Trends in the confectionery sector: vegan, indulgent and total-wellbeing

In a world where indulgent pleasures are combined with creativity and innovation, sweets have become an integral part of our culinary culture.

From the focus on natural and organic ingredients to the inclusion of sugar-free and gluten-free options, consumers are increasingly interested in healthier and more conscious choices. In addition, the growing demand for unique flavors and extraordinary sensory experiences has led to the creation of innovative products.

In this article, we will explore the most exciting and relevant trends that are defining the current confectionery landscape.

VEGAN CONFECTIONARY

Following the growing search for health and wellness among consumers, vegan and vegetarian diets have increased considerably in recent years. This increase affects all sectors of the food industry and, although it is not as noticeable in confectionery, an increase in the number of new product launches with vegan ingredients is also being detected.

Source: Mintel GNPD, January 2018 - December 2022.

In mintel's graph above we see reflected, on an annual basis, the percentages of new launches with vegan claims. The results point to a growing trend in the production of healthier products, as in 2018 there were 7% of launches with these claims while in 2022 there were 19%. It should also be emphasized that this has not been a balanced increase, but rather it has skyrocketed in the last 2 years.

The most common ingredients substituted in "hard" candies are butter and cream, while for chewy candies the substituted ingredient ends up being gelatine. These ingredients are usually replaced by others such as carrageenan, pectin or agar-agar, among others.

"In the UK only 12% of consumers are interested in these claims, whereas if we apply this to an audience of 16-24 year olds we can see that those interested rise to 22%" (Mintel, 2022).

This trend could be a great opportunity to innovate in areas less explored by the market, thus meeting emerging needs.

© Jealous Sweets - Plant based gummies with pectin (Norway)
Jelly beans plant based with pectin and gluten free, with natural flavors and colorings. They have different flavors such as mango, melon, pineapple and grapefruit.

© Super Foodio - Peanut butter (UK)
Peanut butter made from five natural ingredients: cocoa butter, peanuts, coconut sugar, strawberries and sea salt.

WELLNESS CHALLENGE

The challenge of conveying health and wellness in products is also a growing trend, and increasingly includes more and more categories in the food sector. However, the focus of this trend is not only on healthy nutritional aspects, but also on "Total Wellbeing", a new dimension that also focuses on the mental and spiritual health of the consumer.

The "Total-Wellbeing" represents the majority of new launches, presenting its "Mood-Booster" effect, which corresponds to the pleasure caused by the consumption of this type of product. However, the sector is not limited to this effect and is also committed to responding to problems of a more physical nature.

This new approach is a big change and a great opportunity, as it is making it possible that products much more associated with health detriment are beginning to acquire a new perspective in the eyes of consumers.

© Powerbeärs - Milk candies (United States)
Milk candies that, as a source of calcium, are made with a third of the amount of sugars of other leading brands in the market.

Nexus Foods - Gamer gummies (United States)
Gamer gummies with natural flavors, composed of 20% juice from concentrate and fortified with Vitamins C and E.

INDULGENCE

Another ever-present trend in this sector is indulgence, as it is the cornerstone of confectionery product innovation. The fact that they have a high sugar content makes them much more attractive products, and in turn, consumers are looking for a more indulgent experience when choosing them. We are in a context where consumers are becoming more and more demanding about the products they are willing or unwilling to buy.
It is predicted that in 2023 indulgence will continue to be fundamental in the purchasing decision. However, it should be noted that this trend can be divided into two sub-trends: texture and taste. The manufacturer that knows how to play with these two elements will be aligned with indulgence.

Texture

Focusing on texture, we can state that it refers to the sensory experience that our consumer has at the moment of consumption of the product. This element has always been a recurring theme in confectionery.

Today, consumers are beginning to demand a great diversity of textures, and specifically, these are expected to be adapted both to the moment of consumption and to the product itself, i.e., what consumers demand is a more personalized experience. For example, in the U.S., the textures with the highest demand are the chewy ones, since they can be chewed for a longer time, thus reinforcing the "snacking"sensation that can be influenced by different factors such as hunger, cravings, boredom or even stress.

On the other hand, according to Mintel, in the Asian market, sparkling, aerated, bubbly and similar textures are more prominent, thus demonstrating that taste is not the only conditioning factor, but that texture also has a strong presence when it comes to generating an indulgent sensory experience in the consumer.

© Haribo - Fizzy Fizz Canes (The Netherlands)
Fizzy Fizz Canes that emulate the fizzy sensation of a carbonated soft drink.

© Chupa Chups - Crazy Dips with Poppin Candy (Turkey)
Crazy Dips (powdered candy for dipping) with Poppin Candy (effervescent candies) that offer a sensory experience beyond taste.

Taste

When it comes to flavor, it sounds obvious that it is a very important part of the indulgent experience. And, while the more traditional flavors remain the most popular, products with less usual flavors are also seeing an increase in launches, with a focus on products with adult and sophisticated flavors.

Cavendish & Henry - Wine gummies for "connoisseurs" (UK)
Gummies flavored with different beverages are made specifically for connoisseurs and their aroma is the most important thing.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR INNOVATION IN THE CONFECTIONERY MARKET

After discussing the different growing trends in the industry, we will talk about the different opportunities to apply them and innovate in the confectionery market.

Supply chain sustainability issues

The confectionery industry continues to address a number of sustainability challenges. However, so far, consumers do not show a specific demand for sustainable attributes in any of the three confectionery categories (chocolate, sugar or chewing gum). Driving consumer engagement in this area is emerging as the next step for sustainability programs in confectionery.

A broader health and wellness perspective

In recent times, consumers have become more aware of their health and wellness, especially in the wake of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. Indeed, the concept of "wellness" has become more holistic, encompassing mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. The strength of the confectionery industry will continue to focus on its ability to support mental and emotional well-being, acting as a mood booster, rather than on the physical aspect.

Flavors, textures and aromas that continue to delight

Whether it is a preference for a nostalgic experience or a desire to experience something out of the ordinary, consumers will continue to explore confectionery that offers a wide range of flavors, textures and aromas. They will also seek experiences that allow them to interact in new ways, especially through products with novel formats.

Thinking about launching a new bar that will be successful in the market?

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