Healthy Sweets Special Edition

Confectionery Conundrum: Finding balance between quality, health and indulgence

By Anthony Myers contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Concerns about diet, weight gain and sugar intake, as well as how they might impact overall health and immune function are more prevalent than ever,' according to Cargill’s research. Pic: Cargill
'Concerns about diet, weight gain and sugar intake, as well as how they might impact overall health and immune function are more prevalent than ever,' according to Cargill’s research. Pic: Cargill

Related tags: Confectionery, sugar alternative

The focus on healthy sweets means many innovative companies are striving to make their products ‘sugar-free’ by using alternative processes and nature’s own sweet solution to keep candies tasting wonderfully indulgent without the guilt factor.

As we discussed in our recent webinar​, while the pandemic has raised interest in healthier eating to support overall health, this has also been mirrored by a growth in interest in comfort indulgence to ward of anxiety and stress. Healthy confectionery is well placed with less sugar, less calories, smaller size packs, but can the industry adapt? we asked our expert panellists.

In its latest research, the Confectionery Conundrum: Finding balance between quality, health and indulgence, Cargill said the global pandemic has left consumers hyper-aware of their health, with many uncertain about how at-risk they might be due to COVID-19.

Concerns about diet, weight gain and sugar intake, as well as how they might impact overall health and immune function are more prevalent than ever, according to Cargill’s research.

But at the same time, most people need a break now and then, and since socializing with friends and family is tough right now, they are looking for occasional relief… and finding it with indulgent treats.

Meeting these diverse needs has become an important baseline in the currently booming confectionery landscape. The global market for confectionery products (which includes three key categories: chocolate confectionery, non-chocolate confectionery and gum products) was valued at $210.3bn in 2019 and is projected to reach $270.5bn by 2027 on a CAGR of 3.6%, according to data from Allied Market Research.

In the US market alone, overall confectionery sales are expected to reach $52.6bn by 2020. So where do confectionery products fit in this new world? Health considerations are important, with about six in 10 consumers now saying they are more conscious about their overall health, and just as many stating a growing awareness of their immune function.

Digestive wellness and healthy snacking is also important. Companies promote positive ingredients, but any reformulation should be on a moderate level. Healthy habits can be combined with confectionery, it’s not about just taking out sugar, but looking for healthy alternatives -- Rudy Wouters, Head of Beneo Technology Centre

According to FMCG Gurus recent research, consumers are becoming more conscious about product ingredients, with natural formulation becoming increasingly important within the confectionery sector for those seeking reassurance over realness and authenticity.

As rising attention is placed on the importance of mental and emotional health; confectionery is already well-positioned as a ‘feel good’ category that provides consumers with a sense of comfort, but the multi-sensory experience of daring flavours, unique textures, and new formats are also being demanded by consumers to elevate their sweet-tooth experiences.

As FMCG Gurus noted, while it is important that brands do not compromise on sensory appeal, they should look to reformulate products where possible, providing reassurance that offerings such as candies and gummies are free from ingredients from additives.

This will appeal to consumers who are turning to confectionery products on a regular basis for escapism purposes, but do not want such occasions to create feelings of guilt or misalign with longer-term health goals, their research suggests.

More than 60% of consumers told FMCG gurus they wish to reduce my intake of ‘bad’ ingredients (60%), which is why it is important that products are 100% natural.

The company’s research last year revealed that of the people who purchase candies and gummies, 62% describe them as outright unhealthy. However, natural formulation is something that could make confectionery products appear less bad-for-you, especially if consumers feel reassured that products are free from additives, chemicals, and synthetics that they deem to be detrimental to their health (and in some instances, the wider environment).

In our webinar, Rudy Wouters, Head of Beneo Technology Centre,  said confectionery has an image of indulgence, and there is always a battle to combine indulgence with more healthy aspects.

Alternative sweeteners

In Europe, consumer response to alternative sweeteners has been slow to catch on, but Wouters said that since the pandemic, Beneo has seen an increase in requests for more healthy confectionery.

He said it is important to follow consumer demands and recognise their expectations.

Digestive wellness and healthy snacking is also important. Companies promote positive ingredients, but any reformulation should be on a moderate level. Healthy habits can be combined with confectionery, it’s not about just taking out sugar, but looking for healthy alternatives​.”

Paul Morris, European Sales Manager at Colombian B4B Luker Chocolate, said the healthy trend towards plant-based and alternative sugars is happening right now. “Luker are receiving considerable interest in oat-milk chocolate – the alternative sugars are coming but have been slower in Europe than North America,​”

He said Luker are very focussed on food that is better for the planet and all round health, which tends to lead back to plant-based alternatives.

Individualisation 

Bas Smit, Global VP Marketing, Barry Callebaut, said individualisation also plays a part in the heatlhy confectionery equation as not one consumer is the same as the other - even in the same country, and consumers behave completely different.

Societal  stress has played a significant part during the panedimc with consumers concerned about their finances or job. “After Covid more consumers across the age scale want to lead a symbiotic life, they want to live in sync with the world around them – and in sync with body and mind. This implies a lot and means that with specific food and drinks if they don’t adapt they will become out of preference,” he said.

Other healthy or socially responsible trends in confectionery include:

Vegan Claims​: Wider consumer interest in plant-based diets and ethical standards is attributing to a rise in vegan claims.

Sustainable Cocoa​: Chocolate launches with ethical claims continue to expand as more consumers expect brands to invest in sustainability with efforts prioritised in responsibly sourced ingredients and production, positive environmental impact, and human rights.

Related topics: Ingredients