Sugar free candies only account for 5% of the UK sweets market but the dynamic could be changing, according to German confectioner Sulá.
Sulá, one of Europe’s leading sugar free hard candy producers, has sold in the UK for over 30 years, but recently expanded its range of classic British flavors sweetened with sucralose in anticipation of a sugar free confectionery boom.
Big growth prospects
“Germany has a sugar free part of 30% and the UK is between 2-5%,” Judith Kemming, senior product manager at Sulá, told ConfectioneryNews.
She said the proportion of candy sales coming from sugar free products was 35% in Denmark, 40% in Sweden and as high as 60% in Spain.
“There’s a big difference between the countries – or to tell it another way there’s a big opportunity.”
She said that sugar had attracted bad press in the UK in recent months, which could lead consumers to seek alternatives. “The consumer awareness of healthy living will increase, not just in the UK but in all European countries.”
Why is UK market underdeveloped?
But why was it that UK sugar free candy market was so underdeveloped compared to other nations in Europe?
“It could be that British tastes are more traditional and they don’t want to sacrifice their favorite treats so easily,” said Kemming. “...We really want to convince the consumer to start to see that you don’t realize any difference without sugar.”
Laxation concerns not applicable to hard candies
Sulá sweetens its range mostly with sucralose and also uses isomalt and maltitol.
The laxative effects of Haribo sugar free sweets, sweetened with corn syrup and dextrose, were widely reported in the UK media, as some buyers described the effect of sugar free Haribo as "gastrointestinal armageddon".
“Isomalt has a laxative effect too but there’s a difference if you eat a hard boiled candy,“ said Kemming.
Sulá produced only hard candies and Kemming said that consumers tended to eat only a few hard candies at a time compared to gummies, which were often eaten in excess.
According to Kemming, most sugar free sweets in the UK were positioned on a health platform, to fight off coughs or to ease a sore throat. But Sulá’s products claimed no health benefits and were purely about indulgence.
The company’s classic British flavors included Butterscotch, Strawberry & Cream, Fruit Humbugs and Rhubarb & Custard. Sulá also recently added Cola and Liquorice boiled sweets in 42g flip-top boxes plus new Butter Toffee and Chocolate Toffee varieties.
The company produces products from its only factory in Metelen, Germany. Sulá’s other export markets include Italy and Denmark.