Premium quality and unique flavour combinations are encouraging even the most health-conscious consumers to indulge in the occasional chocolate or candy treat
There’s no denying it – health concerns are a driving force in the food industry these days. Today’s consumers are increasingly demanding that their meals and snacks pack plenty of fibre, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, while at the same time minimizing all the bad fats, sugar and sodium. But when it comes to confectionery items like chocolate and candy, it seems Canadians still love to treat themselves to indulgent sweets from time to time.
“Confectionery is definitely about indulgence and happiness,” says John Phillipson, vice-president for Confectionery at Toronto, Ont.-based Kraft Canada. “In tough times, small indulgences are often what consumers turn to for happiness.” Still, as Canadians become more concerned with healthy foods, the confectionery space is undoubtedly being affected in a couple of interesting ways: one being the desire for smaller portions and bite-size treats; and the other being the “worth it” factor. “People are saying, ‘If I’m going to indulge in something, it really better be worth it,’” says Phillipson, noting that today’s confectionery consumer is frequently looking for very high quality and unique flavour combinations.
To answer the call for compelling flavour combinations in a high-quality product, Kraft has recently introduced three new premium Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars that combine sweet and salty tastes: Pretzel & Peanut Butter, Toasted Coconut & Cashews, and Honey Roasted Cashews & Hazelnuts. “We’ve had great success with all of these,” says Phillipson.
At Vancouver, B.C.-based Purdy’s Chocolates Ltd., head chocolatier Gary Mitchell has also been working hard to come up with some new and interesting – not to mention quite sophisticated – flavour combinations. “We’re working on a tiramisu dessert chocolate with mascarpone cheese and whipped cream, Kahlua, and it’s made in a dessert cup,” says Mitchell. “Cheese and chocolate is one of my new frontiers.” The chocolatier recently introduced a Milk Chocolate Pear Lemon Caramel for spring, and he speaks with great pride about his award-winning Savory Brie Cheese and Fig Truffle. “Today’s consumers are looking for unusual tastes, unusual textures – they want to be entertained,” he adds, noting that this is a trend that’s evident in every aspect of the food business these days, from high-end gourmet meals to baked goods and snack foods.
Following this same trend toward unique, upscale flavours, in January the Allan Candy Company Ltd. introduced a new chocolate and candy line called Dessert Bites. These small treats – either coated in chocolate or a yogurt candy coating – have “a flavoured soft and chewy candy core that tastes exactly like that dessert,” says James Benson, director of Marketing and Innovation for Mississauga, Ont.-based Allan’s. Filling varieties include Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Apple Pie and Strawberry Shortcake.
Allan’s Dessert Bites also reflect the other big trend that’s sweeping the confectionery sector – the trend toward smaller, bite-size indulgences. “It’s an indulgence-first item, but with portion-controlled pieces. So you can have a handful, and you can enjoy that indulgent moment without feeling like you’ve overdone it,” says Benson. While the portion-controlled snack trend started with the 100-calorie chocolate bars and candy packs that were first introduced a few years ago – which remain very popular in the segment – Benson feels that bite-size treats are the next evolution of the trend. “If you can deliver indulgence but in a portion-controlled size, it takes a little bit of the guilt out of it,” he says, “and that’s why the ‘pieces’ segment is growing so substantially.”