For many consumers, diet planning is a delicate balancing act.
They’re paying greater attention to what they eat by scrutinizing product ingredients, calorie intake and sugar and fat content. They’ve also zeroed in how much they eat, leading to a rise in pre-portioned, shareable and “snack size” products.
Still, consumers are going to indulge when they want to indulge. A recent study by FONA International, a Geneva, Ill.-based flavor company, showed half of the 500 respondents said they prefer “classic indulgences” — chocolate, ice cream, cake, candy, soda, beer and wine — over others.
So, if consumers must have that candy bar or those jelly beans, they might as well make it count, right? That’s where “better-for-you” confections come in.
In a December 2016 report on the U.S. confectionery industry, Euromonitor International pointed to the continuance of the “healthy indulgence” trend, noting that it helped flatten chocolate volume sales to a growth rate of one percent last year. Snack bars are being swapped for candy bars, Euromonitor reported, since they “satisfy sugar cravings (and even use chocolate) but enjoy a healthier positioning.”
Confectionery producers won’t be left in the dust, however. Long-standing brands have created better-for-you varieties of their classics to meet changing diet concerns, while others are experimenting with “healthier” ingredients.
“Manufacturers have innovated with products that incorporate dark chocolate, fruit, nuts or other ingredients that provide a more nutritious or lower-calorie indulgence,” the data firm said in the report summary.
The Brussels, Belgium-based The Good Chocolate Co. is among them. Earlier this year, the company introduced Lavlé, chocolate designed to give consumers the daily recommended dose — 200 milligrams — of cocoa flavanols.
Made using Barry Callebaut’s ACTICOA chocolate, which uses beans that are sourced and processed in a way that preserves up to 80 percent of the cocoa flavanols, Lavlé may help consumers improve their cardiovascular systems. It also has a low glycemic index, which helps in balancing blood sugar.
“We expect Lavlé to be a huge success globally, since we believe in an increased consumer awareness to the benefits of cocoa flavanols,” says Jennifer Moriconi, ceo at The Good Chocolate Co.
Seattle,Wa.-based Theo Chocolate also highlighted the potential benefits of cocoa flavanols by introducing Theo Chocolate Clusters last fall. Made with 60 percent dark chocolate, each bite-sized cluster contains 50 milligrams of flavanols.
However, the clusters are also packed with ingredients that have, of late, been popular in better-for-you formulations: almonds, chia seeds, coconut, lemon and turmeric, used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
“We know that in today’s world 92 percent of consumers are snacking during the day, and we created Theo Chocolate Clusters to achieve that perfect sweet-spot, where you can have a satisfying treat without ingesting empty calories. They deliver an irresistible crunch, nutrient-dense ingredients and cocoa flavanols,” said Debra Music, Theo Chocolate chief marketing officer, in a news release. “We are really excited to offer innovative products that embody the value we place on the health of people and planet.”
Apart from the desire to eat better, personal health concerns may force consumers to seek out healthier products. That was the case for Torie Burke, co-founder of Torie & Howard Organic Candies.
In 2008, Burke, along with co-founder and interior designer Howard Slatkin, had developed respective issues that prompted them to rethink their diets.
“He (Slatkin) and I needed to change our lifestyles,” Burke says. “He switched to healthful eating, including organics, which helped him lose over 100 pounds. I began experiencing severe food allergies, which forced me to change my choices. I found that an organic lifestyle has greatly improved my quality of life.”
Burke and Slatkin, who worked together in the interior design business, created Torie & Howard to help meet the demand for organic food, including snacks and candy. And the demand is there. The Organic Trade Association reported that sales hit $43.3 billion in 2015, up $4.2 billion in 2014 — the largest gain the industry has experienced.
“The trend to better-for-you choices is clear with increasing consumer demand in everything from ancient grains and plant-based proteins to functional waters and superfoods,” Burke says. “The growth in organic foods also shows the importance of providing better-for-you options for consumers in all categories, including sweets.”
Torie & Howard’s offerings include hard candies and fruit chews made with organic, all-natural, kosher-certified and non-GMO ingredients. Flavors include:
- Meyer Lemon & Raspberry
- Tarocco Blood Orange & Wildflower Honey
- D’Anjou Pear & Ceylon Cinnamon
- Pomegranate & Freestone Nectarine
- Pink Grapefruit & Tupelo Honey
Burke noted the response has been positive.
“Based on what we’ve seen here, these consumers are actively seeking better-for-you options, and Torie & Howard has grown along with that growing movement,” she says. “Consumers certainly don’t want to cut treats such as candy out of their diets, which results in better-for-you candy being very well received.”
Wholesome Sweeteners, based in Sugar Land, Texas, would agree. The company, which sells organic sweeteners, sugars and frosting under its Wholesome! brand, also deals in candy.
“Consumers want better choices, real and recognizable ingredients in their sweets without sacrificing taste,” says Bobby Patton, Wholesome v.p. of marketing and new product development.
In 2015, Wholesome acquired the TruJoy Sweets brand, under which organic candy canes, lollipops, fruit chews and chocolate chews are sold. The company also produces classic, USDA-certified organic candies such as peach rings, jelly beans and gummy worms and bears under the Surf Sweets brand.
In January, Wholesome launched DelishFish under the Wholesome! Brand. They look similar to Swedish Fish, but they are USDA organic, Non-GMO Project certified and contain no artificial colors or flavors. They’re also sweetened with Wholesome! Fair Trade organic cane sugar.
“DelishFish is perfect for all ages, as they make a tasty snack for road trips, movie nights or even a lunchbox surprise,” Patton says.
No matter what form they take, better-for-you confections are here to stay, if only to give consumers a way to have their sweets and enjoy them, too.