The great sugar debate continues with UK campaign

This week is proving an intriguing one for wider developments within the confectionery sector, including the emergence of campaign group Action On Sugar’s call for a ban on confectionery marketing linked to television cartoon characters.

The UK organisation’s assertion that manufacturers should not be permitted to collaborate with popular children’s screen series such as Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol on the basis of it encouraging youngsters to pester parents into purchases is an interesting notion.

The issue begs several key questions, namely on whether such marketing associations are considered responsible or not, and also if manufacturers can actually modify their products to reduce sugar levels.

Is this something the industry can, and should be leading on? Well, frankly, yes, there are already examples of businesses including Nestlé with its Wowsome bars (which have around 30% less sugar), and Mars, producing its protein-enhanced versions of Snickers bars, that are pointing the way to sugar reduction possibilities.

Brands such as Plamil’s So Free and Moo Free have also produced their own offerings with significantly reduced sugar, so technical capability to make such changes is fast evolving. It may yet take some while to see ranges with reduced, or no added sugar selling in mass volumes on a global level.

In truth, this is simply down to the fact that sugar remains a key ingredient within many confectionery ranges, and is integral to taste profiles of many leading brands.

Consequently, as some including industry experts such as Andy Baxendale have argued, attempts to demonise sugar are perhaps not the best route to take in engaging consumers. As the man known as ‘the Sweet Consultant’ explained to Confectionery Production, sweets and confectionery have always been a treat, rather than regular food items, so eating them in moderation is the main consideration.

While some progress towards Public Health England’s target of 20% reduction in sugar for confectionery manufacturers by 2020 is being made within the UK, that goal appears presently out of reach for many manufacturers, with only a small minority of products having so-far made their way to market.

Having visited Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago last month, it was interesting to see how major companies such as Perfetti Van Melle had taken real care in signing up to responsible marketing campaigns, including the “Always a Treat’ initiative in the US, which showed that industry is listening to the demand from consumers to at least develop some product options that are perceived as offering a healthier choice from conventional ranges.

It will be interesting to see where the industry heads over the next couple of years, as the sector balances its drive for ever-expanding product options against a recognition that we’re facing continued issues of childhood obesity and other key health challenges.


  • Where do you stand on the issue of confectionery marketing? Let us know your views for the next edition. Thanks for all those following us on social media – we’ve now passed the 2,000 mark in terms of Twitter followers, with over a million page impressions alone so far this year – keep the conversation going, contact me at [email protected] or via Twitter @confectionprod

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