Rise of reduced sugar chocolate confectionery ranges

There have been a wide range of notable developments for the chocolate market over the past year. Neill Barston examines some of the most headline worthy releases during the past year 

The past year has seen some especially intriguing developments with the chocolate confectionery segment.

As Euromonitor reports, within British markets at least, the top three companies, Mondelez UK, Mars Food UK and Nestlé UK faced increased competition during 2018.

Their main rivals came from premium mainstream brands, including Lindt & Sprüngli, which is believed to have been the biggest spending company in 2017, promoting its premium credentials on TV, in cinemas and press ads. The Thorntons Continental range has become a popular choice for British consumers during the main holiday and festive seasons and recorded double-digit retail value growth in 2017.

Premiumisation is the name of the game and leading retailers are having to respond quickly to retain share. Nestlé launched a range of premium tablets under the brand Les Recettes de l’Atelier in February 2018 in the UK after huge success in Switzerland and France.

The company claims that the brand has become the fastest-growing confectionery brand in Europe. Mondelez capitalised on the “big night in” trend in 2018 by introducing new sharing bags in 110g and 120g formats with miniature versions of its Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Fudge, Curly Wurly and Picnic ranges.  However, the challenge for premium chocolate brands still remains in scaling up because the cost and limited availability of ingredients makes it difficult to maintain the high quality that consumers expect.

For these brands, manufacturers are expected to place their focus on new packaging formats, sophisticated ingredients and cleaner ingredient lists to add value.

Sugar reduction

Another of the dominating themes of 2018 for the chocolate market has been the issue of sugar reduction. The UK has been among those nations taking the lead on this issue, with the government agency Public Health England calling for a 20% cut in sugar rates within confectionery by 2020.

While progress has been made by some brands on this issue – such as Nestlé with its Wowsome bars, and a 30% reduced sugar Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar set to be released, there are those who remain sceptical as to whether such products will prove commercially viable. Similarly, Mars and Snickers chocolate bars are set to get a dramatic healthy makeover with huge reductions in the amount of sugar they contain.

Low-sugar, high protein versions of the two classic branded bars will be launched in stores next month. However, the normal full sugar bars are not being replaced but the healthier Mars ‘More Protein’ will contain 40 per cent less sugar than the original, while Snickers’ version will have 30 per cent less sugar than the original. Each bar will contain 10g of protein, which is approximately 5 times the protein content of the original Mars bar, and twice the content of a Snickers bar.

However, there has been an undoubted shift in public thinking in terms of seeking food, and indeed confectionery, that is perceived as representing even a slightly healthier option.
Step forward Kaakao, a solution from Finland, which replaces added sugar with dates – which has unfortunately fallen foul of EU legislation, which insists chocolate contain cocoa and added sugar.

In spite of this, company founder Stephanie Seege, says there has been a strong reception to the product this year. She revealed: “It’s been an extraordinary year ever since we launched at ISM in 2018. Our ‘illegal’ chocolate bars are now sold in seven countries and they contain 40% less sugar than the average chocolate bar – something we’re extremely proud of. We’ve proven that it’s possible to produce a bar that tastes and looks exactly like (or better than) a more traditional version – but made with innovative, unconventional ingredients such as dates and coconut milk.

The illegality is absurd: EU law defines ‘chocolate’ as a combination of cocoa and sugar. As we only sweeten kaakao with dates, not categorised as sugar by the EU, our product apparently isn’t chocolate and cannot be called that.”

Sustainable sourcing

Besides sugar reduction, one of the largest trends seen during 2018 for chocolate confectionery, has been in terms of delivering sustainable sourcing.
The major chocolate firms including Mars, Mondelez and Barry Callebaut have all instituted their own respective programmes on this, but it is also having an influence on artisan producers too.

For instance, L Nitin Chordia, founder of Cocoatrait in India, who is a certified chocolate taster and judge at the International Chocolate Awards, recognised a clear opportunity to set up his confectionery business with high ethical standards.

He said: “While operating Cocoashala, which is a Bean to bar chocolate certification institute based in Chennai India, we realised that for the Bean to bar movement to propel in India over the next few years we have to set the right examples for people to get inspired and emulate these ideas.”

Meanwhile, in America, one of the most notable developments of the past year has been-based Guittard Chocolate Company, marking its 150th anniversary year, unveiling a 45% milk chocolate bar range for trade customers.

The business says that the series will span the divide between traditional milk chocolates, and semisweet varieties that start with 65% coco solids. According to the company, its latest range will allow a greater ‘control and balance’ for pastry chefs and bakers’ and will be available through Guittard EU.

Also in America, Kohler is among those tapping into another core trend of diversity of flavours, as its Original Recipe Chocolates brand is offering something a little out of the ordinary with its latest pumpkin spice chocolate.

The company’s latest product consists of a smooth, milk chocolate shell with a pumpkin spice ganache that has been designed with a range of autumnal notes, including: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice.

“We’re always looking for new varieties that spotlight the unparalleled quality our brand is revered for and that resonate with our chocolate fans’ preferences,” said Gerald Allison, business manager.

Another trend increasingly witnessed over the past couple of years has been the increasing phenomenon of special edition chocolates.
The latest of these is Baci Perugina, Nestlé’s premium chocolate, is launching a Ruby chocolate variant available exclusively at Sainsbury’s stores for just three weeks last month.
Its initiative with chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut followed in the footsteps of an earlier initiative with the company over a new edition of KitKat available in ruby last summer.

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