Welch’s Fruit Snacks boast real fruit content.

A look at key packaging ingredients in the growing market for confectionery products.

by Elisabeth Cuneo, Associate Editor

The confectionery industry continues to be a growing segment. Despite a lagging economy, the confectionery industry posted a 3.6% gain in 2010. But packaging trends in the industry are shifting. Packaging in the candy industry is more than just bright colors and claims of deliciousness. It’s no longer enough to tout claims such as “great taste” and expect big sales. Consumers are demanding more from their candy-and from their packaging. With growing awareness of sustainability and health in the candy/confectionery industry, companies are coming up with new ways to appeal to the masses with the use of health claims, environmentally friendly and nostalgic packaging.

Packaging sweet health claims

Health is a topic often discussed with packaged foods, especially candy. In an industry where sugar is synonymous with its name, the candy/confectionery industry is faced with an interesting challenge of packaging their products as healthful. According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), natural and added nutrients in candy is a top trend for 2011--and one that’s here to stay. Manufacturers are adding claims on packaging including, all-natural, fortified with vitamins, added fiber and other healthful ingredients.

The packaging of the product needs to get more creative as companies strive to focus on the positive, healthy benefits of candy and confections, rather than just promoting the product as simply a treat. According to a non-chocolate confectionery study published in October 2010 by Mintel, 45% of consumers are attracted to labels reading “made with real fruit juice.” Consumers preferred that claim over other popular health claims like low-fat and reduced-calorie.

Welch’s has capitalized on this customer preference, using health claims prominently on its popular Fruit Snacks packaging. Elements include images of real fruit along the entire border of the box, the claim that it is “made with real fruit juice” and other health claims including fat free, gluten free, no preservatives, 100% daily value of Vitamin C and 25% daily value of Vitamins A & E.

Jelly Belly uses jarring veggie imagery and a unique plastic can to sell candy.

It’s not only fruit snacks that boast vitamin content: Kraft’s new Stride SPARK, a sugar-free gum, is calling attention to the fact that it contains 25% of the recommended daily value of vitamins B6 and B12, vitamins known for increasing  energy. These claims make their way front and center on the packages, calling attention to their healthy characteristics in hopes of setting them apart from less healthy products.

A different approach to healthy candy comes not in claims but in distinctive packaging. The Jelly Belly Candy Co. released a Peas & Carrots mix that is designed to look like an old-fashioned 5.5 ounce “can.” The candy “veggies” come cleverly packaged to give the consumer the illusion that they are eating their vegetables, not candy. While this may not actually fool anyone into thinking that the candy peas and carrots are the real deal, it does play into the wholesome, yet playful, side of confectionery packaging.

Another growing health claim making an appearance on candy labels is ‘sugar-free.’ There are sugar-free gum, candy, chocolate and desserts with appropriate labeling. The Global Industry Analysts Inc. projects that the global market for confectioneries will reach $186.3 billion by 2015 (up from a projected $159.6 billion just five years prior), driven by the growing popularity of sugar-free products.  As popularity grows for sugar-free candy, so does competition amongst manufacturers to distinguish their own products, spurring creative packaging. Russell Stover has done just that with its successful line of sugar-free chocolates, in part because of its impossible-to-miss labeling. A predominant red ribbon scrolls across its packages announcing that the products are sugar-free. Some packages in the line even carry the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International logo right on the front. Another healthier Russell Stover line is Net Carb, a low-carbohydrate chocolate.

Also jumping on the sugar-free bandwagon for the first time is Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum, which has launched a sugar-free version of the iconic gum, called Juicy Secret. Packaging for the new gum has stayed close to the original but Wrigley’s has added vibrant, eye-catching colors. It remains packaged as the original, in its traditional flip-open package of individually wrapped sticks.

The iconic Hershey bar label hasn’t changed much since its start in 1900.

Demand for eco-consciousness continues to grow

Sustainability is a hot topic in the packaging industry for all food and beverage types, and the candy/confectionery industry is no exception. According to the NCA confectionery industry forecast, 65% of experts agree that eco-friendly manufacturing efforts, like recyclable packaging, will influence product development and consumer purchasing. Consumers more than ever are demanding social and environmental friendliness from the products they consume and the companies that produce them. Some candy manufacturers have started reducing the amount of packaging they use and are using more eco-friendly and recyclable materials.

According to Hershey’s 2010 Packaging Recyclability Information document, the company focuses on reducing waste with the use of recyclable wrappers, paperboard, plastic bottles, containers and lids, and include a public list of their recyclable packaged products on their website. More and more candy labels are including graphics designating that the wrapper is made with recyclable materials.

Nostalgic wrappers earn consumer trust

With stiff competition amongst big candy brands, manufacturers are always looking for ways to reach consumers, and packaging is a strong tool that can tell a story.

Hershey, for example, has barely altered its classic chocolate bar wrapper since its introduction in 1900. Confectionary historian Beth Kimmerle believes that old fashioned wrappers play into the consumer psyche. “People like to feel comfortable in uncertain economic times. Things from the past are somehow more reliable,” she says. Doublemint has had the same recognizable two-sided arrow across their wrapper since the gum’s launch in 1914. Keeping the products’ package the same instills the trust that the product and company are both unchanged. Some companies are launching new products based on their existing (read trustworthy), established products. Bosco Product Co. is launching all-natural candy bars tied to the iconic chocolate syrup. The vintage-look wrapper reads “memories since 1928.”

Also using emotional ties to sell goods, Taste of Nature has added an America themed product to its lineup, Stars and Stripes Cotton Candy. The labeling includes white stars on a blue background, red stripes and is stamped, “Made in America.” Manufacturers are counting on the vintage, traditional or American packaging looks to bring consumers back to a time when life was simpler and are aiming to remind them that their favorite candy is the same today as it was back “in the old days.”

Candy packaging tells a story whose plot these days is more complex than ever.