What’s the next innovation in the world of confectionery?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 26th June 2009

Experimenting with flavours, flexibility and variety, confectionery makers are thinking outside the bar to provide consumers with chocolate and confectionery innovation that will drive consumer purchasing over the next five years, according to the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) Confectionery Industry Trend Report 2009 from America.

“Insight from the confectionery industry’s leading influentials provides an appetising future for consumers and the industry alike,” NCA President, Larry Graham, suggested. “Chocolate and confections are treats that consumers can count on to be affordable luxuries. Our industry provides people with new choices, new experiences and old favorites that provide moments of happiness to be enjoyed any time.”

With insight from leading manufacturers, market researchers, award-winning chocolatiers, nutritionists and confectionery makers, the report discovers leading category trends, including:

* Chocolate explosion
* Health benefits
* Flavour fusions
* International influences

What’s next?
Almost nine out of the ten experts surveyed (88%) believe that the next “big” trend in confections will be healthier confectionery options, specifically a growing demand for health benefits and ‘better for you’ ingredients. Already, the American industry body has seen consumers embrace portion-control sized treats and the potential heart health benefits of higher cacao content in chocolate. As consumers continue to lead healthy lifestyles, health benefits will heavily influence manufacturers to focus largely on developing ‘better for you’ confections, especially new types of enhanced chocolate treats.

More than sweet and good to eat, manufacturers will take steps toward social responsibility. Sixty-five per cent said eco-friendly manufacturing efforts, like recyclable packaging, will influence product development and consumer purchasing.

Chocolate is anticipated to emerge as one of the largest growth drivers for the industry in new and exciting ways. Experts predict consumers can expect to find chocolate and cocoa popping up more frequently as a key ingredient in main courses alongside salmon, chicken and steak. Not just for dinner, 38 per cent of insiders say to be on the lookout for cocoa and chocolate in appetizers.

“Chocolate is a classic indulgence,” Susan Smith, senior vice president of NCA’s Chocolate Council, noted. “From its potential health benefits to its organic roots and inclusion as an ingredient in many types of sweet and savoury foods, we have only begun to experience the versatility of chocolate.”

Embracing versatility may mean more of an emphasis on global influences and flavour pairings, according to the survey. Forty-three per cent of experts say consumers are going to become more open to chocolate and flavour infusions that include spices, salts, herbs and floral flavours. For example, exotic fruit pairings such as mango will become more prominent and we’ll start to see ethnic flavors emerge in popularity with herbs being incorporated into chocolate dishes. Consumers can also expect to see sweet and savoury combinations like chocolate and bacon, as well as chocolate and cheese duos appear in stores and on the menu.

In the chocolate and cocoa category, the potential health benefits of the antioxidants found in chocolate will continue to be evidenced as new health-related findings are discovered. Nearly half of those surveyed advise that there will be more research into the potential health benefits of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, including exploration of naturally occurring cocoa compounds and positive effects on mood and blood pressure levels.

One-third of experts also contend that consumers will become more knowledgeable about the global origin of the chocolate they enjoy. Embracing origins helps consumers to breakdown cacao percentage and connect the provenance of the cocoa bean to the final product. All chocolate begins with cocoa beans, the fruit of the cacao tree. The tree, Theobroma cacao, produces pods that hold cacao beans. These trees grow only in tropical regions around the world within a close proximity to the equator. Therefore, many exotic locales can lay claim to a connection with chocolate including regions like Africa, the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, Indonesia and South America.

Better for You
Since 2005, the confectionery industry has begun responding to market demands for healthier alternatives by introducing hundreds of portion-controlled, calorie-controlled, reduced-fat, sugar-free and fortified products. And there’s no sign of a slow down, according to the NCA’s research. Forty-three per cent say health-related influences will be the leading influence on new product development in the confectionery industry overall. Within the health category, drivers include:

* Portion control. 35 per cent of industry leaders cite portion control as the leading influencer. The popularity of snack-sized products and 100-calorie packs, which give consumer the full flavour of their favorites, in smaller, reduced calorie options, is expected to continue.
* 25 per cent point to fortified products – confections with added vitamins, minerals or protein.

The experience of chocolate is extending beyond an edible edition and into personal care products. The benefits of cocoa butter, which is an essential ingredient of all chocolate, will also continue to materialise, the research argues.

The majority of respondents also say that oral health care will drive the chewing gum category, as sugar free options get the approval of dentists.

In 2008 alone, more than 6,000 new confectionery and snack products debuted in the US. Candy, chocolate and gum continued to lead the snack category in sales and ranked third in food sales overall in 2008. And the confectionery industry posted a 3.7 per cent gain for the 52-week period ending April 19, 2009 as comfort food received support in a recessionary environment.

Experts say limited editions – which allow confectionery makers the freedom to experiment with flavours in a variety of ways – will continue to prevail. Limited-time product extensions will be big, experts think, such as introducing dark chocolate versions of classic milk chocolate candies. Experimental limited editions will also include more entertainment promotional ties and new twists on old favourites, such as unconventional combinations.

When it comes to kids’ candies, intense new flavours and interactive experiences are the order of the day. Respondents comment that this dynamic category is unique and different from all other products in the market, catering to the more attention-grabbing, fun and entertaining products that kids like.

Global Influences
International spices and ethnic flavours will also have a large influence on new products and flavour development overall. Insiders point to Europe as the birthplace for international confectionery trends now and in the coming years. Although Europe is most frequently perceived as the origin of confectionery trends, Japan appears to be an emerging influencer in the candy industry.

And, when it comes to America’s global influence, one in three said that US trends will have the greatest impact on the dark chocolate market, while twenty per cent believe the US confectionery market will influence product pricing and economic issues overseas.