Candy revamps ingredients

by Allison Sebolt
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When consumers are looking to indulge in a sweet treat that isn’t chocolate, they are increasingly concerned about what is in the candy and where it came from. Specifically, consumers are concerned about the presence of artificial colors, refined sugar and corn syrup. Some even want natural and organic products.

Bert Cohen, president and founder of TruSweets, L.L.C., Prospect Heights, Ill., which makes Surf Sweets products, said in the natural and organic candy segments the newest innovations have been in vitamin-fortified products and exotic flavors. He said moms increasingly are concerned about what’s going into their children’s bodies, adding that people will continue to look for fun, novelty items for “sweet tooth” satisfaction.

“We see the market continuing to grow as consumers become more educated about the effects of artificial colors and flavors,” Mr. Cohen said. “Also, there will be more and more interest in better-for-you candy products as baby boomers continue to age. And their offspring, who have been more exposed to natural and organic products than any generation before them, will continue to look for product innovation in the non-chocolate candy category.”

The most recent product introductions from Surf Sweets include Sour Berry Bears and snack-size packs of two Surf Sweet varieties: Sour Berry Bears and Gummy Bears. The company launched Sour Berry Bears in line with the growing trend toward more sour flavors, and launched the snack-size packs to meet demand for products that offer portion control, lower calorie counts, less sugars and the use of more healthy and natural sweeteners.

According to the Global New Products Database from Mintel International, Chicago, top flavors of new products introduced in the sugar confectionery category include strawberry, cherry, orange and peppermint.

“We are finding consumers are expecting and enjoying increased flavor intensity,” said Karin Vollrath, sales and marketing director at Gimbal’s Fine Candies, San Francisco. “They like to have candies that have strong, pronounced flavor profiles. Consumers are also attracted to new superfruit flavors that carry perceived health benefits. Additionally, there is interest in new exotic flavors from across the globe and well-known ‘comfort flavors’ that have an unusual twist or are combined with other flavors in unexpected and fun ways.”

One of the most recent product introductions from Gimbal’s Fine Candies has been Cherry Lovers, an assortment of nine different cherry flavor combinations that is high in antioxidant vitamin C and made with real cherry juice. Gimbal’s also boasts of making its products in a certified peanut and tree-nut free facility so consumers don’t have to worry about potential allergens.

Meanwhile, Das Foods, Chicago, has debuted a line of lollipops called Das Lolli. The lollipops are available in Fab-O-Pom, a pomegranate and orange lollipop, and Caramel Me Happy, a caramel and lavender lollipop with caramelized cane sugar and Das salty caramel mixed with real lavender extract and seal salt.

Luna Roth, president of Toronto-based Pure Fun Confections, Inc., which produces organic candies, also said there is a trend toward getting rid of synthetic ingredients and going for naturally-derived colors and natural flavors. The move reflects growing consumer awareness about the ingredient label, Ms. Roth said.

In addition to meeting the cravings of a “sweet tooth,” Ms. Roth said hard candies are a good cure for dry mouth and a way to retain moisture. She said most of the innovation in the market is coming in flavor profiles such as goji berry, acai and ginger.

Katie Das, president of Das Foods, Chicago, said she sees the market on the upswing, but with consumers casting a more cautious eye toward value.

“I think the era of endless proliferation of exotic chocolate brands is over, and consumers will also look for more innovation in non-chocolate,” Ms. Das said. “New and exotic flavors I think will stay popular. We’ll probably see more form innovation (like layered gum or bacon flavored lollipop).”

Bacon flavors are picking up in popularity, and Das Foods is introducing a bacon and chili caramel, which is a combination of savory and smoky bacon bits with spicy chili peppers and pecan nuts wrapped in a creamy salty caramel base. In addition, Das Foods is introducing a mango chili lollipop next year, and Ms. Das said spicy mango and other Latino flavors are on trend.

In terms of the recession, the biggest impact Mr. Cohen has seen in the market has been retailers and consumers placing more importance on price promotion and discounting product on shelf. He said his company has seen a greater impact overall as the natural and organic segment is relatively stable.

According to Mintel’s database, there were 1,245 products launched in the sugar confectionery category in 2008, down from 1,355 in 2007. So far in 2009 there have been 602 new product introductions in the category.

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