Research reveals plant-based confectionery trends continue rapid rise

Top view on wooden table with variety of healthy raw vegan candies, nuts and dates bowls. Fitness desserts, confectionery background and eating right concept

Confectionery product series featuring plant-based claims have continued to show a strong surge in growth, according to latest research from Innova Market Insights, reports Neill Barston.

As one of its key areas highlighted for growth in 2021, the organisation noted that the segment had increased beyond core dairy and meat alternatives categories, with sweets and snacks seen by manufacturers as having significant potential.

Consequently, in 2020, 67% of all new products with ‘plant-based’ claims were launched in broader areas – including within confectionery, which has witnessed a rise in milk-free and gelatin-free products hitting the shelves, as highlighted by an Innova report. As previously noted by Confectionery Production, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has offered a key boost to the snacks market in particular, with consumers focused on ranges that are perceived as offering potential health or energy boosting properties.

While total confectionery launches rose at a CAGR of less than 2% over 2016-2020, introductions of those carrying vegan claims increased at 17%. More dynamic still were confectionery launches under the simpler ‘plant-based’ banner, with introductions more than doubling in 2020 alone.

A review of vegan and plant based confectionery NPD also demonstrates the shift of animal-free products further into the mainstream. While vegan claims were once predominantly used as secondary or tertiary claims in combination with other ‘free-from’, organic or health positionings, they are now coming to the fore as a primary focus.

“Mars’ introduction of vegan Topic and Bounty bars in the UK this month demonstrates the growing importance of the vegan message,” says Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Although the bars are also positioned as gluten- free, ‘vegan’ is the most important claim on the packaging, while the Vegan Society logo is also prominent.”

It is also interesting that some confectionery producers are taking formulation and marketing cues from the established dairy and meat alternatives categories. In plant-based chocolate, for example, some of the newer products use terms such as ‘mylk’ or ‘m!lk’ to reflect their dairy-free recipes, while others incorporate nut or oat milks as ingredients. Meanwhile, in gelatin-free sugar confectionery, ‘veggie’ terminology is being used on occasion.

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