How Do Consumer’s Tastes Evolve With The Health & Wellness Trend?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Consumers globally are increasingly health conscious—they want healthier ingredients in food and drinks, with lesser sugar content. Transparency in where ingredients are sourced is also key in gaining consumer trust and loyalty, as sustainability in the products they purchase are important to them. Tom Vierhile, director of innovation insights at GlobalData, shares his views on how the health & wellness trend and changing consumer tastes are driving the confectionery and snacks market.

Would you share your thoughts on the latest confectionery trends?

Health and wellness concerns are changing the face of new product innovation in the confectionery industry. We are seeing much more concern by consumers over sugar content, and this is creating opportunities for innovators to launch new products that address these concerns. In the Asia Pacific region, 41 percent of consumers say they are actively trying to reduce their consumption of sugar, according to GlobalData’s global survey in 2016. While that is slightly lower than the 43 percent of consumers globally that say the same thing, it is clear that sugar content is a top-of-mind concern for consumers.

Marketers are choosing different ways to address this. The new product launches from the past six months in the Asia Pacific region include some launches addressing the sugar issue directly by using sugar substitutes like stevia. That is the case for the WOW Naturals sugar free candy product from Australia. Other companies are using even more of a high-tech approach to address sugar issues. In Japan, Eliza Glico Company’s Libera Chocolate uses an ingredient called indigestible dextrin which suppresses the absorption of sugar by the body. This is the same ingredient that Coca-Cola Japan is using for its Coca-Cola Plus soft drink in Japan.


Other ways that confectionery companies are paying heed to health issues include increased usage of so-called iconic health ingredients—featuring products using eclectic ingredients like collagen, chia, and acai as well as more common fruits like cranberries or blueberries to bolster their health credentials. Other products are using spices for a health boost as consumers increasingly perceive spices to be health-enhancing. This has given us chocolate bars made with green pepper or cinnamon—a trend that seems to be gaining momentum.

This activity is picking up because younger consumers in particular tend to see the inclusion of healthy ingredients in products that may be perceived as unhealthy as reducing guilt associated with consuming these so-called unhealthy products. In the Asia Pacific region, 43 percent of 25-34 year old consumers believe this is the case, according to a GlobalData survey in the fourth quarter of 2015. Only 22 percent of consumers aged 65 and above believed the same which indicates that younger consumers see iconic health ingredients as providing them with the permission to enjoy indulgent foods including confectionery products.

Are consumers’ shifting tastes moving towards more innovative flavours for snacks?

Consumers enjoy trying new tastes and flavours for confectionery products, but innovation-seeking behaviour can be quite different from one category to another. According to a GlobalData global consumer survey in the third quarter of 2016, consumers in Asia Pacific are almost twice as likely to say that they ‘often’ try new and different varieties of chocolate (31 percent) versus confectionery products like gum (16 percent).

As far as tastes shifting to new flavours, there has been a long-term shift in chocolate confectionery products from milk chocolate to dark chocolate products, the latter perceived to be healthier than the former. Recent innovations in chocolate-covered fruits also seem to indicate that consumers are interested or at least curious about the use of real fruit in confectionery products. One aspect of innovation that seems to be proliferating is the use of ‘real’ ingredients to convey to the consumer that confectionery products may be ‘better for you’ or offer enhanced quality. The Wrigley’s doublemint gum product with ‘visible mint’ and the Lindt luscious coconut bar with real coconut bar are two good examples of this.

How should confectionery companies tap on consumers’ evolving tastes?

Confectionery companies need to be aware of how tastes are changing and how consumers may be prioritising what appear to be conflicting demands toward sensory and indulgence on the one hand, and health and wellness on the other hand. One technique that seems to be gaining traction is integrating characteristics from food products that may compete with confectionery for share-of-stomach into confectionery products. This has given us hybrid launches that combine the features of chocolate with those of cookies, like the Cadbury Oreo candy bar.

Tastes are also changing in such a way that consumers are demanding increasingly sophisticated products and taste sensations. Confectionery is an industry that is built on indulgence, and new products are constantly re-defining indulgence by creating new and different taste sensations. The influx of dessert-flavoured chocolate confections including some based on the tiramisu flavour align with this trend, as well as new candies that feature sensations like popping candy embedded in chocolate or multi-layer sensations—as in the case of the extruded Cadbury Fuse bar from India.

What are some of the challenges that face confectionery companies, and how should they overcome it?

The biggest challenge the industry faces may well be the demonisation of confectionery products as the industry is concerned that confectionery may be painted with the same brush as carbonated soft drinks and become the target of legislation aimed at persuading consumers to eat healthier food products. To counter this, confectionery makers are promoting the concept of ‘treating’ which suggests occasional indulgence and gives the consumer permission to enjoy confectionery products on at least an occasional basis.

Serving sizes are another way the industry is trying to address dietary concerns. Offering confectionery products in packaging formats that allow consumers to enjoy confectionery products in smaller portions that may be spaced out over a longer period is one approach; another is offering confectionery products in resealable pouch packaging that does not lock the consumer into a serving size they may be uncomfortable with.

Are there certain labels on confectionery and snacks that consumers are gravitating towards?

I can say that consumers tend to see some ingredients and some macronutrients as being more nutritious than others. Protein for instance, is held in high esteem with consumers globally, paving the way for confectionery innovations that may proclaim the presence of ingredients known to offer high amounts of protein—like nuts.

In GlobalData’s 2016 consumer survey, we asked consumers about their preferences toward different types of protein—not just for confectionery products, but for food overall. Consumers in this part of the world generally hold plant protein in high esteem, with 31.5 percent of consumers stating that they are trying to eat as much protein as possible from pulses and beans, which the top choice. More than a quarter (29 percent) of consumers in Asia Pacific said the same about nuts and seeds. All of these ingredients may be in a position to prosper if positive consumer perceptions toward protein consumption persist. Along those lines, we are already seeing mass-market confectionery brands like Mars and Snickers offer protein-enhanced chocolate bars in the UK; perhaps we will see innovation along similar lines in the Asia Pacific region at some point in the future.