Sugar confectionery and gum sales (including exports) increased by 2.3 per cent in volume terms last year, according to the Asociación Española de Fabricantes de Caramelos y Chicles (CAYCHI), the industry association, but value sales dropped 1.7 per cent mainly as a result of poor sales in the US.
The domestic performance was encouraging, however, with a 1.8 per cent drop in volumes to around 200,000 tons more than offset by a 2 per cent gain in value to around €650 million as consumers switched to higher added-value products.
. Spain is a nation of sweet eaters - indeed, a survey carried out by CAYCHI earlier in the year showed that more than half the adult population of Spain regularly ate some form of sugar confectionery - but greater health awareness among younger consumers has led to a marked change in consumption patterns.
CAYCHI's survey showed that Spaniards aged 16-25 were by far the biggest consumers of sugar confectionery, and it is this demographic which has fuelled growth in sugar-free variants in particular: sugar-free now accounts for 57.5 per cent of all sweet sales and 85 per cent of all gum sales in Spain, the association said.
It was not just sugar-free products which boosted the adult domestic market last year. Toffees, for example, showed a 24 per cent increase in sales during the year, contributing to a 20 per cent increase in the market as a whole - and this despite already being the most popular sweet product in Spain, accounting for more that 55 per cent of the market by value.
The flip side of growing demand for confectionery among adults is that the children's market has suffered, despite the success of a number of new products. Demographic changes have also taken their toll - Spain's adult population is increasing faster than the younger one as a result of immigration - and confectioners have perhaps been a little slow to adapt to the changing market dynamics.
There was some good news in the children's market, with jelly sweets showing a 4 per cent increase in volumes last year after a tough period affected by higher raw material costs, among others. And marshmallows, another perennial children's favourite, also performed well, with a 13 per cent rise in volume and a 16.7 per cent increase in value.