US confectionery trends look sweet for 2009

US confectionery makers are experimenting with flavours, flexibility and variety, and thinking outside the square to provide consumers with innovative products that will drive consumer purchasing over the next five years, according to the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) Confectionery Industry Trend Report 2009.

Even in economic uncertainty, the industry continues to post gains.

With in-depth insight from 40 industry experts, including top manufacturers, market researchers, award-winning chocolatiers, nutritionists and confectionery makers, NCA’s Industry Trend Report captures the confectionery trends and influences that will foster growth of the industry through 2014.

Top line category trends include: chocolate explosion; health benefits; flavour fusions; and international influences.

NCA says that experts believe the next “big” trend in confections will be healthier confectionery options, specifically a growing demand for health benefits and ‘better for you’ ingredients, according to almost nine out of ten (88 per cent) experts.

Already, consumers are embracing portion control sized treats and the potential heart health benefits of higher cacao content in chocolate.

As consumers continue to lead healthy lifestyles, health benefits will heavily influence manufacturers to focus largely on developing ‘better for you’ confections, especially new types of enhanced chocolate treats.

Sixty-five (65) per cent of experts say eco-friendly manufacturing efforts, like recyclable packaging, will influence product development and consumer purchasing.

America’s favourite flavour, chocolate, will emerge as one of the largest growth drivers for the industry in new, delicious and exciting ways.

Experts predict consumers can expect to find chocolate and cocoa popping up more frequently as a key ingredient in main courses alongside salmon, chicken and steak, according to 73 percent of experts surveyed.

Embracing versatility may mean more of an emphasis on global influences and flavour pairings, according to the survey.

Forty-three percent of experts say consumers are going to become more open to chocolate and flavour infusions that include spices, salts, herbs and floral flavours.

And exotic fruit pairings will become more prominent and we will see the emergence of ethnic flavours and herbs being incorporated into chocolate dishes.

Consumers can also expect to see sweet and savoury combinations like chocolate and bacon, as well as chocolate and cheese duos appear in stores and on the menu.

In the chocolate and cocoa category, the potential health benefits of the antioxidants found in chocolate will continue to be evidenced as new and positive health-related findings are discovered.

Nearly half of those surveyed say consumers can expect to see more research into the potential health benefits of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, including exploration of naturally occurring cocoa compounds and positive effects on mood and blood pressure levels.

Additionally, one-third of experts say consumers will become more knowledgeable about the global origin of the chocolate they enjoy.

Forty-three percent say health-related influences will be the leading influence on new product development in the confectionery industry overall.

Within the health category, drivers include portion control as the leading influencer.

The popularity of snack-sized products and 100-calorie packs, which give consumer the full flavour of their favourites, in smaller, reduced calorie options, is expected to continue.

In 2008 more than 6,000 new confectionery and snack products were debuted to the US market to meet consumer demand. Candy, chocolate and gum continued to lead the snack category in sales and ranked third in food sales overall in 2008. And the confectionery industry posted a 3.7 percent gain for the 52-week period ending April 19, 2009.

International spices and ethnic flavours will also have a large influence on new U.S. products and flavour development overall, 58 percent of experts say.

While Asian and Latin flavours will serve as the biggest influences on U.S. confectionary product launches, insiders point to Europe as the birthplace for international confectionery trends now and in the coming years.

Although Europe is most frequently perceived as the origin of confectionery trends, Japan appears to be an emerging influencer in the candy industry.

And when it comes to America’s global influence, one in three industry experts say U.S. trends will have the greatest impact on the dark chocolate market.

Twenty percent say the U.S. market for confections will influence product pricing and economic issues overseas.

For more information on emerging trends, chocolate and candy statistics and much more, please visit www.candyusa.org.

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