The rise of smaller confectionery ranges as a major consumer choice could be on the horizon

This week’s blog follows on from my last post, in placing the thorny issue of shrinkflation under the microscope, whereby the industry has been scrutinised for unexpectedly reducing product size amid rising production costs without a corresponding cut in retail prices.

Linked to this issue, there’s an intriguing trend developing as seen with Mars having just confirmed that it instead of reformulating its classic Twix, Snickers and Mars bar series in response to calls for industry to address sugar and calorie reductions, it is offering a new, deliberately smaller range that it is targeting the on-the-go market.

As the company explained, its latest series aims to offer exactly the same taste experience of its larger relatives within the confectionery series (which are being ket), yet have 100 calories or less, which is a pretty strong marketing message in an age whereby sugar, calorie and salt intake have all been highlighted as key dietary factors in creating a childhood obesity crisis in the UK.

Significantly, the industry has pointed to the fact that sugar in particular remains a crucial element of some of the biggest brands across the world within confectionery, both in terms of providing crucial taste, as well as for its structural properties, that manufacturers have in many instances struggled to replicated artificially. There have been some notable successes though, with the likes of Barry Callebaut and Cargill developing ranges that have been actively developing such solutions for the sector.

As we have reported over the past couple of years, the ingredients industry has been actively pouring significant resources into finding such alternatives, including the use of stevia-based solutions, as well as newly devised processes that are presently in development that have the potential to deliver significant impact if they succeed in gaining major commercial roll-out. That is of course the big question – will the industry adopt such options in significant numbers?

Interestingly, as Mars noted, its decision to simply reduce the size of bars for its latest 100 calorie range came off the back of sector research suggesting that 68% of consumers would rather have a smaller portion of a treat they really liked, as opposed to something that was sugar-reduced. It begs the question as to whether they’ve genuinely had access to high quality alternatives to such products, and in many instances, it’s likely that they haven’t, with the industry lagging in terms of bringing sugar-reduced options to market.

It’s a situation that isn’t in any way surprising, as taste remains king in terms of the sweets and snacks market, so with the additional cost of reformulation proving a barrier for many manufacturers amid a pandemic, the status quo has remained. This was reflected with the Public Health England three-year study that began in 2017, which tasked the industry with reducing sugar by 20% in that period – it managed less than 5% under the voluntary scheme.

So, it will indeed be intriguing to see how the market plays out over the coming months, as to whether the approach of simply making ranges smaller across the board, or whether a newer breed of confectionery based on sugar alternatives truly makes its mark on the industry. Only time will tell.

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