Energy bars are big business. Growing at an annual expected rate of 7.5 percent for the five year period 2012 – 2016, the combined cereal/granola and energy/nutrition bars market is expected to reach $8.3 billion in 2016, according to Market Despite the candy giants dominating the category, there are still plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed in the energy bar business with tasty product formulations and winning marketing strategies.

Determine Your Target Market

The usual sequence for introducing new products starts with an idea, followed by product development. Identification of target market segments occurs either before or during the product development stage. Energy Bar Manufactures Central, an industry trade group, recommends that you identify the target market segments that you want to address as the first step, and then custom-tailor energy bars that address the needs of those target segments. For example, the energy needs of endurance athletes are different from those of children.

Recipes and Manufacturing

Don't be a one-trick pony. Develop and launch a line of energy bars for your target segment. If one bombs, you're still in business as long as something else that you produce resonates. For example, people who do long workouts want energy bars rich in carbohydrates. Therefore, create and test several carbohydrate-rich recipes for this target segment. Use family and friends as your recipe guinea pigs.

You can set up your own manufacturing facility, which could be a costly under-taking, or you can get a contract manufacturer to make your products. Given the risk and expense of self-manufacturing, it may be wiser to get a co-packer, at least initially. Co-packers are already established with government regulators and have relationships with ingredient suppliers, packaging and shipping companies. You can always go into self-manufacturing in the future.

Branding Your Energy Bars

Create a unique logo, using the help of a graphic design artist if necessary. Your ideal brand name will be uniquely memorable while communicating the singularly unique consumer benefit that you promise to consumers in your promotional campaigns. Trademark the logo and brand name. Build a quality website, as that will be the ground zero for all of your branding initiatives. Load the website with content that clearly establishes your expert authority in the craft of making energy bars. Establishing your expert authority is crucial as part of the branding process. Authority creates an emotional bond with your consumers that's based on trust.

Marketing and Sales

Take advantage of one of the free crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter, to generate pre-launch buzz and to develop a tribe of loyal enthusiasts before launching regardless of whether you need the crowdfunding funds or not. Promote your crowdfunding campaign by engaging your target market in social media to extend its reach and to amplify the noise. Many savvy entrepreneurs do the same thing for the same purpose. Cultivate relevant bloggers as your new best friends. Employ free sampling and couponing liberally to generate interest. Look into Groupon as a coupon delivery vehicle to see if it's within your budget. In addition, consider hiring a food broker to sell to supermarkets and a C-Store distributors to sell to convenience stores.