Riding the wave of the functional trend, herbal sweet firm Ricola is hoping this year to boost its share in the UK market to become the number one healthy confectionery company in the country.
Andy Richman, UK and Ireland country manager, told ConfectioneryNews.com that Ricola decided to focus on the UK as it is the second largest sugar confectionery market in Europe.
"And healthy eating trends in the UK market mean that the timing is now ripe to re-launch and extend our product line with new flavours," he said.
Indeed, although Ricola is the second largest sugar confectionery brand in Europe, with a 3.7 per cent market share, the UK is currently only the twelfth-largest market for the company in terms of sales, according to market analysts AC Nielson.
Ricola claims that the sweets are ideal for the functional confectionery market as they contain only natural ingredients, so no E-numbers, artificial colourings or flavourings, and are made with health-boosting herbs.
Some of the thirteen Swiss herbs used as ingredients include cowslip, promoted as an aid for coughs and colds, thyme, which supports the nervous system, and the 'natural pick me up' sage, Ricola said.
The company has created three new flavours launched this year - menthol, cranberry, and elderflower. According to Ricola, the elder herb can sooth nervous headaches, and ease depression and feverish colds.
In terms of marketing, Ricola has formed a partnership with sales broker Jenks, which will strike deals to sell the company's herbal sweets in supermarkets and other mainstream retail outlets, Richman said.
"Although our product has been on the UK market for 13 or 14 years now, the sweets have traditionally been sold in specialised or health food shops," he said.
The company has also reformulated the packaging. The sweets are now available in bag, box or stick form, and feature Guidance Daily Amount (GDA) labels.
The GDA system was devised last year as a means of informing consumers the percentage of the adults male Guideline Daily Amount of the four key nutrients that each product contains.
Although popular with some convenience food manufacturers, these labels are still rare in the confectionery world, and "90 per cent of sugar confectionery manufacturers do not use them," Richman claims.
The price of the product has also dropped - from 60p to 50p for the sticks, and £1.69 to £1.25 for the box, he added.
According to market analysts Global Business Insights (GBI), sugar confectionery is set to experience the second-largest growth rates after gum this year, predicted to grow 1.9 per cent in the EU and 1.5 per cent in the US.
Manufacturers will benefit from obesity fears associated with traditional confectionery products, and the products' ability to carry functional ingredients, GBI said.