New opportunities for health-focussed products in the confectionery industry have bolstered the market, which is estimated to increase by 16 per cent in the next four years to more than €115bn.
According to a new market report, Global Confectionery 2006, by researchers Leatherhead Food International, the driving force and most innovative area within the confectionery industry has been health - as evidenced by Mars' decision to set up a health and well-being unit.
Published this month, the report notes that new product development has centred on creating healthier options to long-established favourite products such as gum and chocolate.
The report stated: "In spite of rising levels of obesity, consumers in general are also becoming increasingly aware of the role their diets play in maintaining levels of health and well-being."
Sales of chocolate last year were worth €54bn, making it the largest confectionery sector.
Demand for dark chocolate has increased, following evidence that it is better for heart health than milk or white chocolate due to its high concentration of natural flavanol and antioxidants.
And it's not just chocolate - health concerns have impacted on development across the sector with sugar-free gum and medicated sweets on the increase with Proctor and Gamble launching Red Energy bonbons which contain guarana, caffeine and taurine.
Gum marketed under the claim of having dental health benefits has proved popular as has confectionery fortified with vitamins and minerals. In 2005, Wrigley launched its new Airwaves gum, fortified with guarana, menthol and green tea onto the French market and extended it to the UK at the start of the year.
Low fat and additive-free products have been prevalent on the market and nutritional ingredients such as green tea, seaweed and natural sugar alternatives have grown in use, especially in Japan, where Nestlé have released a Green Tea Kit Kat bar.
Other dominant trends in the market are the preference for convenience, with more 'eating-on-the-go' products, an emphasis on seasonality as chocolate is increasingly seen as a luxury purchase and greater moves towards targeting an adult audience in the face of falling birth rates in more developed areas of the world.
Packaging developments in 2005 reflected the need for convenience in the sector with handy sharing bags and smaller, more portable containers making an appearance.