Special edition: better-for-you confectionery

Top tips for better-for-you confectionery

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Getty Images
Pic: Getty Images

Related tags better for you plant-based

The better-for-you trend continues transforming the confectionery market. Expect to see the latest innovations at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, which opens in May at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. In the meantime, we examine the latest research into this category.

Over the past couple of years, consumers have turned to indulgent foods and beverages to provide support or an occasional boost when needed. This has been especially true in the confectionery category.

According to Cargill​, plant-based ingredients offer confectioners a sweet opportunity to remake favourite treats—from bonbons to licorice twists—with a healthier image.

“But there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to do this. Consumer attitudes regarding sugar and sugary treats are complicated, so it’s important to understand their thinking and how it informs this evolving category.”

Almost 80% of shoppers now say they are looking for products with low-sugar or sugar-free claims, according to insights from FMCG Gurus. However, they also note that consumers exhibit a gap between attitudes and behaviours, which means they may say they are avoiding sugar but may not be doing so as much as they think.

Cargill said: “It’s a pretty murky picture for product formulators, so it’s little wonder that strategies for better-for-you confections run the gamut – from removing sugar altogether to applying new advances in sweetener technology.”

The good news is that there are many ways to make a confectionery product better for you, from replacing ingredients to reducing portion sizes. Many of these strategies are gaining traction in chocolate candies. Better-for-you chocolates are seeing momentum in the market, with both small, innovative brands and large chocolate makers entering the space, capitalizing on chocolate’s inherent health perception.

Ready-to-eat snacks

Ricardo R Rodriguez, Ingredion​'s manager, Bakery/Snacks & Confectionery said research from its studies (2022-24) show that when it comes to ready-to-eat bars Consumers are motivated by protein and lower sugar ​claims, along with a desire for bars to have simple and/or all-natural ingredients

"Different Bar types play have distinct occasions and roles," he said. "Cereal Bars skew to morning, kids consumption, and enjoyment.  Granola bars consumption is more varied by daypart & reason.  Protein Bars are more mid-day/afternoon consumption, away from home, focused on satiety & energy/focus.

The research also showed that  30% of 'protein seeking' consumers are eating protein bars to get more protein into their diet, with 43% future interest. High awareness of protein type in bars '​protein seeking' customers consume, with whey being most common.

He points to a Innova Category Survey 2023 that reveals the top reason for US & Canadian consumers to decrease their consumption of sugar confectionery from a year ago is “Because it is unhealthy”; according to 59% of Canadians and 50% of US consumers.

Rodriguez also pointed to ATLAS, Ingredion Proprietary Global Consumer Study, 2023 that revealed:

  • Consumers are looking at ingredient list (45%), ingredient claims (43%), nutritional information (41%) and health claims (29%). 23% of consumers rank certification by third party organizations in the top 3 most important attributes when making the purchase decision. 
  • Compared to last year, consumers are checking more ingredient labels (50%), checking nutritional label (49%), looking for lower prices (48%), buying packaged foods with natural ingredients (47%), and buying foods with less sugar.

Candy colour

According to experts at EXBERRY by GNT​, to maximize candy’s appeal, manufacturers now need to give consumers permission to indulge by incorporating clourful and healthier attributes.

Its top five trends for better-for-you candy include:

  1. Cutting down on sugar is a massive part of the permissible indulgence trend, with Innova Market Insights finding that sugar reduction claims at least slightly influence 91% of consumers.
  2. Immune claims make an impact. Covid-19 created a renewed focus on immune health, with 67% of consumers worldwide willing to purchase products that boost the immune system even when not suffering health problems.
  3. Organic on the up. Organic was among the top three product claims for confectionery during the pandemic. Demand for organic food and drink has surged, and organic products are seen as healthier and more sustainable.
  4. Success through cutting stress The brain often craves confectionery when stressed, so it is perhaps little surprise that research shows 75% of US consumers believe chocolate and candy are integral to emotional wellbeing.
  5. Plant-based continues to thrive. Confectionery launches featuring vegans have been rising in recent years.   There is good reason for this – plant-based products are not only seen as healthier and more ethical but also more sustainable.16 FMCG Gurus research shows 45% of consumers worldwide changed their diets to become more environmentally friendly in the two years up to 2020, with 42% of those respondents reducing or eliminating dairy, 22% switching to vegetarian diets and 10% becoming vegan.

Snacking made right

In a recent Snacking Made Right Report by Mondelēz International​ it discovered that consumers around the world are increasingly looking for snacks and sustenance that fit into their often busy lifestyles while snacking, more mindfully.

According to its 2022 report:

  • 68% of survey respondents said they check nutrition labels on snacks before buying them
  • 61% said they take time to portion out snacks before eating them
  • 78% said they take time to savor indulgent snacks

“To us, the concept of 'mindfulness' extends far beyond the satisfaction and pleasure our consumers feel when they taste our delicious snacks. We’re mindful about choosing the right ingredients, blending them in just the right way, adhering to the high standards of quality and safety, and making it easy for consumers to select the appropriate portions to fit into their busy lifestyles,” the report claimed.





Related topics Ingredients Health & functionality

Related news

Follow us


View more