Across the globe, consumers are turning to small indulgences such as confectionery, driven by the desire for escapism from daily pressures. This will continue throughout 2022, especially as the implications of the pandemic continue to linger. 

At the same time, there are increased levels of concern that such snacking occasions are misaligning with long-term health goals – which will make consumers carefully consider their choice of confectionery products. As a result, ingredients will have more influence on choice of confectionery product than ever before.

In times of uncertainty, it is common to seek out moments of small indulgences that help alleviate stress and offer a moment of escapism from the frantic nature of modern life. Research conducted in 2021 found that 43 percent of consumers said that they were seeking out comfort food such as confectionery more frequently. The main reason for this behavioral trait is the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the emotional health of consumers. Nearly half (48 percent) of consumers said in the same year that they had become more conscious about their mental wellbeing because of COVID-19, while 22 percent said this in relation to their sleep health. 

Given that anxiety, stress and poor sleep health were already common before the pandemic, it highlights the impact that such levels of uncertainty have had on perceptions of health – and eating habits. While turning to products for comfort purposes may reduce stress in the short-term, it can misalign with health goals in the long-term. For instance, research conducted in 2021 found that 25 percent of people believed they had gained weight in the last 12 months, and 40 percent want to lose weight. This increased consciousness toward waistlines can be attributed to frequent comfort eating. At a time when consumers are becoming more conscious about their health, this is something that they will want to address.

Research conducted in 2021 shows that 24 percent of consumers have looked to reduce their snacking habits – compared to 35 percent who say they are now doing so more frequently. The reality is that consumers will continue to turn to products that offer moments of escapism from daily uncertainties. However, as consumers re-evaluate their diets, the choice of snacks they turn to will become more deliberate, with ingredients having a greater level of influence on product choice within the confectionery industry than ever before. Consumers will want to avoid ingredients that they deem detrimental to their wellbeing and seek out ingredients they believe offer a convenient health boost. 

This increased focus on authenticity means that natural claims will become more important within the confectionery industry. For instance, 57 percent of people who purchased confectionery in 2021 said they were seeking out natural ingredients more frequently within the sector, and a year later, 63 percent said they were being more attentive to ingredient listings in general. 

This will drive demand for confectionery with streamlined ingredient lists and a variety of free-from claims on packaging. In addition, research in 2021 found that 56 percent of people had made efforts to switch from traditional snacking options to high protein/low sugar alternatives over the last 12 months.

Whether brands adopt strategies around streamlining ingredients or fortifying confectionery with health-boosting ingredients such as protein, it is crucial that such actions do not jeopardize the sensory appeal of their offerings.

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