Innovation Investigation: Consumer, Market, and Flavor Trends in Better for You Candy

by | Sep 21, 2023

Candy is on the rise! Despite inflationary concerns and general economic pressures, confections category sales are growing. According to Euromonitor, confectionery sales as of December 2022 hit $42.6B. And subsegments are up in record numbers:

    • Chocolate: up 9.1% (IRI)
    • Non-chocolate: up 13.8% (IRI)
    • Gum and Mints: up 13.8% (IRI)

But even the traditionally indulgent category isn’t immune to the consumer push towards health and wellness. What do we mean by health and wellness when it comes to candy? Mintel notes that while the sweet taste experience primarily supports mental and emotional well-being, brands have opportunities to boost physical and spiritual health.

Read on to learn about trends in better-for-you candy, including sugar reduction, portion control, and plant-based.

‘Permissible Indulgence’ in Confections

Some believe that candy has inherently good benefits. In their 2023 State of Treating report, the National Confectioners Association (NCA) highlights the high level of permissibility in candy. They note most people incorporate traditional sweets into their lives to support mental health goals associated with happiness and fun.


Despite global buy-in that traditional candy is a permissible indulgence (92% of Canadian confectionery eaters agree that it’s good to indulge (Mintel)), better-for-you candy is increasing in availability. North American launches of BFY candies increased by +10% in the last 52 weeks. While Kosher remains the largest better-for-you candy claim in new products, Vegan and GMO-free claims are the fastest growing, up 89% and 68%, respectively, in the last year.

A survey from Innova Market Insights shows North Americans are looking for real ingredients, premium quality, and free-from claims in their sugar confectionery products.

Top 10 Purchase Influencers in Sugar Confectionery (Innova. North America)

    • Made with real ingredients
    • Indulgence claims
    • No artificial flavors or colors
    • Traditionally made/crafted
    • Low/no/reduced sugar
    • Premium quality
    • Product Safety
    • Low/no/reduced fat
    • Locally sourced/produced
    • Non-GMO

Product Spotlight: Launch Trends in Better-For-You Candy

Let’s explore recent launches in the better-for-you candy space to understand how brands are showcasing benefits. Many creative, health-focused confectionery concepts have hit the shelves recently.

Sugar Reduction

Joyride peachy mango rings offer a health-focused twist on a classic confectionery product, boasting zero grams of sugar per bag and a “no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives” claim. (Mintel GNPD)

Standout Statistics:

    • More than 40% of people look for low sugar claims in new food and beverage products. (IRI)
    • Sugar-free chocolate and non-chocolate candy outpaced traditional counterparts in both dollars and volume growth in recent years. (IRI)
    • 52 Weeks July 2022 Traditional Sugar-Free
      Dollars % Chg 9.4% 27.4%
      Volume % Chg 1.6% 14.7%
      Dollars % Chg 14.1% 16.3%
      Volume % Chg 3.7% 4.7%
    • And launches of sugar-free candy increased +59% in the 52 weeks ending August 2023.
Package of Vanilla Dunkaroos on a teal background

Portion Size

Target’s Favorite Day brand launches “filled mini straws” as a pint-sized treat “great for car rides, movie snacks, or a ‘just because.’”

Standout Statistics:

    • 78% of candy shoppers said portion size variety is increasingly important in 2023 vs. 69% in 2021. (NCA)
    • 29% of Canadians and 21% of Americans find package size most important when purchasing sugar confectionery. (Innova)


Social media-inspired Karl Gummies brands launched sour blue raspberry gummies with a plant-based claim on the front of the package and a callout to sugar content. (Mintel GNPD)

Standout Statistics:

    • Mintel reports that vegan confectionery will become more common in the next five years.
    • Launches of plant-based confections increased by +46% in North America in the last 52 weeks.
    • 22% of Canadian consumers are interested in chocolate or candy with environmental claims. (Mintel)

Functional Confectionery

Immune-boosting Tauri Gum features an alcohol-inspired peach bellini flavor in a chewing gum format for consumers looking to bump up vitamin C and zinc intake.

Standout Statistics:

    • 61% of consumers across 11 countries always look for healthier alternatives in snacks. (Innova)
    • In response to increasing health concerns, NPD in functional sugar confectionery has increased in the past couple of years and almost tripled in the last year. (Innova and Mintel)

Flavor Trends in Gummy Confectionery

Innova Market Insights notes that gummies and jellies are the most active segments within sugar confectionery. With so much growth, examining trends for innovation inspiration is important. And flavor innovation is a pathway to success when it comes to gummy confections!

While fruit flavors like strawberry and lemon reign supreme, we do see some exciting entrants, like cola in Canada. And just as candy innovation overall is growing, flavor innovation is, too. Launches are up significantly across all the top flavors in the US and Canada.

Top Flavors in Gummy Confections by Launches in the United States (Last Three Years. Mintel)

    • Strawberry (+54%)
    • Cherry (+9%)
    • Orange/Sweet Orange (+84%)
    • Lemon (+88%)
    • Fruit (+93%)
    • Sour (+86%)
    • Grape (+160%)
    • Raspberry (+50%)
    • Watermelon (+33%)
    • Peach (+100%)

Top Flavors in Gummy Confections by Launches in Canada (Last Three Years. Mintel)

    • Strawberry (+120%)
    • Sour (+100%)
    • Lemon (+50%)
    • Peach (+100%)
    • Cherry (+33%)
    • Cola (+200%)
    • Orange/Sweet Orange (+33%)
    • Peach & Sour (+300%)
    • Raspberry (+400%)
    • Berry (+200%)

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Creating delicious and healthful confectionery products has never been easier. Partnering with FlavorSum will allow you access to technical, insights, and regulatory expertise to get your product idea to the finish line faster. Reach out to our team to kickstart your next better-for-you candy project!