Photo provided by Cargill.

Ingredient labels are likely getting a little easier to read - at least in Western Europe.

That’s because more of the major confectionery companies are turning to natural ingredients, according to data recently released by Leatherhead Food Research.

The trend is a response to concerns about artificial food additives and ingredients, according to the report. It states that in 2009, natural confection sales reached about $6.26 billion in the United States, the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

Sugar and gum accounted for 62% of those sales, while chocolate made up the remaining 38%. Overall, natural confectionery comprised nearly 10% of total confectionery sales in 2009, the report states.

The UK lead the pack in the both categories, with $780 million in sales of natural chocolate, and $1.75 billion in sales of sugar and gum.

Within the chocolate category, the United States had the second most sales, with $495 million, followed by Italy, with $485 million.

Meanwhile, in the sugar and gum category, Germany had the second most sales, with $1.16 billion, followed by the United States with $666 million.

The report states that U.S. companies have tended to focus on low-fat and low-calorie sweets rather than removing artificial additives, for it’s healthy lines.

Despite the growth, the report warns that “there are signs that [natural ingredients] may now be dropping off after peaking towards the end of the last decade.”

For more information, or to buy the full report,