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Health, indulgence and sustainability solutions in the confectionery market

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Driving indulgence and sustainability in the confectionery market

Confectionery has long been synonymous with indulgence, providing a delightful escape from the daily grind.

Sweet treats, chocolates, and confections have offered solace and delight in equal measure, capturing the hearts of consumers across generations.

But the confectionery market is far from static. It's a dynamic landscape that responds to the ever-evolving tastes and preferences of consumers. Today, understanding the market's current dynamics is not just beneficial; it's essential for businesses aiming to innovate and succeed. The pandemic brought about significant shifts in consumers' eating habits and preferences, leading to a transformation in the indulgent food landscape. In the early days of the global crisis, indulgent food such as confectionery gained newfound prominence, offering solace and even serving as a source of stress relief during uncertain times.

However, the pandemic's influence extended beyond its immediate impact. Demand for healthy eating accelerated soon after, giving rise to the concept of ‘permissible indulgence’. Consumers now seek to strike a balance in their eating habits, embracing products that offer both the pleasure of indulgence and the promise of better health.

According to Euromonitor International's Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition survey, consumer awareness of healthy food ingredients and functionality increased significantly in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic times.¹

This shift has fuelled the growth of the global health and wellness ice cream market, for instance, which is expanding its product portfolios to include plant-based options. Confectionery categories expanded their horizons, embracing healthier ingredients while health-focused foods experimented with indulgent flavors.

That said, the path to permissible indulgence in dairy alternatives has not been without hurdles. A study by Barry Callebaut, analysing plant-based indulgence across confectionery, bakery, pastry and ice-cream, showed that less than 50% of the respondents are satisfied with the current offering of plant-based milk chocolate.² Additionally, research compiled by food label consultants Ashbury earlier this year revealed that online demand for vegan chocolate has plummeted almost a quarter (23%) year-on-year.³

Today's sweet spot in the confectionery market resides at the intersection of health and indulgence. While plant-based options remain in vogue, new and creative ideas are competing with products that focus solely on indulgence while using extra ingredients to stay permissible.

One key approach is infusing a tasty twist, introducing an indulgence angle, and thereby reducing the taste-related barrier to expanding the consumer base and eating occasions. Market research indicates that 48% of European consumers express a strong desire for new sensory experiences, including a variety of tastes, textures, flavors, aromas, colors, and sensations.⁴

Rising to the challenge of inflation

In addition to the above, the confectionery market faces unique challenges and opportunities as it grapples with inflationary pressures. Mintel's Global Annual Trends 2023 Report notes how consumers are emerging from the pandemic into a cost-of-living crisis in many regions.⁵ Lower income and even financially secure consumers want to prepare for future uncertainty as the economic forecast in many regions remain uncertain.

The impact of rising inflation on consumer spending habits also presents opportunities within the confectionery market. Two significant trends are emerging:

Growth of premium solutions​ Consumers are on the lookout for new flavors and sensory experiences. Premium filling fats and innovative offerings are gaining traction, appealing to those seeking an elevated indulgence experience.

Growth of value-for-money solutions ​Rising inflation is prompting consumers to explore cost-effective options. Solutions such as Cocoa Butter Replacers (CBR) and Cocoa Butter Substitutes (CBS) are gaining ground, offering a quality boost to product ranges. Consumers are also increasingly turning to lower-cost retailers to stretch their budgets.

In response to these financial pressures, brands must continue to offer solutions that help consumers manage costs while providing them with a means of escapism. Collaborative efforts between brands and consumers can establish new connections and navigate these challenging conditions together.

Collaborating, innovating, and co-creating

Bunge believes that co-creation begins with expertise on both sides, taking the time to understand the business of its partners vis-à-vis the global indulgence market. The team of R&D lipid experts, food innovators, marketers, and data experts are always keeping an eye on trends, supply chain challenges, and the growing demand for nutrition-dense confectionery products.

As the creator of Cocoa Butter Equivalents (CBEs), Bunge empowers its customers to co-create products that break new ground, whether it is in coatings, fillings, or spreads. Its CBEs surpass cocoa butter in multiple ways, as demonstrated by blind testing. Almost indistinguishable from real chocolate, they offer more versatility and enable Bunge’s customers to make a difference while opening up endless possibilities for their confectionery creations.

To share an example, one of the innovations currently driving indulgence is aeration, as it offers a new eating experience. Aeration creates a lighter texture, associated with luxury and indulgence, while also delivering a softer product that melts faster. Aeration of the fats also assists customers in improving sensory experience such as increasing coolness perception while reducing waxiness mouthfeel. Offering a reduced calorie content per volume and cost savings, aeration aligns with consumers' increasing focus on health and calorie intake.


Indulging responsibly

In a world increasingly focused on environmental consciousness, consumers are turning their attention to the origins and production methods of their beloved confectionery. The future of chocolate must be ‘green’ and ethical. According to Mintel, a third of chocolate eaters actively seek ethical certifications and claims when making their confectionery choices.6

The demand for organic chocolate is on the rise, albeit at a gradual pace. Consumers are drawn to the promise of sustainably sourced cocoa and palm oil, reflecting their commitment to environmental preservation and responsible sourcing. In essence, the modern confectionery consumer is not just savoring confectionery; they are savoring a clear conscience.

Empowering communities and ensuring accountability

Sustainability has always been at the core of the ethos at Bunge. Bunge recognizes that in an era marked by climate change and food security concerns, its responsibility towards the environment is paramount. For Bunge, sustainability extends beyond environmental responsibility. It also means empowering the communities it works with. The "Where Life Grows" shea sustainability program in West Africa is a testament to this commitment, offering education, training and stable income opportunities, especially benefiting female shea collectors in local villages.

In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Bunge is dedicated to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains, collaborating only with suppliers committed to "No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation (NDPE)" practices when sourcing palm oil. Bunge is also working toward achieving full traceability to plantation. And for businesses seeking non-palm ingredients, a range of other sustainable palm alternatives is offered.


Not only has Bunge set ambitious science-based targets to reduce its climate impact but it also maintains a high level of accountability through its certifications and commitment to ethical sourcing.

The rapidly evolving world of confectionery is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of both the industry and its consumers. As tastes and preferences continue to shift, Bunge remains committed to pioneering innovative solutions that meet the demands of this changing era. Together with its partners and customers, Bunge looks forward to a future where every sweet moment is savored responsibly, ensuring a treat for both today and generations to come.


1.​ Euromonitor. Consumer Health in 2022: Priorities, Opportunities and Concerns​.
2.​ Barry Callebaut. Plant-Based Consumer Trends​.
3.​ Ashbury. Has Vegan Chocolate Had its Day?
4.​ Barry Callebaut. Top 6 trends to watch in Bakery​.
5.​ Mintel. Mintel Announces Global Consumer Trends for 2023​. 
6.​ Mintel. Mintel Insights Database, 2022​.