Sugar-free candy set for sweet future

Major brand support and the increasing sophistication and usability of low-calorie sweeteners is driving growth in sugarless confectionery, according to a report from market researcher Euromonitor International.

Sales of sugar-free sweets are now outperforming the growth of the confectionery category as a whole, with reduced-sugar confectionery growing by 6.1 per cent between 2004-2005 in the US to reach $3.3 billion. In the same period, the total confectionery market grew at a much slower rate of 1.3 per cent.

"While reduced-sugar confectionery comprises only 13 per cent of the confectionery market, its share of the total market has grown from nearly 11 per cent in 2002," Euromonitor stated. "While much of the success of sugar-free confectionery is down to the performance of established sectors, such as sugar-free gum and medicated confectionery, the development of new sugar substitutes, such as sucralose, is paving the way for a new wave of sugar-free products that taste more like real sugar. Consumers typically associate sugar-free confectionery with an unpleasant aftertaste, but with the help of new sophisticated sweeteners, manufacturers have been branching into sugar-free products, including sugar-free chocolate, that appeal to more and more Americans."

The participation of major brands such as Russell Stover and Hershey was another significant factor in the sector's buoyant growth as it had broadened distribution and increased visibility with mainstream consumers. "Americans now see sugar-free confectionery as a healthier alternative to confectionery, rather than just a regulatory product for diabetics," said Euromonitor. "Provided major brands continue to move into the sector, improving product availability and selection, sugar-free confectionery should establish itself as a mainstay in the US confectionery market."

Euromonitor forecasts sugar-free products will grow by 5 per cent a year until 2011.

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