Although health is normally not a key driver in confectionery purchasing and consumption, the rising level of interest in naturalness as a whole has been making a growing impression in the confectionery sector and driving the move to “clean labeling” by the industry.
Nearly 9.5 percent of all confectionery launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of September 2012 used either natural or additive-/preservative-free claims or both. This made it the most popular health claim overall, ahead of sugar-free/low-sugar/no-added-sugar, featured on just under 9 percent of introductions, organic on 3.3 percent and low fat on just under 2 percent.
Levels of interest in natural and additive-/preservative-free claims have been much higher in the more developed markets, particularly the U.S. and Western Europe, where they accounted for 16 percent and 15 percent of total confectionery introductions, respectively. Sugar confectionery and chocolate both featured a similar number of launches using natural and additive- or preservative-free claims, but their influence was far more significant for sugar confectionery, as they accounted for over 15 percent of total launches, compared with 9 percent for chocolate.
A recent development that could also help in the drive for clean-label confectionery has been the growing use of the natural sweetener stevia, which finally gained EU approval in 2011, following on from 2008 approvals in the U.S. and Australasia. Confectionery launches featuring stevia have risen sharply, more than quadrupling over a 1-year period. Germany has seen particular levels of activity, with 2012 introductions including a reformulation of Kalfany’s Pulmoll sugar-free throat sweets with vitamin C, using stevia as a sweetener rather than artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame-K and the mid-year launch of its Acti Fresh Drops with stevia and natural fruit juice concentrates. Perhaps most significant, however, was a launch from Germany’s leading gums and jellies company Haribo, which introduced Stevi-Lakritz licorice sweets, formulated to give a natural product with 40 percent fewer calories than standard lines.
Lu Ann Williams, research manager at Innova Market Insights, confirms that interest in naturalness, all-natural ingredients and the elimination of artificial additives has continued to be an area of considerable interest in the food and drinks market. “Looking at levels of new product activity,” she reports, “this trend seems set to continue, not only in the introduction of new clean-label lines, but perhaps more significantly in the reformulation of existing market-leading brands to meet clean-label criteria.”