“Specific artificial colors and flavors are raising a lot of concern among consumers and health care professionals,” prompting them to forgo products made with these ingredients and seek more natural alternatives, such as organic, said Bert Cohen, president of the organic candy manufacturer TruSweets.
Indeed, a recent survey by flavor and color firm Kalsec found 80% of parents in the US and UK are concerned about the use of synthetic colors in food and beverages for their children. They are especially worried about red dye 40’s potential link to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. In addition, the survey found, 83% of parents said they are more likely to buy foods for their children that contain naturally-sourced colors.
This shift potentially could have a major impact on the conventional candy category, which traditionally has relied on artificial colors to create bright, eye-catching hues. Many major players are reformulating their confections to use only natural colors and flavors, but in some cases the new products are not yet ready.
Organic candy, which cannot have artificial colors and flavors, is well-positioned to help fill this void immediately, Cohen said.
The category also is primed to take advantage of the general ongoing shift to organic foods, Cohen said, adding: “Organic is growing rapidly … with adoption rates of 5-10% and higher in core categories such as milk, meat, fruits and vegetables.”
Cohen acknowledged that organic candy is not growing as fast as other organic categories, “but what we see happening is if a consumer makes a decision to get into the organic market starting with milk, produce and other daily staples like meats or cold cuts, over time as they adopt more and more practices a lightbulb goes off and they ask themselves why they are buying candy with artificial colors, flavors and corn syrup.”
At that point, they start to look around or better-for-you and organic alternatives to conventional confections, he said.
Raising consumer awareness
But in order to take full advantage of these growth drivers, organic manufacturers and retailers need to work together to raise consumer awareness about the category, Cohen said.
“One of the biggest challenges for organic candy is just getting retailers to really buy-in and dedicate the shelf space,” Cohen said. He acknowledges that the organic candy market is still relatively small, but he says more consumers will come if retailers will build the space in an area where consumers can easily identify the candy as natural and organic.
“A natural and organic candy section is not going to overnight become a huge success, but it is going to give retailers incremental sales longer term and help them reach consumers who have a decent amount of disposable income and want organic treats,” he said.
Without an organic candy option, he added, retailers may find themselves actually losing sales, at least temporarily, as consumers hold off on buying conventional candy made with artificial flavors and colors.
More innovation needed
Cohen also is doing his part to raise consumer awareness of organic candy through traditional demonstrations and social media outreach. But he says the most influential step manufacturers can take to build the category is to innovate.
The organic candy segment does not currently offer as much diversity as the conventional segment, but TruSweets is trying to change that.
Under its Surf Sweets brand, which not only is organic but also is free of the top 10 most common allergens and is vegan, the company launched for Halloween Jelly Bean Trick or Treat Packs that each contain 20 mini packs of Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans that are Non-GMO Project Verified.
It also offers Fruity Bear Trick or Treat Packs in Halloween designs, and Spooky Spiders, which come in single serving packs.
The company also is innovating under its TruJoy Sweets brand to launch TruJoy Sweets organic Peppermint Choco Chews. The new candy combines pieces of the company’s organic peppermint candy canes with its original Organic Chocolate Chews.
While chocolate is widely loved in the US, Cohen said he sees significant potential for innovation in the non-chocolate segment and continuing to create confections that don’t already exist in the organic world but are a temptation from the conventional segment.
He adds his company also will continue to focus where it already excels – at providing candy with bright, juicy flavors.
New players welcome
Cohen also believes the organic category will gain more momentum as more, well known players enter the category because they will help validate the segment to retailers and raise awareness among consumers.
With that in mind, he welcomed the recent addition of organic Jelly Belly Beans to the category.