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Confectionery products are the key to any good festive season food experience – whether that’s a sweet snack shared between family members or an indulgent moment kept all to oneself. Read on for Confectionery & Chocolate Buyer’s top chocolate and sweet picks for this year.
The plant-based movement continues to gain mainstream momentum as more Brits look to eat sustainably. It’s another trend that has been helped along by Covid-19: one in four Brits reduced the amount of animal products they consume since the start of the pandemic, according to research by The Vegan Society. Retailers should keep an eye out for vegan-friendly formulations, many of which are using oat milk today – research by Mintel found that oat milk is now the nation’s favourite alternative plant-based milk.
Products containing gelatine are also falling out of favour with flexitarian customers, and with health-focused consumers looking more closely at ingredients lists, buyers will benefit from searching for low sugar and all-natural tags in jelly and gummy sweets.
Busy, post-Covid lifestyles also call for grab-and-go packets, pouches and bars that are ready to be tucked in a pocket or bag, so don’t forget about your vegan customers here. Not only do these products offer retailers a last-minute upsell by the tills, but they provide customers with a plant-based pick-me-up while out and about.
The pandemic rocketed health concerns to the forefront of consumers’ minds, but when it comes to chocolate and confectionery, shoppers want to have their cake and eat it too. Luckily, today’s free-from market is chock full of brands prioritising fantastic flavours, ethical ingredients and vegan and allergen-free formulations.
With one in 10 people in the UK avoiding gluten, ensuring you stock products that cater to a gluten-free lifestyle is a must for retailers today. While chocolate doesn’t contain gluten on its own, other ingredients that are commonly added can, so coeliacs and those who are looking to avoid gluten in their diets will be scouring products for clear free-from labels.
Ethical credentials are also high on consumers’ priority list, so producers are increasingly shouting about the steps they’re taking away from harmful environmental practices. Take palm oil: some chocolate makers use it to create a smoother appearance and keep their product from melting, but it’s a major driver of deforestation in some of the world’s most important forests, according to the WWF. As consumer awareness of the issue rises, it’s becoming increasingly important for retailers to consider when choosing the products they stock.
Foodie gifts became increasingly popular during the pandemic when consumers couldn’t see their loved ones in person, but chocolate has always held a special place in hampers, gift sets and tied up in bows.
As a steadfast favourite in the gifting market, you can’t go wrong with chocolate, but keep an eye out for products with striking packaging designs; research by Mintel found that nearly a tenth of UK chocolate buyers spend more on luxurious packaging, and nearly a third pay more for premium packaging for special occasion or gift chocolate.
Luxe ingredients are also a must: almost a quarter of UK chocolate buyers said they’d pay more for chocolate with high-quality ingredients like single-origin cocoa when buying as a gift.
Gifts sets and selection boxes provide a thoughtful gifting opportunity for anyone on customers’ lists – from colleagues to in-laws to partners. While they’re great to stock year-round, gift sets are at their most in-demand during the festive season, so be sure to provide shoppers with a decent selection of decadent products. Those with strong provenance and quality ingredients are poised to be a hit this year.
Jelly and gummy sweets are certainly a favourite among the younger generations – but fine food brands offer something for sweet-tooths in every age group to chew on. According to Mintel, the category was hit by Covid-19 lockdowns, as purchasing opportunities were limited and the urge for impulse buys vanished. But with home workers looking for something sweet to snack on and producers challenging stereotypes with better-for-you formulations, there is plenty for buyers to be excited about today.
Keep an eye out for child-friendly sweets. Producers behind gourmet gummies often target the adult market, but plenty of brands are also offering an innovative take on children’s sweets. With health consciousness growing among parents, however, seek out fun and eye-catching products with lower sugar or added health benefits.
When it comes to sweet indulgences, traditional flavours will always be high on the list for shoppers. They’re classics for a reason, and they are just as popular today as they have ever been. Covid has refreshed the consumer hunger for classic comforts, so now’s the time to stock up on family favourites.
Think of traditional treats, and toffee will undoubtedly spring to mind. Moreish, buttery and delightfully chewy, it’s clear to see why this confection has stood the test of time. Toffee is popular with shoppers of all ages – especially when innovative options are on offer alongside traditional formats – and great for gifting, too. For instance, Booja-Booja’s Toffee Strudel offers a vegan and organic alternative to the typical fare.
Fudge is another classic favourite. Melt-in-the-mouth, buttery and crumbly, there are some moments when only traditional fudge will do. As this is such a simple recipe, ingredients really do count; look for products with provenance, high-quality butter, sugar and vanilla or other flavourings, and be sure to stock classic British versions alongside flavoured options.
Finally, soft and flowing or chewy and addictive, caramel is without doubt one of the most popular sweet concoctions there is. Whether it’s sold in the form of a better-for-you chocolate bar, coated nuts or a creamy filling in a vegan wafer bar, you’re onto a winner with classic caramel.
Read more in Confectionery & Chocolate Buyer, which you can download for free here.