In collaboration with biotech firm Natraceutical, in which Spanish-based Natra holds a 50.27 per cent stake, the two companies have developed their 'Chocolactive' line of cocoa and chocolate products that contain “functional ingredients, active principles and nutritional supplements for the final consumer”.
Health-positioned chocolate products are still, it would appear, at a nascent stage, but major R&D efforts that focus on potential health-boosting ingredients are starting to trickle down into the chocolate market.
Mars recently launched CocoaVia, while Barry Callebaut has rolled out its Acticoa ingredient, both of which boast high polyphenol contents and are marketed as healthy options.
Indeed, at this week's Salon du Chocolat show in Paris, ConfectioneryNews.com saw Barry Callebaut's Acticoa ingredient in a new line from Belgian chocolatier Guylain. Branded as 'Guylain Extra', the Acticoa label is clearly visible on the front packaging, as is the term 'antioxidants'.
The Guylain product notwithstanding, health positioned chocolate products at the salon, which showcased the wares of some 140 exhibitors, were barely visible.
The range from Natra spans the gamut of health areas and, the firm writes, is composed of "premium plain chocolate with a high content of polyphenols; premium milk chocolate with more polyphenols than a traditional bar; fibre chocolate; energy chocolate, in which two squares have the same amount of caffeine than a cup of coffee; and low-lactose chocolate, suitable for lactose intolerant consumers".
"This is the first product launch which is specifically directed towards the final consumer," says the Spanish manufacturer.
Recession spears private label appeal
In addition to spearing the growing health area, the Natra launch also neatly targets private label needs.
In recent months, the entire food chain, from farmer to consumer, has felt the impact of soaring prices for essential inputs, such as fuel and ingredients, which has sent costs spiralling upwards.
This situation is now improving as prices for key inputs, such as oil and cocoa, are tumbling.
But with challenging economic circumstances hitting Europe and the US, consumers are starting to look hard at their spending patterns, which is when private-label demand is wont to grow.
In times of economic straits, history has shown that consumers may opt to ditch certain branded goods, preferring instead to switch to cheaper private-label products.
Natra recently cited data from market analysts AC Nielsen that reveals the consumer switch from branded to private label goods in the US market alone has enabled growth in the consumption of private label products in excess of 10 per cent, compared to 3.2 per cent growth for branded products.
The estimates, says Natra, suggest that within the confectionary category, private label products will record significant growth of 27 per cent in 2008.