Granted, the fourth quarter typically represents boon time for confectionery sales. It also opens the door for a slew of seasonal new product launches. Consequently, Mintel’s update on new product launches provides a snapshot that’s only 75% complete.

Currently, through September 2009, there were 1,231 new confectionery products introduced, 728 of which were chocolate and 503 of which came from the sugar and gum confectionery sectors.

Nevertheless, those numbers suggest a significant falloff in product development. Extrapolating current new product launches till the end of the year produces a measly 1,775 total, which constitutes a 55% plunge from the 2,761 confections launched last year.

Even if the fourth quarter unleashed an extraordinary amount of new products, it’s hard to imagine that manufacturers would double the number of 1,231 products launched to date. Even that wouldn’t suffice to rival 2008’s total.Every sub-category listed by Mintel indicates significant drop-offs in new product launches, with chocolate tablets, non-individually wrapped chocolate pieces, other chocolate confectionery, pastilles, gums, jellies and chews, and toffees, caramels and nougats seemingly holding their own.

And while expected year-end totals for new product launches will improve, it’s clear that research and development resources were channeled toward more long-term projects and/or postponed as companies trimmed costs in light of lagging sales.

With regards to new product claims, kosher remains a strong consumer draw in chocolate, less so in sugar and confectionery. Touting premium within the chocolate segment continues to appeal to chocolate manufacturers, while low/no/reduced sugar remains a leading claim amongst sugar and gum confectioners.

Word has it that there will be an upshot of new product launches in 2010. Whether those numbers will rival 2007 or 2008 totals remain to be seen.

Surely, one hopes the creative juices will be flowing and outpace what at this stage of the game seems a sluggish 2009 for new products.