Medicinal ingredients are giving candies, crisps and gums a new lease on life for consumers eager to satiate their sweet tooth and also gain health benefits. A Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, investigates.
Major US confectionary manufacturers are promoting the nutritional benefits of some of America's favourite snacks. Sweets like creamy fruit chews provide as much calcium as a glass of milk and 100 per cent of the RDA for vitamin C. Teddy bear-shaped lollipops help soothe a child's sore throat, whilst gummy bear candies ensure a good night's sleep. Antacid gums, glucosamine and/or calcium chocolate chews, tooth-whitening gums and hard candies that boost energy—each laced with more caffeine than two cups of coffee—are just some of the cutting-edge products making up one of the most explosive segments in US functional foods history. It's not all sweet; products such as soy nuts, rice crisps, organic 'hot pockets' and calcium cheddar curls are making inroads into a nutritionally untapped $20.7 billion savoury snack business that may harbour the greatest potential of all.
About half of those who purchased candy in the last month were also concerned about nutrition, according to Pfizer's Adams Candy Division of Toronto. Candy and other sweet snacks enjoy a 94 per cent US household penetration and comprise a $15 billion business. In contrast, nutrition/energy bars have a 20 per cent penetration totalling $1.4 billion in sales, $860 million of which is heavily fortified.
Snacking behaviour continues to become more prevalent. According to Roper Starch Worldwide's 2001 'Recentering Study,' only one in five Americans eats three meals a day (down 10 per cent from 1989), whilst 55 per cent eat two or three meals per day plus a snack or two, up 9 and 6 per cent, respectively.
A+ For Functional Candy
The National Confectioners Association in Vienna, Virginia, estimates that functional candy sales topped $1.6 billion as far back as 1999, representing 10.7 per cent of all non-chocolate stock keeping units (SKUs) and 1.7 per cent of chocolate. In drug, food and mass-merchandise outlets, total candy sales topped $9.2 billion in 2001, an increase of 2.7 per cent, whilst diet candies hit $93 million (up 9.9 per cent). Sugarless gum sales rose 11.9 per cent to $611 million, outstripping regular gum, which fell 6.8 per cent to $479 million.
The big news in the maturing fortified-candy sector is Pfizer's Body Smarts, which focuses on taste and goes beyond the single vitamin/nutrient concept that has characterised fortified candy. BodySmarts chocolate peanut crunch and yoghurt berry bars include 17 vitamins and minerals and have more iron than a cup of spinach, more protein than a tablespoon of peanut butter and as much dietary fibre as a slice of whole wheat bread. BodySmarts fruit chews are made with yoghurt ingredients and real fruit juice. One serving provides the same calcium as a glass of milk, plus vitamins A and E and 100 per cent of the US RDA for vitamin C. Retail sales of about $138 million are expected for the first year. In comparison, Mars' Snickers-brand sales are more than $300 million.
Fortified candy such as Minute Maid's Hi-C; Fruit Gems high vitamin C chews; Farley's Dinosaurs with vitamins A, C and E; Rhino's Calci-Bears; Viactiv calcium chews; and Natrol's Calci-Delight bars dominate the functional segment. High-vitamin C and echinacea immune-boosting candies, as well as high-caffeine, ginseng or guarana treats are other major market categories. Based on skyrocketing sales of fat-burning 'Metabo' supplements (up 68 per cent last year), candy makers such as MetaboSure, the diet and energy category of Wieder Nutrition International, are targeting the weight-loss segment. Their MetaboMints and MetaboGum offer dieters an ephedra-free 'boost of energy and metabolism.'
Moving Toward Medicine
Perhaps the most important aspect of functional candy is its longer-term ability to act as a tasty and convenient carrier for medicinal ingredients. Dimetapp's Get Better Bear pops offer relief from sore throats. Hero Nutritional Products Focus+ Yummi Bears claim to help children concentrate and more effectively absorb information. Their other gummy bear products nourish and support children's immune systems, provide dietary fibre and promote sound sleep. The Quigley Corporation offers Cold-Eeze, a cold/flu gum and bubble gum. Wrigley's new Healthcare Division recently introduced a breakthrough product, Surpass (antacid) Gum, a fast-acting chewing gum designed to 'chew through heartburn.' It is targeted at America's 121 million antacid users.
Sales of oral health care gums reached $715 million last year, up 16.3 per cent, following a 17 per cent gain in the previous two years. Packaged Facts, a New York-based watchdog group, confirms retail sales grew 77 per cent from 1996-2000, with total growth for 2001-2005 predicted at 30.8 per cent. Arm & Hammer Dental Care gum posted sales of more than $100 million in 2000, double the previous year. Procter & Gamble has teamed up with Wrigley to offer health-oriented dental gums, SmithKline-Beecham's Aquafresh range includes a whitening gum and Colgate-Palmolive is introducing a range of AdvancedAction dental-care gums. According to Multi-Sponsor Surveys of New Jersey, about half of consumers say dental gums are better for their teeth and mouth than other gums. The product possibilities seem endless for gums and candies. Vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants may be capable of preventing periodontal disease (currently at epidemic proportions), providing new avenues for functional gums and candies. Innovations are likely to include chewing gums for sensitive teeth, tobacco stain prevention and whitening; and gums and candies for oral pain, mouth sores, throat pain and teething infants; as well as breath enhancers.
Chips And Dips
From crackers to crisps, the functional snack market is exploding. Nutrition Business Journal's 'Functional Foods 2001' report predicts functional snack foods sales will reach $2.8 billion by 2005 and $4.8 billion by 2010. A comparison of last year's nutrition claims compared with 1999 indicates snack marketers are concentrating on high calcium, added fibre and organic products. (See chart, page 18) For a five-year period ending in 2002, the Organic Trade Association estimates the fastest growing organic categories to be snacks and candy (by 60 per cent), cereals (by 54 per cent), dairy (by 44 per cent) and frozen (by 40 per cent).
Watch Out, Bars
While NBJ still forecasts double-digit growth for nutrition bars through 2010, the advent of functional candies and savoury snacks will bring with it unprecedented competition. Bar marketers are already pursuing better taste and moving toward candy both in formulation and flavours. For example, Clif Bar's Luna Bar for women is enjoying boisterous sales. Its Balance Bar Gold rivals the best traditional gooey chocolate bar.
Lastly, aside from candy, savoury snacks and bars, industry segments are also releasing and developing functional snacks. From fortified yoghurt for after-school snacks (Sportables) to Med Tech Industries' freeze and fortified NutriPops and even Sci Fit fat-free beef jerky stix, the snack segment is set to be crowded with a variety of functional alternatives.
A. Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D.
Sloan Trends & Solutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 461149
Escondido, California 92046
+1 760 741 9611