Ingredients and Formats adapts for Healthier, Portable Candy and Snacks

Snacking is popular among consumers, but with increased health awareness and wellness education, snack companies are now changing their format to adapt to the needs of shoppers. Brands are focused on clean-label snacks, organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO products to meet these new requirements.

Emphasis For Healthy Snacks

With the rise of health-conscious consumers, it is no wonder why snack companies are clamoring to fill this new niche. For instance, aside from using clean labels, companies are designing snacks made from fewer natural ingredients without the use of artificial coloring and flavors.

Consumers are now following different diet restrictions. People who suffer from celiac disease, for example, can now find snacks that are made without the presence of gluten. Other companies have specialized in making healthy snacks without the use of genetically modified ingredients.

Why Focus on Candy Bars and Snacks?

So why are companies focused on making healthy candies and snacks? The smaller serving size is perfect for people who are always on the go. According to Millennial, a US-based research company, consumers are looking for bite-sized snacks that are not only easy to consume but that offer portion control in a re-sealable format. This format is being adopted by food brands like Snickers, Milky Way, and Twix by producing 100 calorie sticks.


Aside from the portion sizes, the packaging of candies and snacks is changing. The change in the packaging is aimed at improving the shopping experience for consumers. Candy companies are also focused on changing the ingredient list. For instance, the infamous Mars bar uses gluten-free ingredients such as whole nuts, fruits, and dark chocolate for those who have gluten restrictions.

Better Opportunities for Snacking Companies

The strategies implemented by snack companies have resulted in a huge revenue of $13.7 billion this year, which is a 2.4% increase compared to the previous year. The increase provides real motivation to snack companies when it comes to innovating their products.

Most consumers are actively shopping for healthier food items, so the merchandising of healthy snacks often involve placing the snacks near the produce section. This is to give the consumers the idea that the snacks are healthy. On the other hand, the store that receives a high amount of traffic can also place their snack products on visual shipper displays to provide appealing storage.

The thing is that the snacking industry will be big given a few years’ time as more people demand products that contain healthier ingredients. With the steady increase in revenue as well as popularity, the category of healthy snacks will continue to grow.

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Confectionery Industry Goes Clean Label

The confectionery market in the United States had an estimated value of $35.86 billion in 2016. The value is expected to rise to over $38.19 billion in the next four years. According to a market research company, Technavio, confectionery companies sold a total of 7.31 billion pounds of products last year.

The slow forecast of growth for the confectionery industry (0.81%) made industry leaders think twice about what they need to do to improve their sales. Strategies such as acquisitions, diversifying the portfolio, and alignment with consumer trends have been implemented. One of the strategies that this particular industry implemented was clean labeling.

Confectionery Challenges In Clean Labeling

The candy industry is known to use different flavors and vibrant colors of using artificial flavors and dye. The growing consumer demand for transparency and simple ingredients is a difficult situation for candy companies.

However, confectionery companies plan to stay true to their promise of clean labeling. In February this year, Mars, Inc. pledged to remove artificial colors from their gum, chocolate, and other food products within the next five years. Other confectionery giants like Nestle and Hershey’s followed suit.

Currently, most products produced by Mars, Inc. no longer contain artificial colors, but the company is still doing its best to clean their products from synthetic ingredients thoroughly. The challenge here is how candy companies will make their colorful candies like Skittles and M&M’s more natural.

While the purpose of clean labeling is to benefit the company and the consumers, the cost associated with it can be very immense. Using natural ingredients require substantial investments particularly for the smaller confectionery companies. It can be hard for smaller businesses to move in the direction of non-GMO and natural confectionery and it can take its toll in the economies of scale for the candy company.

Taste Still Rules in Priorities

With the challenges that lie in making confectionery without the use of artificial flavors and colors, most candy companies are now prioritizing the taste and quality of their products.  Marketing communications manager for Wrigley, Michelle Green, noted that consumers are not so keen at compromising the taste of their favorite sweets.

This has led companies to innovate on the types of products that they produce. In the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo, bold flavors were featured, and new lines of snack options were created including chocolate barks and bites that come with unusual flavor combinations like oranges, blueberries, and pomegranates.

Fruit combinations with conventional confectionary are not only an interesting take on healthy snacks, but it also helps improve the flavor without using artificial flavors and sweeteners. According to Susan Whiteside from the Washington chapter of the National Confectioners Association, chocolate and fruit combination will be the top trend in the confectionery industry that has increased forecasted revenue by as much as 116%.

Clean labeling is a popular trend in the food industry, and while some have quickly adapted to the trend, the confectionery industry finds a lot of obstacles for now.

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Jelly Beans Remain Unchanged 100 Years Later

Jelly beans, the chewy candy with a hard shell, was once thought to be related to Turkish Delight but eventually food historians agreed that it is an all-American food item created by William Schrafft, a Boston confectioner. While the price of jelly beans has changed from $0.09 a pound to almost $8 a pound, the shape and form of this little confectionery have remained the same after more than a hundred years. Latest trends call for “natural” food items which translate to food that is healthier and better for us. So, new jelly bean launches now use animal gelatin-free ingredients while still retaining its original shape, flavor, and color. Some manufacturers worry that the candy will never be the same again without gluten, but there are still challenges to reduce the sugar, artificial flavors, and color of jelly beans.


Jelly Beans: Private Label vs. The Brands

The jelly bean has become synonymous with Easter because of its ovoid shape and hard shell. After more than a century in the market, it had been sold in bulk with very little personality. Until 1976, when the jelly bean was re-marketed by The Jelly Belly Company as a new gourmet product. Jelly Belly used natural fruit purees and thus opened the doors for a wide variety of flavors. Have you ever tasted Jelly Belly’s pancake and maple syrup jelly beans? The company’s approach is to encourage customers to create their unique jelly bean flavor by combining different beans.



But other than innovating the flavor of the jelly bean, there were hardly any other changes to the candy. It is believed that the product’s association with the holidays made its innovation slower than ever. Tradition has made it a staple during Easter and Christmas. Therefore, it will less likely be considered a sophisticated candy that needs to be updated and periodically improved.



Private labels have positioned themselves as “gourmet” jelly bean manufacturers. The small private label brands now hold roughly 15% market share in the products launched in the past two years. Private labels may not have as many flavors as the Jelly Belly Company, but the industry has successfully gathered a large following in offering GMO-free, gluten-free and nut-free confectionaries. The claims of getting a gluten-free or allergen-free jelly bean variety may attract some customers especially those that are looking for candies that will fit particular dietary needs.

The jelly bean has seen little innovation over the past 100 years, and it will struggle to find any soon. Reducing the sugars and artificial flavors will be the biggest challenge for even the most forward-thinking companies in the jelly bean category.

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