From consumers' growing knowledge about product ingredients, the clean snacking mindset has emerged. Clean snacking is a balanced approach to nutrition that explores realistic options rather than a more dogmatic philosophy that forbids snacks or sweets altogether, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in last year's Chocolate Candy in the US, 11th Edition report.
Many burgeoning areas in the candy industry show the effect of the clean snacking philosophy. This includes bite-size snacking chocolate in thins and barks, fruit & chocolate snacks, high cacao dark chocolate, and the many new clean label products.
"The clean snacking consumer will eat sweet snacks but looks carefully at the type of sweetener, origin of ingredients, and presence of additives, and then optimizes among the available choices. Ongoing research on the many health benefits of dark chocolate opened the floodgates of clean snackers who can enjoy dark chocolate as a health food," says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.
With consumers seemingly becoming more and more health conscious by the minute, many foods and beverages popular in the past are now vilified for their lack of nutrition, overly processed formulations, and questionable additives. The high sugar content of candy would seemingly make these products inherently maligned, but many candy manufacturers have acknowledged the shift in consumer attitudes about production processes and candy ingredients, and thus are evolving to ensure that products are in tune with consumers preferences. Over the past two years we've seen Nestlé commit to removing artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors from its chocolate candy products; Hershey announce a new commitment to simple ingredients, transparency, and responsible ingredient sourcing; and Mars mapping out a five year plan to find natural flavors that meet safety and taste criteria as it commits to removing artificial flavors from the human food products in the company's extensive product portfolio.
Looking Ahead to the US Candy Market in 2020
All this effort to satisfy consumer demands will help the US confectionery market rebound after slightly sluggish sales in 2016. By 2020, Packaged Facts expects sales of confectionery products in the US to exceed $41 billion for the first time. Chocolate candy is forecast to account for 60% of the confectionery market's sales in 2020.
Packaged Facts also points out that the US confectionery market is quite dynamic with a strong pace of innovation, an influx of creative new players and a steady flow of new products that engage consumers. In addition, there remains consumer devotion to confectionery products and the growing perception of the product as an accessible luxury creates many opportunities to trade the consumer up to premium products. These factors are positives to future sales growth.
Despite the projected boon, there are still challenges faced by the industry. These include public concern about the cocoa farming process, the supply of cocoa and other ingredients, which affects prices; changes in consumer demands for indulgent snacks; and shifts in shopping behavior such as self-checkout and online purchasing, which could decrease impulse purchases. Overall, however, the industry is poised for continued growth based on the ingrained desire for accessible indulgences that confectionery products provide, says Sprinkle.