Chewy candy is on the up and up.
Although not quite as popular as chocolate, chewy candy still commanded close to $3.3 billion in dollar sales in the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2016, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. And chewy candy also charted a 6.5 percent increase in dollar sales from the previous year.
And, says Peter van Paridon, global industry director, food and beverage, Corbion Purac, chewy candy is definitely becoming more experimental.
Flavor-wise, fruits still reign supreme but sour, spice, herb and other savory profiles are starting to filter in to jelly beans and more adult-focused brands.
“Extremely sour candy, sweet and sour combinations, salty options and exotic tastes don’t necessarily have mass market appeal right now, but are launching successfully and giving more adventurous consumers completely new experiences,” says van Paridon.
Sour flavors are incredibly popular within fruit-flavored confections, says Matt Montei, senior marketing director, Confections & Seasonal, Wrigley. And sour options are outpacing total non-chocolate segment growth by four times.
“To give consumers more ways to get their sour flavor fix, Wrigley introduced new Sweets and Sours flavors for Skittles and Starburst brands,” says Montei. “This summer, Starburst is launching Gummies in both sour and original flavors giving people a whole new way to enjoy Starbursts.”
The increasingly popular Asian brand Hi-Chew, which recently launched a line of Hi-Chew Sours, also recognizes this trend in flavors.
“Sour flavors, and unwrapped bite-sized candies in smaller, more convenient and travel-friendly packages are examples of innovations that continue to gain popularity,” says Jennifer Moling, marketing manager, Morinaga America.
Indeed, making candy easy to eat on-the-go helps align chewy candy with the growing snacking trend.
“Stand-up pouches and peg bags are driving sales for both chocolate and fruit-flavored candy and king-size packaging is also seeing year-over-year growth,” says Montei.
But when it comes to flavor, Jelly Belly has opted for the bold move.
The brand has responded to consumer demands with flavors like acai berry, pomegranate, draft beer, and champagne. It’s also launched a USDA-certified Organic Jelly Belly line for consumers looking for natural ingredients. But while those items have helped Jelly Belly stay relevant and extend the jelly bean category, their most unexpectedly successful creation is their BeanBoozled line.
“One of the biggest surprises for us has been a trend in flavor, but not the way you’d think. Our BeanBoozled jelly beans have really sky-rocketed,” says John Pola, v.p. of specialty sales, of the product that pairs delicious flavors like Coconut with intentionally bad ones like Spoiled Milk. “The game is that a consumer doesn’t know what flavor they have until they eat it. Thanks to our flavor innovations and nearly 2 million user-generated videos on YouTube, BeanBoozled has grown in popularity with no sign of slowing.”
But flavor, of course, is not the only way to innovate.
Hi-Chew, for example, has made a name for itself through its unique chewy texture.
“Our research and global market experience show that its longer-lasting chewy texture delivers not only an enjoyable snacking experience, but also deep brand loyalty,” says Moling.
“Texture is increasingly being called out on pack as confectioners now see it as a platform for differentiation. ‘Chewy’ can be quite soft and sticky, or firm and long-lasting (think Gobstoppers), so manufacturers are dedicating more time to defining the perfect texture,” says van Paridon. “This is certainly a subject that needs careful consideration for vegetarian confectionery, which today accounts for a growing proportion of the chewy candy market.”
One of the biggest challenges in formulating chewy candy is achieving the perfect balance of acidity, texture, and stability.
“The texture of chewy candy is obviously determined primarily by its ingredients, notably gelling agents and sugar levels. But production methods, packaging and environmental conditions also play an influential role,” says Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems. “Small changes in any one of these factors can have a significant impact on characteristics like stickiness, firmness or bite force, all of which must be perfectly honed for maximum consumer satisfaction.”
That’s where instrument-based analysis comes into play, providing data on a products firmness, stickiness, bite force, and elasticity. All of these are factors that affect a candy’s mouthfeel and can change depending on recipe changes and shelf life.
“Innovation historically took the form of new flavors and packaging formats, but more and more confectioners now are using texture as a platform to differentiate their products,” says Smewing.
With a segment as versatile as chewy candy, there’s plenty more to experiment with.