Brits may have the sweetest tooth in Europe but new evidence suggests that health and diet concerns are pushing the UK consumer towards healthier sugar and gum confectionery options.
Market analysts Datamonitor reveal that within Europe, and confirming previous studies, in terms of market value the UK is leading the sugar confectionery market with a value worth €1.9 billion in 2002. Gums and jellies form the largest sector, representing 28 per cent of the market in value terms. The rise of pick-and-mix shops in leisure complexes such as cinemas, bowling alleys and shopping malls have contributed to this. Hard-boiled sweets are the second most popular sugar confectionery product purchased by consumers. Not totally surprising, the products eaten least are medicated sweets.
The UK consumer proves to be well ahead in the sweet tooth stakes with by far the largest market in terms of sugar confectionery spending, accounting for 23 per cent of a total European market value of €8.6 billion in 2002; Germany comes second, accounting for 14 per cent of the market. Denmark has the highest sugar confectionery expenditure per head in Europe, at $51.9 in 2001, while Poland leads European consumption per head, at 6.8 kg per head in 2001.
Not only is the sugar confectionery market very much alive and kicking, but so is its point of sale - the local sweet shop. According to the Datamonitor report, the sweet shop is undergoing some form of renaissance and, far from being squashed by the giant supermarket groups, it would seem that it has a scored place in the heart of the consumer.
"It's interesting to see where people buy sugar confectionery," commented Datamonitor analyst John Band. "Across Europe, confectioners, kiosks and newsagents are retaining or increasing distribution share, and supermarkets are losing out, suggesting that the neighbourhood sweetshop is clearly far from dead."
The UK gum confectionery market reached a value of $385 million (€350m) in 2002. Chewing gum is the largest sector of the market, representing almost 96 per cent of revenue. Within the UK gum confectionery market, the sugar-free sector has experienced extremely high growth in recent years, reports Datamonitor. The analysts claim that this is mainly due to the promotion of chewing gum as part of a total dental care package, with such concerns over health and diet having a positive effect on the market.
In addition, innovative products such as tooth-whitening chewing gum and products that release menthol vapours have also recently been released onto the market.
"People in the UK are certainly beginning to warm to sugar-free chewing gums," said Band."Given the amount of sugar and chocolate confectionery the UK eats, this may be just as well."
The biggest gum spenders in Europe are the Germans with a €545 million chunk of the total €2.6 billion European gum market. The UK consumer comes second in the European market but the Austrians have the highest gum expenditure in Europe, at $12.50 per head in 2001. Germany's per head spending is just $7.20, despite the country's huge market value. The Irish win the prize for the biggest 'chewers'. In consumption terms, Ireland leads the European market with 1.2 kilograms per head in 2001, while Germany and Greece follow this with 0.6 kilograms per head.
"Chewing gum has stronger associations than most confectionery," said Band. "For decades, in Europe at least, it's symbolised American 'cool'. With that in mind, it's noticeable that value growth in Eastern Europe has been very high over the last few years - and it's now starting to slow as people take Western freedoms for granted. In Poland and Hungary, we expect value growth to almost halve from 2002-2006 compared to 1996-2001."
Datamonitor reports that the US gum market reached a value of $2.2 billion in 2002. Chewing gum sales dominate with bubble gum barely able to attract a double-digit market share. One recent development in the US market is the introduction of medical chewing gum. The US sugar confectionery market, meanwhile, reached a value of $8 billion in 2002, representing one third of the overall American confectionery market in value terms.
"The stereotype of gum-chewing Americans is partly justified," commented Band. "US consumption of gum is higher than anywhere in Europe except Ireland. However, sugar confectionery is far more important: the average American spends almost $30 a year on sweets, compared with just $8 on chewing gum and bubblegum. Even though we expect the gum market to grow slightly faster than the sugar confectionery market, the ratio will still be almost the same in 2006."
All in all, good news for the confectionery industry with consumers in Europe and the United States clearly demonstrating that sweets continue to delight.