The latest new product launch data tracked by Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights, which covers products launched in the US in calendar year 2015, found that free-from and organic claims in confectionery still make up a small portion of the category.
“Just over one quarter of products had an allergy and/or gluten free positioning, with organic being the next most popular, representing 12% of product launches,” Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Next in line are sugar-free claims (9%), and no additives/preservatives (8%). “There has been a lot of health driven innovation on the ingredient front, with the growing use of sugar/sweetener alternatives, along with dairy free formulations for chocolate in particular, which can be positioned for vegetarians and/or vegans,” Williams said.
“GMO-free claims were also found on 12% of products and at least 11% of products had one or more ethical claims,” she added.
The 'indulgence alibi' and portion control
During a presentation at the IFT show in Chicago last week, Williams spoke about the so-called 'The Indulgence Alibi,' which is when there is “no valid argument to take up a health positioning—but health conscious consumers do want to justify eating a product purely for pleasure and therefore look for an excuse.”
“In some cases its portion control, definitely,” Williams said about popular indulgence alibis driving consumers to purchase confectionery products. As an example, she cited Mars’ commitment to no longer sell king-sized bars starting back in 2013.
She also referenced natural ingredients, with more confectionery products sweetened by fruit-derived sugars and less (or no) saturated fat appearing on the market.
Functional confectionery still a niche in the US
A largely untapped opportunity in the confectionery category is crossing over to functional or active health, Williams said.
“Although there are examples of functional or active health new product development occurring in the US confectionery market, functional health benefits for confectionery products still remains niche,” she said.
“In 2015, the leading active health or functional claim was oral health, which represented only 4% of total confectionery product launches in the US, followed by immune health (2%) and only 1% of products having a digestive/gut health and energy/alertness claim,” she added.
The data revealed that indulgence still remains king for confectionery, and Williams added that “the bar [is] being continually raised in regard to product premiumization.”