Sweet and sour fruit flavors, liquid-filled centers and natural ingredients are making new gummy products better-tasting …and better for you, too.

Good news for fans of gummies: Recent and upcoming introductions boast new sweet and sour fruit flavors, innovative shapes … and cleaner labels. That’s right - today’s gummies are not only good, but good for you, relatively speaking.

Chewy candies such as gummies are among the most popular products in the confectionery market, according to a recent report by research firm Mintel. Sales increases in this segment depend not just on kids and teens, but young adults under the age of 35, who support it as an alternative to gum and other snacks, Mintel notes.

Yes, no matter the brand (Haribo,Black Forest,Starburst,Trolli,Wonka,Life Savers), shape (bears, worms, fish, bugs, straws, strings) or flavor (sweet, sour), gummies are a draw for consumers of all ages.

Information Resources, Inc. reports that the top eight non-chocolate chewy candy brands for the latest 52 weeks ending Feb 21, 2010, includeSour Patch Kids, which did $58.7 million in sales (up 17.6% from last year);Jaret Swedish Fish, which did $51.8 million in sales (up 16%); andLife Savers Gummies, which did $46.4 million in sales (up 36.5%).

That’s despite the economy, which this category has weathered better than others, says Christian Jegen, president of Haribo of America, Inc., adding that the same success has held true for his company. “Candy is a simple, relatively inexpensive pleasure … even in times of economic crisis.”

Not only did gummies weather the storm, but they also managed to grow, adds Patricia Bowles, communications manager, Nestlé Confections & Snacks.

“Gummies are a $770-million category and grew at 15% in 2009, far outpacing the confections category overall.” Bowles notes.

To that end, Nestlé’sWonka brand, which has been feeding kids’ imaginations since the ‘80s, recently added two new gummy products to its “edible garden” for teens, young adults and “the young at heart,” Bowles says.

NewWonka Squishy Sploshberriesare a juice-filled product available in Goji Berry, Cloudberry and Blueberry flavors.Wonka Whipped Wingers are aerated gummies - the first of their kind, Bowles notes - available in tropical flavors. Both are made with natural ingredients and 25% real fruit juice … another growing trend within the category.

Flavor Focus

Products that are free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives are increasingly popular in every confectionery area, and gummies are no exception. One explanation for the growth of this particular category is the fact that it’s a low/no/reduced fat option for consumers.

Take newJelly Belly Fruit Snacks from Jelly Belly Candy Co. Made with seven real fruit juices, the kosher-certified treats contain 100% natural flavors and colors from natural sources. The naturally fat-, dairy and gluten-free product also is an excellent source of Vitamin C. Ingredients include apple, strawberry, pear, cherry and orange juice from concentrate as well as lemon and raspberry juice from puree; colors are derived from turmeric, grape extract, black carrots and black currents.

Flavor is the main focus of the gummy category.

Whether sweet or sour, when it comes to gummies, “fruity works,” Jegen states.

If anyone should know, it’s Haribo. A leader in this segment of the candy industry, the company offers more than 20 SKUs of gummy products, in varieties ranging from strawberries and peaches to cola and black licorice.

“We have the largest assortment of any gummy company,” Jegen says.

At the upcoming Sweets & Snacks Expo, Haribo will capitalize on another gummy trend that delivers an even juicier experience for consumers: liquid-filled centers.

NewHaribo Fruity Frutti gummies will feature liquid fillings made with real fruit juice in what Jegen calls a more “exotic” flavor for this category: mango. (S.R.P.: $1.19.)

“Mango, I think, is a really interesting flavor … you can do it sour, you can do it sweeter,” Jegen notes.

Haribo Fruity Frutti gummies also are free from artificial colors.

Compared to other brands, Haribo’s upscale gummies are aimed at an older demographic, he adds.

“The adult consumer has always been a big part of our consumers base,” Jegen says. “People my age grew up with gummies. We’ve been eating them since the ‘80s. That’s just a natural progression.”

Shape Shifters

Another progression that’s been natural for the gummy category is shape. Traditional gummy bears aside, there are a number of new and interesting profiles on the marketplace.

TakeLife Savers Gummies Sweet Strings ‘N Sour Ringsfrom the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. in Chicago, an extension of the popularLife Savers hard candy brand. (Other offerings includeLife Savers Gummiesand Life Savers Gummies Fruit Explosions.) They come in a combination of sweet and sour flavors, including Sweet Cherry and Sweet Raspberry strings, and Sour Fruit Punch and Sour Green Apple rings. (S.R.P.: $1.99 per 7-oz. bag; $0.79 per 2-oz. pouch.)

Meanwhile, the Incredible Chocolate Company offers Australian-madeZoogle Jellies: gummies shaped like snakes, birds and crocs - all animals found at the Australia Zoo, whose Wildlife Conservation Program receives proceeds from sales of the product.

The 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo, to be held May 25-27 at McCormick Place in Chicago, promises even more gummy introductions, in all shapes and flavors. They will include new products from offshoot categories such as jellies, jelly beans and licorice. Gummies to be featured in the New Product Showcase are:

• Sugar Free Gummi Butterflies and Mini Gummy Butterflies in six flavors, plus Mango Gummi Bears and Milk Chocolate Covered Gummy Bears from Albanese Confectionery
Nintendo Snerdles,3Dee Gummis andFlorida’s NaturalSour Nuggets from Au’some, Inc.
Trolli Cola, Cherry and Grape flavored sour gummy candy in 2-oz. packages from Farley’s and Sathers Candy Co., Inc.
Tasty BrandOrganic Gummy Snacks
Boston Fruit Slices and Sugar Free Fruit Slices
• Fruitzels pretzel-shaped gummi fruit snacks
Gimbal’s Honey LoversFruit Chews
VIDAL filled gummies from Vidal Ensign USA
Gimbal’s Scottie DogsAll Natural Licorice

Goody goody!

Jumpin' Jellies

At the upcoming Sweets & Snacks Expo, Nestle will unveil two new jelly products as part of itsWonka Exceptionalsline:Wonka Fruit Jellies(S.R.P. $2.99 per 5-oz. box) andWonka Fruit Marvels(S.R.P.: $1.99 per 1.9-oz. tin).

Square-shapedWonka Fruit Jelliescome in Grapefruit, Red Apple and Goji Berry, all of which are lightly dusted with sugar.Wonka Fruit Marvelsare hard candies with soft centers, also dusted with sugar, available in Clementine Orange, White Grape and Pomegranate. Both are made with natural ingredients, no artificial colors and 25% real fruit juice.

For Every Season...

...there's a gummy. New for Winter 2010-2011:RedVines Original Red Christmas Gummies shaped like trees, Santas and stockings, andRedVines Original Red Valentine Gummies shaped like hearts.