Driven by consumer demand for clean labels the shift from artificial to natural additives is undoubtedly gaining pace in the realm of European confectionery, a fact mirrored by this year's selection of Halloween products that show a massive leap to 'no additive' claims.
In 2007, out of a sample of 27 Halloween products to hit the market, just two bore a 'no additives/preservatives claim'.
Just one year on, nearly half the Halloween products – 11 out of 26 – launched on to the market boasted a 'no additive' claim, reveals data from market trackers Mintel.
Tide-turning research in the UK – now known simply as the Southampton study – recently linked certain commonly-used colourings used in food formulations to hyperactivity in children. So persuasive were their findings that debates at national and international levels have since ensued.
In April this year, the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) concluded that artificial colours linked to hyperactivity in children by the Southampton study should be phased out in Europe. The colours in question were tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129).
The FSA recommended the UK push for voluntary removal of the additives through extensive reformulation while advising the European regulators to implement a ban.
Meanwhile, following a review, the EU's food risk assessor, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed the Southampton study as insufficient evidence on the safety of the colourings, but is currently carrying out a full reassessment of all additives. As yet, there has been no ban implemented in Europe.
But as the Halloween European launch data from Mintel shows, with nearly 50 per cent of products bearing the 'no additive/preservative' claim, manufacturers are clearly taking the message on board.
Indeed, a closer a look at the variety of claims for the sample ranges – that include confectionery and non-confectionery products – in 2007 and 2008 shows that manufacturers have pushed hard on claims of health and naturalness.
Low/no/reduced transfat claims made an entry onto the claims domain in 2008. With not one Halloween product labelled as such out of the 27 sampled in 2007, a considerable ten products out of the 26 launched boasted the claim this year.
Linked by a swathe of studies to cardiovascular disease, heart-clogging transfats have been on confectionery and all other manufacturers' radars for some time. The fact that in twelve months claims for the Halloween products shifted from zero to ten demonstrates a definite shift in consumer awareness and demand.
Gluten-free claims also made an entry for the first time, appearing on two of the Halloween products in 2008. Low/no/reduced allergen claims were boosted slightly in 2008, shifting from just one product out of the 26 sampled last year to three products this year.
Not one of the products launched in the samples onto the European market boasted an organic claim, arguably demonstrating that although high profile in media terms, consumer demand for organic products is still at a grass roots level.
UK confectionery giant Cadbury launched branded 'trick or treat' biscuit bags for Halloween. The biscuits, shaped like pumpkins, skulls and ghosts, are covered with Cadbury milk chocolate and retail at €1.64.
In addition, the Birmingham-based firm introduced its 'Halloween mallows'. Also costing €1.64, the product consists of a light mallow on a biscuit base, coated with Cadbury milk chocolate and with a gooey blackcurrant jam centre. The product retails in a 150g pack containing ten pieces.