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CHICAGO — It's a difficult time to be in the confectionery business as the "war on sugar" continues, according to Darren Seifer, food industry analyst at The NPD Group.
Modern-day consumers have a watchful eye for sugar. Healthy eating today is less about avoiding calories, cholesterol and/or fat, and more about sugar, Seifer explained in an educational session at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo entitled "What Do Shoppers Really Want?"
Approximately 66 percent of consumers look for a more holistic approach when it comes to healthy eating, aiming to avoid or cut sugar intake altogether, Seifer cited. In fact, he said the No. 1 label consumers seek out when deciding whether to make a purchase is sugar content.
"In this sugar headwind, what can you do?" Seifer posed.
He provided retailers with these four key pieces of advice:
1. Capitalize on indulgence by connecting with motivations.
Seifer breaks snacks into three categories: sweet, savory and better-for-you (BFY). Even though BFY snacks have been on the rise in recent years, sweet snacks have not lost their prevalence. For the first time in 10 years, sweet snacks are experiencing growth and are now on par with BFY, NPD research shows. Savory and BFY snacks are most commonly where consumers look for a quick and easy tide-over from meal to meal, whereas sweet snacks are a reward in the evening.
2. Sugar is avoided, but still used the most because it's real.
"Using artificial sweeteners will not bring in more consumers," Seifer said. He noted consumers are less likely to choose aspartame, stevia or saccharin over sugar.
3. Show consumers how to indulge in moderation.
"Indulgence used to be about breaking rules, but now it's about fitting it into our lives,'' the food analyst shared.
One manufacturer tapping into this arena is Brookside Chocolate, according to Seifer. Brookside takes dark chocolate — which is known for its proven health benefits — and cascades it over fruits like acai and blueberry, which are known to be full of antioxidants.
4. Stay true to who you are.
"Confectioners need to be true to themselves and consumers," Seifer concluded.
The 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo, hosted by the National Confectioners Association, runs May 23-25 at Chicago's McCormick Place West.