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Have it Both Ways: Confectionery’s Bright Future with Permission to Indulge Ingredients

Author: Julian Mellentin, New Nutrition Business

In the midst of the growing discussion about health and nutrition, we should never lose sight of the fact that pleasure and honest indulgence are what most consumers are looking for – even the most health-active people.  Delivering on those needs is what fuels success in the confectionery category.

Honest indulgences with exciting flavours and ingredients open up lots of opportunities for new product development. Many brands are doing well by offering truly indulgent products made with “real” ingredients like premium chocolate, ‘single origin’ cacao or fruit inclusions.

But even more powerful than honest indulgence is positioning a product as ‘permission to indulge’. This has consistently proven to be one of the smartest strategies, because what people want most from a product is a ‘healthier’ message that gives them permission to enjoy themselves and still feel good about their choices.

Reducing the amount of sugar in their diet is high on consumers’ must-do lists. But people still want pleasure and a reward. Confectionery brands are working hard to deliver on both these needs, for example replacing sugar with isomalt – now the number one sugar replacer in hard-boiled candies worldwide – or with fibres like chicory root. Replacing sugar with sweet-tasting fibres like inulin is a tried-and-tested method for making a better confectionery product. For example:

In Finland, “Suitable for anyone who wants low-sugar indulgence”, is the message from the Cloetta group’s successful liquorice product. It is 30% less sugar and communicates that “The sugar has been replaced mainly with sweetening fibre”.

In Spain, the world-renowned Chupa Chups brand takes a similar approach, positioning its Good For You line as a choice that means that people “don’t have to feel guilty about treating themselves or their family.”  The range uses only natural colours. It includes isomalt helping to cut sugar completely and inulin for adding fibre.

In the Netherlands, the Chokay brand is also growing by connecting to people’s need to indulge without guilt, securing national distribution for its super-indulgent dark chocolate bars – using premium organic Belgian chocolate – with no added sugar.

Another path is to marry the concept of confectionery with supplements, with companies increasingly adding vitamins or other nutrients to improve the nutritional profile.

In the US, Starpowa is a brand of berry-flavoured vitamin gummies for hair, skin and nails health that have “clinically proven ingredients that deliver healthy skin, hair and nails” – mostly vitamins and minerals.

Adding vegetables is another way to create a health halo. Many confectionery brands are highlighting their use of only natural colours from easy-to-understand sources, such as pumpkin, sweet potato or purple carrot. And there’s a step further that they can take. Adding higher percentages of vegetables – up to 30% – is already proving to be a growth strategy in breakfast cereals and in the bakery category. Breads such as the 30% vegetable brand sold in Finland by  Fazer have now been around long enough – since 2015 – to show that it’s a proposition that engages the consumer.

Whether it’s a lower-sugar message or benefits like naturalness, more fibre, added vitamins or vegetables, a company that can deliver confectionery with added benefits is giving consumers what they most want – permission to indulge.

Eating is about pleasure, and the desire to enjoy food is the reason why products that provide indulgence together with a health benefit will always appeal most.