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Powder & Bulk Solids examines several trends that are likely to impact confectionery manufacturers in the 2020s. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Confectionery Firms Brace for Change, Innovation in ‘20s

As the 2020s get underway, confectionery consumers are eating less sugar, demanding more natural ingredients, and hunting for products with interesting colors, textures, and flavors. Observers within industry and market research firms agree that the push toward reduced sugar offerings, better-for-you ingredients, and novel sensory experiences will have a significant impact on the confectionery industry over the next year and beyond.

Some products showcased at the 2020 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this January already reflect some of these trends, like the LivBar nutrition bar that includes raspberry, kale and maca, Alter Eco chocolate made with grass fed milk, and Aghati Oriental Sweets’ fruit and nut-based confectionery products made in Jordan. 

Powder & Bulk Solids examined available forecasts and consumer surveys to offer insights on what changes might be ahead for confectionery production operations and how to stay ahead of the curve.  

Natural Ingredients Take Center Stage
Consumers are increasingly seeking out products made from healthy, or better-for-you, ingredients across all food and beverage categories. The trend has been slowly creeping into the confectionery space, with releases of lollipops made with Manuka honey, fiber-enriched gummi bears, CBD-enriched confectionery products in recent years. 

“Candy has remained largely popular with U.S. customers. However, candy makers have their eye on the growing consumer preference for healthy lifestyle trends. Therefore, we see an uptick in candy brands that contain more natural ingredients and fewer GMOs, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial additives,” natural flavor and fragrance ingredients producer Advanced Biotech (ABT) said in a recent article. “Furthermore, candy companies are adding in more nutritious and functional ingredients, such as seeds, nuts, and fruits.”

Market research firm Innova Market Insights predicts that consumers will increasingly seek out snack and confectionery products with “recognizable ingredients,” particularly plant-based ingredients, over the next year. 

During the 2020s, candy producers will likely work to find a good balance between consumers’ desire for indulgence and rising demand for wholesome ingredients. While interest in natural ingredients is rising, there are some indications that “healthy candy” will not fully overtake the market. Nearly half (46%) of consumers that participated in a recent FMCG Gurus survey said they do not pay attention to ingredients when eating an indulgent product.

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New Flavors, Colors, and Textures
57% of consumers enjoy products that feature new and unusual flavors, according to a survey published this January, and 52% said they seek out foods with new and unusual colors. Over the next decade, the confectionery industry will face a challenge to create products that not only taste good, but also taste interesting and engage the body’s other senses. To accomplish this, candy makers will turn to novel flavors, colors, and textures. 

Confectionery manufacturers have introduced products with unconventional flavors to suit regional tastes, as Nestle did with green tea-flavored KitKat bars in Japan, or as novelties, like black pepper and sausage flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans. During the 2020s, makers of candy and chocolate will likely continue to embrace flavors from different parts of the world and start to include flavors of lesser-known fruits, flowers, and other plants. Flavor solutions firm FONA International’s “Flavor Radar” flavor trend watch list for 2020 includes some unique sweet flavors like jackfruit, tigernut, quandong, and orange blossom

Consumers will also likely be looking for interesting textures in confectionery products over the next decade. Innova identified “Tapping into Texture” in a recent report as one of the five biggest trends for 2020 in the snacks and sweets category. 70% of consumers surveyed by the market research firm said texture provides “a more interesting experience.” Younger consumers, in particular, place greater emphasis on confectionery and snack products with interesting textures than their Baby Boomer or Silent Generation counterparts. 

“A total of 56% of those aged 26-35 say that they care more about the texture experience than they do about the ingredient list, compared with only 37% of over-55s, so textural twists can be a useful tool when targeting the young,” Innova said. 

Regardless of the target demographic, confectionery manufacturers should pay attention to interesting textures, colors, and flavors when developing new products during the next decade. 

Sugar Reduction Trend to Continue 
Powder & Bulk Solids wrote extensively last year about the increase in launches of reduced-sugar chocolate products as consumers look for better-for-you options or products that fit in with certain diets, like keto. Barry CallebautMondelez International, and Nestle introduced new reduced-sugar chocolate products last year and Cargill said it was investing in new production capabilities for reduced-sugar chocolate at its Mouscron, Belgium chocolate manufacturing plant. 

A 2018 survey by Ipsos found that 69% of Americans and 73% of Canadians are concerned about the sugar content in candy products. The sugar reduction trend will continue to spread from chocolate to other confectionery product categories in the next 10 years.

Awareness of alternative and natural sweeteners like stevia is increasing and these ingredients are starting to be produced on a larger scale, making them a more viable option for confectionery manufacturers. Last November, ingredient solutions firm Ingredion opened a new production plant in San Juan del Rio, Mexico that will manufacture the natural sweetener allulose to serve food and beverage manufacturers across the America. That same month, a joint venture between Cargill and Royal DSM, Avansya, started commercial production of zero-calorie stevia sweetener at a new $50 million fermentation plant in Blair, NE.

The shift away from sugar may be profitable to candy makers as well.  A study conducted by Cargill in 2019 found that 54% of consumers will spend more on a product with no or reduced sugar. SmartSweets, a brand of low-sugar gummi candies launched in 2016 sold in the U.S. and Canada, said last year that it expected to generate revenues of over CA$50 million, or about $37.59 million.

The Bottom Line
Responding to consumer demands in the 2020s will require confectionery firms to experiment with new product formulations that introduce new flavors, colors, or textures and innovate in creating delicious better-for-you offerings that include natural, wholesome ingredients.  

No one can be sure how much of an impact these trends will have on the industry – after all, candy and chocolate are, by definition, indulgent. Confectionery manufacturers will have to remain agile in developing new on-trend offerings, while also continuing to produce familiar classics that consumers already know and love. 

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