There’s no doubt that sugar confectionery manufacturers have been working hard to keep consumers happy with new formulations with less sugar. According to Mintel, 53% of sweet buyers would buy a reduced sugar version of their favourite sweet brand if available. However, Kantar data reveals that consumers are unwilling to compromise on taste, which is the number one purchase driver for confectionery.

Nestlé reckons it has got it right with its Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles 30% reduced sugar and Randoms 30% reduced sugar, which were launched nationwide last summer.

The company says its reduced sugar versions stay true to Rowntree’s ’no artificial’ ethos with part of the sugar replaced with maize fibre, which is a natural ingredient. This also results in a 7% calorie reduction.

More recently, Haribo launched Fruitilicious, which it describes as a ’treat bursting with fruity flavour and 30% less sugar’ (than regular fruit gum sweets). It says that Fruitilicious "delivers the same great taste that consumers have come to love and expect from the market-leading gums and jellies manufacturer".

The fruit-shaped, smiley-faced pieces come in strawberry, raspberry, pineapple, orange, apple and lemon flavours.

According to IRI data, within the category’s top 25 selling hanging bags, Fruitilicious delivers the lowest sugar content per 100g. And, in blind taste tests with Haribo fans, 98% ’loved’ or ’liked’ the new sweets.

Meanwhile, Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager at Perfetti Van Melle (PVM), reports that his company is pleased with the performance of its reduced sugar and sugar-free ranges, especially as they are typically incremental sales.

better for you

"Numerous trends are changing the way we live, altering the shopper missions in store," Roberts explains. "Most notably consumers are now more health conscious, and are looking for alternative products. The government is focusing heavily on sugar, supported by Public Health England which is looking to reduce sugar in our diets; reduced and sugar-free confectionery products are key to supporting this impulse category.

"As a result, Better For You (BFY) is growing by 20%-plus in the total confectionery market. Research is already showing that 73% of sales in BFY are incremental to the category; implying people who previously may not have considered confectionery are entering the category. As a total BFY SKUs have helped to deliver an incremental £3m to the category (IRI data)."

PVM has just added Fruittella in a handy grab and go sachet option to its successful range of low- and no-sugar lines. The new single-serve sachets, which have just 99 calories per pack, have been designed to appeal to the health-conscious shopper, offering a sweet treat that delivers all the flavour, but less sugar and fits in with the NHS Change4Life snack recommendation.

There are two varieties Strawberry and Summer Fruits with each sachet containing seven chews.

Fruittella brand manager, Matthew Navier, says: "Our new Fruittella sachets are a must-stock, as they present an easy choice for shoppers looking to indulge their snack habit while keeping their calorie intake down. With each pack being under 100 calories, they are also compliant with Public Health England guidelines, which are top of mind with each addition to our sugar-free and reduced-sugar range."

Staying free

Another new BFY product from PVM is sugar-free Mentos Stay Free, hard candied mints in Peppermint and Menthol Eucalyptus flavours.

Naturally sweetened with stevia, Mentos Stay Free is said to deliver a long lasting, cooling effect. It is available in the popular flip top format, and contains only five calories per sweet. Packs contain 15 pieces. Rrp is 75p.

The Mentos brand is backed by a £3m marketing campaign this year which follows on from the successful introduction of its Say Hello campaign last year.

Roberts says: "Mentos is all about creating fresh connections and with the launch of Mentos Stay Free we are able to offer a Mentos product for every consumer and need state. Whether they are looking for our classic mint, or the new and exciting formats, our superior freshness and flavour is recognisable throughout.

"While the category is seeing decline, we are focused on driving more penetration in the market, and campaigns such as Say Hello help deliver this, we saw strong results last year and we are hoping to replicate this year with a full calendar of activity. Retailers can maximise sales by utilising our range of Mentos pos in-store."

Meanwhile, Tangerine Confectionery says it works hard to frequently review its product range and identify where it can improve formulations to reduce sugar. For example, last year the sugar content in Fruit Salad Softies was reduced by 21%.

One of Tangerine Confectionery’s products that is popular with health-conscious consumers is the Henry Goode’s range of liquorice sweets. These contain just 22 calories per sweet, have natural colours and flavours, and are suitable for vegetarians. They also appeal to older confectionery fans particularly the over 55s.

Age is an important factor for sugar confectionery. In its latest Sugar and Gum Confectionery report, Mintel says our ageing population remains a challenge for the market given the lower level of usage among older people. However, it says the big increase in the number of 10-19 year-olds from 2017-22 will benefit the market. In addition, Mintel says the sugar confectionery market has been supported by the rapid growth in the population of five-to-14 year-olds over the past five years, as the presence of children pushes up the frequency of consumption of sweets among adults significantly. Indeed it’s under-35s and families who eat sweets the most often.

Gum gains

Sugar-free has been big business in gum for years with the Extra brand a particular success. Brand owner Mars Wrigley Confectionery expanded its range earlier this year with the launch of Starburst chewing gum, something it describes as "an innovative candy-like experience", created to bridge the gap between candy and gum and appeal more to youngsters. There are three products: Starburst Fruity Mixies, Strawberry Cubes and Red Berry Sticks.

