Energy and antioxidants are the biggest trends for herbal sugar confectionery with acerola, guarana and green tea the hottest three ingredients, says Naturex.
Use of botanical ingredients in sugared candy is a niche sub-sector of the broader market where vitamin and mineral fortification remains the top choice.
“Functional confectionery is a very large market but there are different targets,” said Amandine De Santi, business manager at Naturex.
“For herbal confectionery, trends around energy for the sports market is number one, followed by the antioxidant concept,” De Santi told ConfectioneryNews.com.
Herbals like ginseng and guarana are used to tap into the energy trend and extracts like acerola, green tea and super fruits for antioxidants.
“The most famous and most used herbal extracts are acerola and guarana, followed by green tea,” she said.
This is because two of these ingredients enable manufacturers in Europe to make health claims on these, she added. Acerola is a cherry with a very high ascorbic acid content (form of vitamin C) that enables claims on energy-yielding and the function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise. Guarana is a natural source of caffeine enabling caffeine claims in the EU.
A ‘natural’ sporting chance…
Bernhard Christen, head of corporate brand and communications management at Ricola, said the trend towards natural is also important in herbal candy.
“It’s a movement that already started many years ago – this trend towards naturalism – but there is a strong connection between naturalism and healthiness,” Christen said.
De Santi agreed that herbal confectionery can appeal to consumers looking for natural and organic products.
She said herb-enriched confectionery is particularly popular in the sports category as consumers are more concerned with health.
“It’s a good alternative to gels and other supplements… Generally speaking more and more people in the sports market are looking for natural alternatives,” she said.
However, use of botanical extracts in candy does not come without its challenges. Flavor, color and price are the three biggest hurdles, De Santi said.
With use of vitamins and minerals, it is just a case of textural impact, she added.
Manufacturers need to carefully match end-product flavors with each herbal extract to ensure there is no clash of flavors. For example, lemon balm would not work with strawberry, she said.
When it comes to the three most popular herbal extracts, she said green tea often gives herbal notes, guarana can bring a brown color to the candy and acerola has a slightly acidic taste.
“With functional confectionery, taste is extremely important and the customer won’t compromise on it. It’s about how it looks, how it tastes – everything has to be like a normal confectionery product,” De Santi said.
Mass market potential?
The global medicated confectionery market was worth $4.1bn in 2010 with the US representing almost 32%, according to Leatherhead Food Research data.
Sales of medicated confectionery in the US were worth an estimated $1.3bn in 2010 and in 2012 the market increased by 5% in value terms.
“Herbal is definitely growing, but it takes time to find a place on the market,” De Santi said.
“Confectionery with added vitamins is quite cheap but when you use botanicals, you have to accept that it will cost a little more. But it’s marketed in a different way; it’s a more niche product.”
“For a question of price we have to stay honest – because of the price there will still be more mass products with vitamins. Herbals won’t overtake this sector,” she said.