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Healthy chocolate and candy products to beat the recession

By Mike Stones , 29-Jun-2009

Confectionery product ranges featuring new flavours, flexibility and variety will help manufacturers grow consumer purchases over the next five years despite economic uncertainty, according to the National Confectioners Association's (NCA) Confectionery Industry Trend Report 2009.

"Insight from the confectionery industry's leading influentials provides an appetizing future for consumers and the industry alike," says NCA president Larry Graham. "Chocolate and confections are treats that consumers can count on to be affordable luxuries. Our industry provides people with new choices, new experiences and old favorites that provide moments of happiness to be enjoyed any time."

The report, which featured insight from 40 industry experts including top manufacturers, market researchers, award-winning chocolatiers and nutritionists, focused on chocolate trends, health benefits, flavour fusions and international influences.

The next big confectionery trend will be for healthier products with growing demand for health benefits and better-for-you-ingredients, according to 88 per cent of the experts surveyed. Consumers are already choosing portion-control sized treats and the potential heart health benefits of higher cacao content in chocolate.

Eco-friendly manufacturing

A preference for green packaging policies was another area highlighted by the report. Sixty-five per cent of experts say eco-friendly manufacturing efforts, like recyclable packaging, will influence product development and consumer purchasing decisions.

Chocolate, termed by the report America's favourite flavour, will prove one of the largest growth areas over the next five years. Chocolate and cocoa will occur more frequently as a key ingredient in main courses alongside salmon, chicken and steak, predicted more than 70 per cent of those surveyed. Nearly 40 per cent of industry experts forecast that cocoa and chocolate would also begin to appear in appetizers.

Susan Smith, senior vice president of NCA's Chocolate Council said: "From its potential health benefits to its organic roots and inclusion as an ingredient in many types of sweet and savory foods, we have only begun to experience the versatility of chocolate."

Global influences and flavour pairings will become more important, according to the survey. Forty-three per cent of experts predicted that consumers will become more open to chocolate and flavor infusions that include spices, salts, herbs and floral flavors. “We'll start to see ethnic flavors emerge in popularity with herbs being incorporated into chocolate dishes. Consumers can also expect to see sweet and savory combinations like chocolate and bacon, as well as chocolate and cheese duos appear in stores and on the menus,” said the report.

Health benefits

Nearly half of those surveyed predicted more research into the potential health benefits of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, including exploration of naturally occurring cocoa compounds and positive effects on mood and blood pressure levels.

And one-third of experts thought that consumers will become more knowledgeable about the global origin of the chocolate.

Meanwhile, last year saw the launch of more than 6,000 new confectionery and snack products. Candy, chocolate and gum continued to lead the snack category in sales and ranked third in food sales overall.

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