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Healthier compounds cementing chocolate’s candy innovation dominance

By Neil Merrett , 08-Jun-2009

The potential health benefits of certain compounds found in chocolate are helping to drive greater levels of innovation and product launches in the candy segment compared to sugar confectionery, according to recent research.

Following recent research being displayed at last month’s All Candy Expo in Chicago, analysts suggest that demand for chocolate varieties such as dark and gourmet products is ensuring strong interest by manufacturers in the segment.

Citing Datamonitor findings, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) claims that with 3,300 new candy products launched during 2008, large numbers of both chocolate and non-chocolate were finding their way to market.

However, a NCA spokesperson told ConfectioneryNews.com that although non-chocolate candy products are increasingly being designed and marketed for different types of consumer and lifestyles, chocolate sales in areas such as ‘gourmet’ confectionery remain much stronger.

The trade group claims that despite innovation towards higher quality sugar confectionery such as candied nuts or ‘gourmet’ jelly beans, chocolate appear to have currently cornered the market.

“The gourmet chocolate category has grown rapidly the last few years and the same is not as true in the non chocolate arena,” states the NCA.

Compound claims

Despite the inclusion of potentially beneficial compounds live flavanols in chocolate products, the association stresses caution in using the term ‘healthy’ as confectionery must contain sugar and fats by their definition.

“Chocolate candy is considered to be in the category of discretionary calories,” the trade group claims. “Of course, credible scientific research does show that moderate chocolate consumption does not increase cholesterol.”

Dark chocolate boost

Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics service, says that in the US market alone, the number of chocolate-based confectionery products launched in the country has been consistently high since back in 2006

“The catalyst for this growth burst was the dark chocolate sector, which gave chocolate makers a viable health angle and also helped upscale product offerings at the same time,” he says. “Sugar confectionery makers, on the other hand, did not have the same benefit although they may be able to leverage all of the recent interest in superfruits like pomegranate and acai into something.”

Datamonitor suggests that development of sugar confectionery products has been hit by declining sales momentum for both mints and sour candies, which have previously been a major focus for manufacturers.

The analyst says that chocolate products have continued to sell well by retaining their reputation as an affordable indulgence over the same period.

Innovation trends

Vierhile, who attended the NCA’s All Candy Expo in Chicago back in May, says that the majority of product launches seen in the confectionery market were more a reflection of overall sales growth in the market than an actual need for innovation.

Although Vierhile believes actual product innovations in the market tended to be few and bar between then, although he suggests there were some notable possible trends on display at the All Candy Expo this year, particularly in ‘man bait’ areas like using real bacon bits in lollipops.

A new chocolate product designed to be inhaled as opposed to eaten, known as the Le Whif Chocolate Inhaler, was selected as another example by the analyst of possible innovation potential.

“Aside from these and a few more, most of the launches tend to be flavour or brand extensions or efforts to fill out existing lines,” states Vierhile.

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