Sugar confectionery hit the headlines earlier this year when there was an outcry over a recipe change to Marks and Spencer’s hugely popular Percy Pigs. The company had removed gelatin to make them suitable for vegetarians and consumers were outraged, with some saying the new recipe meant they tasted like washing-up liquid.

Marks and Spencer decided to put the recipe change in the hands of 100 Percy Pig ’super fans’ and let them vote on which version of the sweets they wanted and they went for the new veggie version.

What this illustrates, at a time when sugar is so often demonised, is how much we still love our sweets. However, recipes are changing all the time in line with changing tastes. For example, Nestlé recently announced that the green sweets in Randoms, which had always been lime flavoured, will now be apple flavoured after the change proved more popular in testing. Not only that but the confectionery giant is stopping making Tooty Frooties, the chewy sweets with a hard shell that date back to the 1960s. Explaining the move, a Nestlé spokesperson said: "Sweet tastes and trends change over the years and Tooty Frooties have become much less popular in the decades since their launch. In 2019, people prefer the jelly and foamy sweets you find in Rowntree’s Randoms and that’s why we’ve decided to concentrate on new products under the Randoms brand."

Those new products are Randoms Sours and Randoms Squish’ems (squishy foam and fruity jelly in one sweet).

The introduction of the new Randoms coincides with a major re-brand for Rowntree’s which covers Nestlé’s full range of sugar sweets including Fruit Pastilles, Fruit Gums and Jelly Tots, as well as Randoms. The re-brand introduces brighter colours and more prominent branding across all packs, while the Rowntree’s logo itself has a modern new look with a darker green colour and updated font.

Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager at Perfetti Van Melle, says retailers should ensure they’re stocking exciting and adventurous flavours and textures as part of their range. "For instance, the trend for sour flavour profiles is booming the market is currently worth £50m with growth of 21% in the past two years (IRI data) and there is a big opportunity to drive this further. We’re currently innovating within the sour sphere and have some exciting sour NPD for this year, Chupa Chups Sour Infernals."

Limited editions have a big role to play in sugar confectionery too, bringing excitement to the fixture. Haribo has been doing this successfully for the past four years with limited editions of Starmix and Tangfastics. This year is no different and sees the launch of Starmix Exotic Fruit Frenzy and Tangfastics Wild Berry Frenzy.

Meanwhile, Mentos is investing £1.6m in its biggest campaign of the year, which aims to ’inject a dose of innovation into the singles category’. Building on the success of last year’s Mentos Say Hello campaign, Complimentos will see every roll feature a light-hearted compliment perfect for sharing with friends, family, lovers or connecting with someone new and making them smile. The fun comments include "You are the one I CHEWS" and "You and I are MINT to be". The messages are available on Fruit, Mint and Rainbow packs until September.

Retailers are urged to stock up and make use of the pos that’s available to bring the campaign to life in-store and encourage conversations with their customers too.

Sarah Elmer, Mentos brand manager, says: "The adult singles market is under pressure, particularly within mints, so we’re aiming to inject some excitement to increase visibility and drive growth for this part of the category. Mentos is the number three candy brand globally and sales of our adult singles are currently outperforming the market, with fruit growing at 3.2% and mint 1% (IRI) so we’re in a fantastic position to bring innovation to the category and ignite change."

You can’t mention sugar confectionery without mentioning lower-sugar versions of sweets that have been making waves across the category.

Haribo Fruitilicious was launched last year and became the fastest-growing new product of 2018 (IRI data). The sweets contain 30% less sugar than regular fruit gums but Haribo says they still deliver the ’same great taste that consumers have come to love and expect from the brand’. IRI data reveals the product is performing exceptionally well and selling twice as many bags as any other ’30% less sugar’ line.

More juice

Over at Perfetti van Melle, Roberts says increasing the fruit juice content in Fruittella 30% Less Sugar has ensured consumers still get the flavour, texture and experience they’ve come to expect from the brand, despite the significant sugar reduction.

