit this link to find some top rated protein bars by fitness professionals: https://complexesky.com/bar-food-recipes/.



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