Indulgence With a Twist: “Better for You” Candies

Being stuck at home for more than a year drove a lot of consumers toward comfort food — and candy. Early on, however, concerns about weight gain and the desire for a healthy lifestyle created an opening for sweet treats with a cleaner profile. How did producers respond?

According to a recent piece in Food & Beverage Insider, they worked hard to meet market demand — and saw the results. For instance, companies who experimented with adding vitamins, minerals and botanicals to their products, and spent the time ensuring that the flavor profiles offset any bitterness or off notes, fared well. Sensient’s Kevin Barasa, global product manager-extracts, used chaga mushroom and ginger extracts as an example of two additions that complement, rather than detract from, the taste of chocolate.

“Consumers are ready and willing to try them, and now we have ways to bring these attributes to life with cutting-edge ingredients,” he said.

A target audience for this new “better for you” confectionery push? Baby Boomers, who are demanding items with caffeine and vitamin C in their treats. They, along with Millennials and younger cohorts, also want cleaner labels featuring natural flavors and extracts. So, to meet the caffeine request, use yerba mate, Barasa says, noting that Sensient’s extensive research shows that an easy-to-understand ingredient list, natural colors and extracts are pivotal components that influence purchasing.

A trend to watch in this space will be the continued rise of botanicals. They deliver on taste: A National Confectioners Association survey found that “flavor I like” had a 70% impact on a purchase decision. And botanicals and extracts fit better-for-you confections for their perceived health benefits. Need more proof? A Globaldata survey found that 60% of U.S.  consumers viewed extracts as having a positive impact on health — a 15% increase from the same study in 2017. 

The upshot is that people have always, and likely always will, enjoyed indulgent treats. Now they want to merge that experience with a healthier lifestyle and cut back on the dietary downside. Taking a bold, innovative stance on the use of extracts and other ingredients will position manufacturers well for growth in this rapidly expanding market.