He points to Kantar research that reveals that 70% of sales in the better-for-you (BFY) category are incremental, implying people who previously may not have considered confectionery are entering the category

"Convenience isn’t embracing BFY as much as other channels growing at 7.5%, but only representing 2.5% of the market, so it presents a real opportunity for convenience store owners to capitalise on," he explains.

Roberts says PVM is leading the way in BFY and is currently the number one manufacturer in the UK, with sales totalling £13.5m last year.

"Offering consumers choice across sugar-free and sugar-reduced, as well as classic sugar-based allows conscious consumer selections to be made and has led to fantastic growth for our brands. Confectionery is a treat, so shoppers shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality when reducing sugar also enjoyment builds brand loyalty and repeat purchase."

Finally, a brand to definitely look out for is Bebeto which is launching three ’30% less sugar’ lines this summer.

High in fibre and with no artificial colours, sweeteners or flavours, the three products are: Rainbow Laces 30% Less Sugar; Strawberry Laces 30% Less Sugar; and Strawberry Pencils 30% Less Sugar

Stuart Johnston, managing director of Kervan Gida UK, says: "In order to make sure our categories have plenty of healthier options, we’re delighted to reveal three new products with higher fruit content as well as containing 30% less sugar than our current best-selling range.

"We see the development of reduced sugar products as a necessity in today’s health- conscious market, although we do recognise that our products are treats and will continue to be seen as such."

new products

A recent addition to Maynards Bassetts’ range is its first-ever sour soft jelly product Soft Jellies Fizzy Fish. Each 160g bag contains a selection of jellies made with natural colours and flavours. Rrp is £1.32.
Tic Tac is giving consumers the chance to win a holiday to Ibiza, as part of a partnership with radio station, Kiss. The Kiss Does Summer competition features on two million packs of Tic Tac Fresh Mint and Lime & Orange in the T1 and T100 pack sizes. The campaign is supported by a £250,000 spend.
Sales of Haribo’s Giant Strawbs are up 55% year-on-year, according to IRI data. Haribo says this is thanks to their longer-lasting strawberry flavour and ’unique’ chewy texture.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s gum portfolio is worth over £239m (Nielsen). The company says Extra sugarfree gum is the driving force behind the gum category. Extra’s core flavours, Peppermint & Spearmint are the top performing variants, worth over £130m.
A best seller for forecourts is Swizzels’ 160g Drumstick Squashies in Original Raspberry & Milk flavour. IRI data puts Squashies as the UK’s second best-selling sugar confectionery brand and the UK’s fastest-growing one.

Retailer view

"Our customers aren’t cutting back on buying sweets; we sell as many as we’ve ever done . Haribo fly out, particularly when they are on offer. Starburst is another big seller for us. At the moment we have the larger, 280g bags of Haribo on at £1. I’ve put a big stack of them by our Subway so people can pick up something sweet to have after their sub. With regards to lower-sugar lines, we only sell sugar-free Polos. We sell a lot of gluten-free lines but our customers haven’t asked for lower-sugar confectionery."

A friend for all seasons

Medicated confectionery doesn’t just sell during the winter as new figures from Fisherman’s Friend show. The brand saw value sales growth of 22% and volume sales growth of 18% in April, compared with the same period last year (Ceuta Healthcare data).
The company said the sales boost followed an early start to the hay fever season with consistently high pollen counts for tree pollen.
"While the peak hay fever season occurs during the summer months, sneezes, itchy eyes and headaches have arrived earlier than expected this year," says Jon R White, regional business manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK. "Menthol and eucalyptus are known to help hay fever sufferers. Our iconic lozenges contain a third more menthol than rivals, and with nine flavours available, there’s a Friend for everyone.
"We would urge retailers and pharmacists to stock up now to ensure they are not missing out on a valuable sales opportunity during the remainder of the hay fever season."
Fisherman’s Friend retails at 82p for a 25g packet.