The candy aisle likely has gotten a little more crowded this year.

Innova Market Insights has reported that confectionery products lead the food and drinks sector for global launch activity in the first half of 2011.

This, despite a rough 2010, which included rising prices in the wake of increased raw material costs, particularly for coca and sugar.

Chocolate continues to dominate in confectionery - both in terms of market value and of launch activity - with more two-thirds of the launches tracked by Innova Market Insights in the first half of 2011. Meanwhile, sugar confectionery was just less than 30% of the launches, while chewing gum was about 5%.

Notable chocolate launches have included:

● Nestlé’s Kit Kat, which was particularly active globally with launches ranging from a candied sweet potato Kit Kat variant in Japan to a boxed Kit Kat Singles variant in Germany and a range of Kit Kat Chunky 3 variants in Australia.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocos

Galaxy Bites

Kit Kat Pop Chocs in the UK

Milka Crispy Snax, Daim Snax and Lila Stars Snax in pouches in Germany

The chewing gum sector, which had had some difficult years after a buoyant period in the mid-2000s, is showing signs of recovery with rising launch numbers and some success in terms of product activity over the past year or so.

In particular, the sector has seen success with lifestyle products, particularly sugar-free, mouth-freshening gums, in convenient formats designed to appeal through groundbreaking flavors, packaging and graphics.

Notable chewing gum launches have included:

● Australia’s first approved fortified sugar-free gum in the form of Wrigley’s Extra Professional Calcium

● A three-layer chewing gum under the Mentos 3 name in France including a mint and licorice variant

● Kraft/Cadbury’s Trident Vitality range of enriched gums in Awaken, Vigorate and Rejuve variants in the US.

Innova says the most unusual confectionery launch over the period was likely Coco Preggers, a range of chocolate truffles with added folic acid and DHA omega 3 fatty acids launched by Xan Confections and aimed specifically at pregnant women.

Lu Ann Williams,Innova Market Insights research manager, says the trend of strong product and promotional activity likely will continue.

“The demand for small and relatively inexpensive snacks and ‘treats’ seems unlikely to be radically inhibited by consumer concerns over their finances, or indeed over health and obesity issues,” Willimas says. “And the confectionery industry remains well-placed to deal with ongoing competition from other snack products.”

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