Nature Valley’s granola bars — you know, the ones in the green packaging — have always been pretty crunchy. This wasn’t a good thing, this wasn’t a bad thing. It’s just how they were. They also happened to be the world’s most popular snack bar, topping off at a little more than eight percent of market share in 2012, according to Euromitor. But starting in 2013, its market share began to drop off ever so slightly (along with those of competitors including Special K and Quaker Chewy), and independent snack bars like Kind and Clif Bars began to get more popular. So how did Nature Valley respond? It decided to address a consumer complaint: The bars were too hard to bite into. General Mills made the bars slightly softer last fall. This was a misguided decision for a couple reasons.
One, the bars weren’t too hard to bite into. It’s not like they were made out of steel. Just use your molars, or break off bite-size pieces. Have people ever actually tried to eat a Nature Valley bar but ended up giving it up and throwing it away because they were afraid for the safety of their teeth? Has anyone ever sworn off Nature Valley bars for good because of their durability?
Two, millions of us grew up eating Nature Valley bars and thought they were perfect as they were. Yes, they were crunchy… so what? Butterfinger bars are pretty tough to bite into with your front teeth as well. You don’t see them reformulating their core recipe because of a handful of whiners. By capitulating to the complainers General Mills has alienated its more loyal fans.
The reasons for Nature Valley’s drop in sales most likely have nothing to do with the fact that they’re crunchy, and reformulating them is putting lipstick on a pig. It’s not that less people are buying Nature Valley, it’s that more people are switching to more natural-seeming, trendy bars like Kind. Nature Valley isn’t trendy, and neither are Special K and Chewy bars. They’re also not exactly healthy, with 11 grams of sugar per package, and that’s probably why sales have dropped off. And if we had to place a bet, we’d wager that sales don’t improve because the bars have become ever so slightly softer. If you want to sell softer bars, go for it, but don’t stop selling the original ones. Don’t throw away the product that in 1975 literally created the granola bar market just because of a handful of soft-toothed crybabies.