The sheer number of biscuits, chocolate and confectionery suppliers and brands on show at this year’s ISM tradeshow in Cologne was impressive. As if consolidation, rationalisation and the B-brand squeeze seen on other supermarket shelves are not applicable to the sweet segments. The degree of fragmentation on the supply side, however, does not show in the actual products on display. Most of the offering is more of the same. Among the piles of gummi bears, tablets and biscuits, only a few products actually stand out.
A quicker chance of commercial success can be found in some product introductions that are far less obvious. A couple of innovative suppliers have launched healthy alternatives for existing snacks. What is new about that? Surely, sugar-free and light products have been around for nearly decades? But the new products are not about trying to make existing products healthier. They are entirely new products – with new, healthier core ingredients – that neatly fit into the existing consumption moment and are as tasty as the cookies or candy they replace. The same indulgence, but this time it’s better for you thanks to an entirely different set of ingredients. The start of a new trend? Not all these products have hit the shelves yet, so forgive us for staying a bit vague on this one.
…and the usual suspects
These stealthy healthy products were not the only innovations geared to changing consumer preferences. We also came across the usual suspects, such as free-from, premiumisation, miniature packaging (lots of bars, lots of them!), on-the-go SKUs and blurring tastes. Indulgence will never cease to be the most important driver for confectionery demand, but it is clearly not enough to retain the consumers’ interest. The consumer shift to, for example, more transparent, more authentic and more convenient products, was reflected in the majority of innovations seen at this year’s ISM.
Sebastiaan Schreijen, Senior Analyst – Consumer Foods, Rabobank Food & Agri Research