Mars Wrigley undertook UK consumer research which revealed that over the last 10 years the gum category has seen a 20% decline in penetration from the younger generation. The launch of Starburst Chewing Gum targets 15-24 year olds, where fruit gum significantly over indexes (TGI Sourcing). Wrigley Nielsen Headspace research projects that the new launch will grow gum penetration by 3%. The gum is backed by a new ad campaign called The Juicy Goose from Belarus.

Meanwhile, Starburst gum is joining Mars Wrigley’s flagship Extra product in a new handybox format. Extra has a new Minis Handybox containing smaller pellets in a portable format, which allow consumers to ’choose their chew’ with as many or as few pellets as they like. The gum’s two best-selling flavours (Peppermint and Spearmint) are available in the 48-piece handybox, rrp £1, as is the new Starburst gum.

Different formats have been key to Mars Wrigley’s continued success with bottles, in particular, selling well. They’re marketed as being ideal for desk or car and a great oral care solution for those who graze frequently throughout the day. The marketing has worked as they have seen 13% growth in the past 12 months (Nielsen).

Specifically the company identified in-car consumption as a growth opportunity, and developed a holder, which is tailored to conveniently keep bottles of gum to hand.

With consumers looking for a convenient way to keep their teeth clean and healthy after eating and drinking, when brushing isn’t possible, gum is ideal. As such, Mars Wrigley believes the food on-the-go trend provides a fantastic opportunity to encourage gum as an additional purchase. For example, it says cross-category merchandising displays that focus on different consumption occasions through the day, such as ’a sandwich and pack of chewing gum for £2’, could be a good idea.

Softer confectionery options

Soft confectionery be it gums or chews is growing in popularity. For example, Kantar data values the soft gum confectionery sector at £208.3m.
Retailers have already had great success with Tangerine Confection-ery’s Softies range, which has seen sales increase by 25.7% in the past 12 months (IRI). And the company is expecting continued success thanks to some new additions.
Dip Dab Softies, a modern twist on the old favourite, are launching in August. These new red and white sweets deliver both the strawberry flavour of the Dip Dab lolly and the fizzy taste of the lemon sherbet, all in a soft, lolly shaped sweet.
Also being launched are Refreshers Mini Softies and Fruit Salad Mini Softies. These miniature versions of Softies come in small 30g portions ideal for consumers concerned about portion control.
Meanwhile, Swizzels has entered the soft chew hanging bag category with Choos in Drumstick and Refreshers varieties. Drumstick Choos contain five double flavour combinations including Peaches & Cream and Strawberry & Banana, while Refreshers Choos have five flavours with a sherbet centre, including Pineapple and Apple. 
Emma Herring, NPD brand manager at Swizzels, says: ’’The soft chew hanging bag category is currently experiencing huge growth, up 5%, and is now worth £97m (IRI), so we expect to drive further growth.’’
The Squashies range continues to be Swizzels’ strongest performing brand, worth £38m. A pack is now sold every second, so displaying the sharing bags prominently is vital to boost sales.

Retailer view Steven Caul, Hopwood Filling Station, Middleton:

"Sugar confectionery is still a good seller for us. We read that people are cutting down on sugary products but they aren’t here. Sharing bags and family bags are good sellers across chocolate and sugar confectionery. We ran a £1 price promotion on them in April and that went well. Generally with sweets people choose either their favourite or what is on promotion.
"Chewing gum and mints sell all the time things like Polo and Tic Tac. We’ve also stocked the new Skittles gum and that’s selling quite well."

Tips for healthier chewing gum sales

Gum is a significant front-of-store margin provider. At rrp, Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s gum typically delivers over 30% profit significantly higher than other products
At a typical counter, a standard impulse gum display holds 608 individual packs
Almost half of gum consumers chew weekly
Almost half of
shoppers in the UK buy gum; nine out of 10 shoppers who interact with gum buy it
62% of single gum purchases are unplanned make your gum range visible to shoppers and they will buy it!

latest lines

The latest addition to the Maynards Bassetts Wine Gums range is Mocktails, designed to appeal to younger adults. Flavours include Strawberry Daiquiri and Pina Colada.
Ferrero is supporting Tic Tac with a £1.5m campaign encouraging people to ’Open Up’ and take on new experiences. Activity includes a TV ad which features Mr Tic Tac.
Fox’s, which is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, has launched the first new mint edition in its 100-year history: Glacier Spearmints. Made with natural mint oils, the new mints offer a milder, sweeter flavour profile than classic Fox’s Glacier Mints.
Sweet Sounds of Summer is the latest promotion from Maynards Bassetts. It gives consumers the chance to win music-related prizes.
The latest line from Swizzels is Choos, in two variants: Drumstick Choos provide five double flavour combinations including Peaches & Cream, while Refreshers Choos offer five fizzy flavours including Pineapple and Apple.
Tangerine is launching Barratt Dip Dab Softies, a modern twist on the classic Dip Dab. The sweets deliver the strawberry flavour of the lolly and the fizzy taste of the sherbet.