Confectionery trends: Vegan NPD, powering with protein, creating healthy indulgence and sensorial texture
07 Apr 2021 --- Environmental and personal health trends are driving the confectionery segment. Spurred by COVID-19, the importance of immunity is coming to the fore while sustainability is top-of-mind for companies keen to up their transparency game. On top of this, indulgence, taste and texture boost confectionery NPD as manufacturers seek better for “people and planet” ingredients, processes and methods.
Attracting today’s mindful consumers is their fundamental goal, alongside getting a competitive edge over traditional and long-established confectionery products by offering “alternative” and “healthy” ingredients.
One of the most notable trends within confectionery is vegan NPD’s growing relevance and claims with high-grade transparency and sustainability messaging.
Vegan NPD within chocolate and confectionery has been gathering pace in recent years as consumers increasingly turn away from animal-derived products. Meanwhile, they still crave the taste and indulgent experience desired from confectionery.
The increasingly mainstream appeal of plant-based products and ingredients is driving innovation in confectionery.
According to Innova Market Insights data, while total confectionery launches rose at a CAGR of less than 2 percent between 2016 and 2020, introductions of those carrying vegan claims increased at 17 percent CAGR.
More dynamic still were confectionery launches under the “plant-based” banner, with introductions more than doubling in 2020 alone.
As vegan chocolate NPD gains traction, a variety of big names are stepping up to unveil a whole host of plant-based confectionery in markets all over the world.
Big brand plant-based launches
Nestlé's first vegan KitKat, called KitKat V, is scheduled to roll out later this year after an initial UK launch recently.
“Taste was a key factor when developing the plant-based chocolate for our new vegan KitKat. We used our expertise in ingredients, together with a test and learn approach, to create a delicious vegan alternative to our original chocolate KitKat,” says Louise Barrett, head of the Nestlé Confectionery Product Technology Center in the UK.
A few months back, Lindt’s vegan chocolate range from oat milk debuted in Germany as part of the Swiss chocolate and confectionery company’s HELLO range.
Meanwhile, Mondelēz International is exploring growth opportunities in chocolate, demonstrated by buying up the rest of Hu (as in “Human”) Master Holdings, the Hu Products parent company. Hu fast became known as a US category leader in confectionery brands, winning awards for its vegan and paleo-friendly chocolate bars. It gained a strong following after developing a brand portfolio of wellness-focused, vegan and paleo-friendly snacks.
Following Galaxy Vegan’s success, Mars has also recently expanded its range of vegan chocolate with Bounty Vegan and Topic Vegan in the UK.
Powering with protein
As the plant-based trend continues to gain steam, plant-based protein also has potential for further growth in the confectionery category, notes Harbinder Maan, associate director, trade marketing and stewardship at the Almond Board of California (ABC).
She explains how the company answers demands from confectionery and specifically what benefits almonds offer for on-pack label claims.
“Almonds’ healthy halo continues to be an asset to confectionery manufacturers as the market for better-for-you foods grows. It’s clear that almonds’ over 14 versatile forms help manufacturers address evolving consumer taste, texture and nutrition needs without compromising on indulgence,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“According to the ABCs 2020 Global Chocolate Study, surveyed consumers reported that top benefits of almonds in chocolate include making chocolate crunchier, more nutritious, more filling and tastier,” she explains.
“In general, health claims are observed more frequently on new products with almonds versus total food introductions, but diving deeper into category-specific analysis illuminates the breadth of almonds’ potential on-pack label benefits.”
Almonds are a well-rounded, whole-food inclusion with six grams of protein, four grams of fiber and 13 grams of unsaturated fat per one-ounce serving, notes Maan. “The ABC has over 180 pieces of published nutrition research spanning almonds’ effects on weight management, gut health and more to inform product development.”
NPD with almonds
Innova Market Insights reported that confectionery accounted for 24 percent of global new product introductions with almonds in 2019, having experienced 25 percent growth between 2018 and 2019.
In 2019, the top health claims in confectionery launches containing almonds included gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, no additives/preservatives, natural, no added sugar, high/source of fiber and high/source of protein.
“Manufacturers can pair almonds, which have six grams of protein and four grams of fiber per one-ounce serving, with other plant-based inclusions to achieve a variety of textures and meet nutritional needs,” Maan continues.
“Although many plant-based foods are considered incomplete proteins because they are missing or low in one or more essential amino acids, manufacturers can field this hurdle and introduce crunchy or crispy textures by pairing almonds with complementary sources of plant protein like dried legumes and pulses.”
Confectionery bolstered by sustainability
Sustainability is raising the bar within confectionery, particularly the ethical and environmental challenges faced by the sector.
Tying into the Innova Market Insights Top Trend “Transparency Triumphs,” brands and manufacturers are under increasing scrutiny to detail precisely what is in their product, where the ingredients come from and who and what was involved in their journey to the end-consumer.
One example is from late last year when for the first time, Mars Wrigley publicly revealed an interactive map detailing where it sources cocoa from to boost its supply chain strategy. The confectionery giant pledged to achieve a 100 percent deforestation-free supply chain for cocoa by 2025 and says the new map boosts transparency.
As in other areas of the F&B industry, brand activism is coming to the fore. We can see how confectionery businesses play a role in social change processes.
On-trend sustainable chocolate brand Tony Chocoloney is one doing just that, in its efforts to eradicate illegal cacao labor while educating consumers about this issue through branding.
ABC recognizes that it is important for manufacturers to communicate their supply chain sustainability as consumers become more interested in the holistic environmental and ethical impact of the foods they eat.
“Almond farmers are working to grow almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, protecting the community and the environment. The industry’s Almond Orchard 2025 Goals encompass focus areas such as further reducing the water used to grow almonds, increasing the adoption of environmentally-friendly pest management tools, and achieving zero waste in orchards,” Maan continues.
“Supporting honey bee health is crucial to California almond farmers, as every almond we eat exists because a honey bee pollinated an almond blossom,” she says.
“In 2020, ABC launched its five-point Pollinator Protection plan, a collection of initiatives aimed at protecting bees during almond bloom and beyond through research, grower outreach and education. As a result of this work, 54,202 acres of almonds were Bee Friendly certified by the Pollinator Partnership over the past year.”
Meanwhile, ADM – which produces a series of flavor and texture applications for markets including the confectionery sector – aims to eliminate deforestation from its supply chains by 2030.
“ADM is the bridge between the producer on the farm and the consumer-facing brands on our tables, and we are in the unique position to influence sustainable practices across the entire supply chain,” says chairman and CEO Juan Luciano.
“We are fully committed to ending deforestation and to preserving biodiversity and water resources in our supply chain. This new policy reaffirms our commitment to responsible sourcing and will help us further reduce the impact of our operations and supply chain, and continue to hold our suppliers to high standards.”
Recently, humanitarian organization CARE and Cargill released a report highlighting cocoa sustainability. The report details the challenges and progress that has been made in child labor prevention, diversifying income and ensuring food security and nutrition for families.
Meanwhile, in January, Olam’s AtSource platform won the 2020 Reuters Responsible Supply Chain Award for its commitment to sustainability. The platform provides actionable data for manufacturing and retail customers of the third-party supply chains for products including cocoa.
By Gaynor Selby
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