Naughty but nice: Confectionery innovation hits the sweet spot

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06 Feb 2018 --- Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, a traditional time of the year when sweets, chocolate and other confectionery snacks are given as gifts by romantic souls the world over. It may be a cliché, but presenting something sweet as a sign of love is as popular as ever – and these days the act of giving is not confined to romantic partners, some of the big companies promote confectionery specifically to be given as platonic “love gifts” to friends, parents, neighbors, colleagues, teachers and anyone else who needs a bit of love in their life.

US chocolate giant, Hershey’s recently launched a campaign “everyone deserves to be shown a little love on Valentine’s Day” with a selection of products including a sports-inspired gift “ideal for your favorite sports fan” – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Football or Basketball Heart Boxes and a special pack of Jolly Rancher Jelly Hearts that can be personalized.

Meanwhile, the company behind M&M’s, Skittles, Starbursts, and chewing gums, Mars Wrigley Confectionery is opening a pop-up store in midtown Manhattan offering couples the chance to indulge in a series of spa treatments inspired by the manufacturer’s products.

On February 13 and 14, the “Sweet ReTreat” will feature “candy, chocolate, gum and mint-themed “TREATments”, like manicures, pedicures etc, promising to indulge the senses as well as the palate.

The promotion and marketing surrounding Valentine’s Day and the particular gifts given (and received) have taken on a broader theme over the years, nevertheless, chocolate reigns supreme on February 14.

Indulgence versus health
Click to EnlargeAccording to statistics from the US National Confectioners Association, 83 percent of Americans usually share candy with friends and family for Valentine’s Day, while chocolate sales represent 75 percent or more of Valentine’s Day candy purchases.

Indulgent chocolates and confectionery are, of course, still on the table, but there is a definite shift towards confectionery that is better described as “healthier indulgence” which better aligns with the growing global trend towards health, nutrition and well-being. And so there is a whole range of confectionery that comes with a better-for-you related claim.

In fact, market research experts, Innova Market Insights’ recent webinar examined how some of its leading trends for 2018 are driving development in snacks and confectionery.

There is a real shift in what global consumers think of as healthy, as evidenced by the company’s #1 top trend for 2018 – mindful choices.

Director of Innovation, Lu Ann Williams, explains how the evolution of clean and clear labels now encapsulates consumers wanting to “feel good” about their food in terms of its environmental and ethical impact, provenance, authenticity, transparency and so on.

Making a “mindful choice” is often about deciding upon better-for-you food as well as products that shout out the right message.

“When we look at the penetration of better-for-you related claims, and total product launches that we tracked in snacks and confectionery, it’s grown from 37 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2017,” says Williams.

“Even though snacks and confectionery are indulgent categories, these better-for-you claims are absolutely relevant as well.”

“There is a nice example from Jelly Belly, one of the global leaders in jelly beans. They supply information to consumers that they use real ingredients whenever possible and that’s a very honest claim because they are not saying that it’s 100 percent natural all of the time, but in this case it tells consumers they are getting the flavors they want, the quality of product they want and, where possible, they do make it real.”

New product development
The run-up to Valentine’s Day 2018 is an interesting time of year, not only for new product development and special confectionery promotions but because we are seeing certain confectionery companies regaining some footing in an industry that has been pressured recently because of the shift in consumer preference towards healthier options.

While authentic indulgent confectionery hasn’t been ditched entirely, many of the large-scale food companies and confectionery giants have been diversifying in a bid to keep pace with demand for healthier snacks - and the new product developments (both healthy and not-so) are very interesting and innovative.

Leading the way in innovation has to be Barry Callebaut’s game-changing ruby chocolate which was unveiled late last year as the official fourth category of chocolate following milk, dark and white. The beans have a pinkish red tint and unique taste – read more about the launch here.

And now Nestlé's KitKat becomes the world’s first brand to adopt the Barry Callebaut innovation, with the two companies partnering for the first-ever product – Japanese KitKat is the first consumer brand to launch a Ruby chocolate version named KitKat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby.

Click to EnlargeFor a few weeks now and perfectly timed for February 14, the Ruby chocolate version of the iconic KitKat brand has been in stores in Japan and South Korea, with plans for a roll out to other countries.

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Sandra Martinez, Nestlé Global Head of Confectionery said: “KitKat is one of our leading confectionery brands that have a unique mix of heritage and innovation. It was first manufactured in 1935 and since then has been delighting consumers all over the world with its breakthrough innovation.”

In Japan, there are more than 350 different products in a large variety of flavors. KitKat Chocolatory in Japan was also specifically selected for the affinity between its position as the most luxurious line among the world-popular KitKat Made in Japan brand and the innovation of Ruby chocolate, she says.

“The market for KitKat in Japan is mature and consumers are keen to try new and interesting flavors – that makes it a natural choice for us to launch KitKat Chocolatory Sublime Ruby in Japan.”

“Our strategy is to continue delighting consumers with the best possible products, solutions and services.”

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Sonia Popova, Global Marketing Manager Barry Callebaut also explains how consumers keep looking for indulgent yet healthy treats – and if they look good enough for social media, then that’s a real bonus.

“Snacking and mini-bite formats are getting more and more popular, like nuts, dried fruits, without added sugars chocolate, snacks rich in protein. A must-have for all these snacks in 2018 is that they are delicious, just healthy is not a compromise consumers tend to go for,” she said.

“Another trend is how more and more eye teasing the confectionery becomes: new colors, textures and rich inclusions.”

“Everything that teases the eyes and creates a 360' indulgent experience – the one that's stunning enough to be posted on Instagram.”

Innovation in the sweet space
New products play a centerstage role every year at the world’s largest trade fair for sweets and snacks ISM. New recipes, flavors, packing and marketing strategies push the industry forward and create impulses in the retail trade. Interest in the new products showcased this year in Cologne was high.

Click to EnlargeTrade visitors took part in the voting for the top innovations again this year and claiming third place was "Little Love", a chocolate bar from the Dutch manufacturer Lovechock. Raw chocolate (the beans are not roasted, but instead ground), that is milk, soy, palm oil and gluten-free and is sweetened with nectar from coconut blossoms. Only organic raw materials are processed and the chocolate is vegan.

“Lovechock is lovingly made by hand from the best organic, raw cacao from Ecuador. Instead of being roasted, the beans are cold ground. That’s why Lovechock is a natural source of flavonoids and ‘Lovechemicals’: goodies that make you feel happy and loving,” says the company website.
Meanwhile, at this year’s ProSweets, Diana Food (part of Symrise) was exhibiting a range of innovative fruit and vegetable-based concepts, based on trends in health and wellness, organic and sustainable sourcing. Diana Foods is keen to extend and use its range of natural colors and inclusions to create healthy yet indulgent sweet foods, made from sustainably-sourced raw materials.

Audrey Galli, Category Manager for Sweet & Beverages EMEA at Diana Food recently spoke with FoodIngredientsFirst about the company’s latest concepts within the confectionery space that are derived from fruit and vegetables.

One of the innovations on display was “Roses des Sables,” made using white chocolate and strawberry pieces.

“This brings a nice visual and mouthfeel, the texture is another way we want to appeal to our customers, and this concept highlights what we are able to do with our technology and frozen fruit,” Galli said.

The popularity of chocolate around Valentine’s Day is undeniable. But, whether you receive a beautifully-wrapped box of chocolates from a loved one or plan to pass out love heart candy to everyone you know, it’s a good time to keep balance in mind.
By Gaynor Selby

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