Candy Innovation: Five Milestones on the Road to Crafting Sweet Success
Strolling down the candy aisle of your local grocery store is always a delightful experience. Awash with bright packaging and decadent flavors, the shelves have options for every kind of candy lover. And recent launch data demonstrates shoppers have more choices than ever. Mintel reports about 550 new candy products launched in 2022, a 41% increase over 2021. Sales also look promising. Innova forecasts sugar confections and gum sales in the U.S. and Canada will reach $14.8 billion in 2023, and Mintel has a higher prediction of $17.6 billion.
Every innovative sweet treat or chocolatey delight in the candy aisle started out as an idea. But where do you begin when exploring new ideas for candy innovation? What pitstops get you from an idea to a successful product launch?
Your chances of in-market success may increase if you follow a strategic process. Leading with brand perception mapping and in-market research through a successful launch, your journey to crafting your next irresistible confection begins now.
1. Define Your Brand Guardrails
The first step in the innovation process puts a few rules in place about your brand – not to limit creativity, but to ensure your brand remains consistently recognizable to buyers. Knowing how people think and feel about your brand will help you understand the opportunities and limits of your next innovation. Use brand guardrails to look for gaps in shoppers’ wish lists and to identify ways to align with business goals.
You can establish your brand framework by answering several essential questions:
- How do shoppers perceive your brand? Do they see you as traditional, novel, or cutting-edge?
- Do you have a loyal customer base who hesitate to try new flavor iterations for a favorite candy?
- Or are your customers adventurous people who are curious about new formats, tastes, and textures?
2. Assess the Category Landscape
After mapping your brand’s positioning, spend a few extra minutes in the candy aisle to see how your brand stacks up against competitors. Are they trying new formats or flavors? Can you see general patterns in NPD? How can your next innovation stand out? Take time to taste some of the new candy flavors, too. Does the taste experience match the promise on the package? And share samples with your team to inspire ideas.
You may have opportunities to appeal to shoppers with flavor crossovers or regional favorites. Crossovers are happening throughout the food and beverage landscape, and sugar confectionery is a versatile platform to borrow flavors. Regional classics, like tiger tail ice cream in Canada, might represent an untapped opportunity in confections.
Use secondary resources like new product databases from Innova and Mintel to track launches and aggregate data to reveal trending flavors. Here are the top 15 flavors launched in sugar confectionery across North America over the past 52 weeks. The leaders, many of them classic tastes, represent about 50% of new products. Flavor innovation continues, though, and unique tastes on the scene include some exciting additions like sour strawberry guava and Ube.
3. Brainstorm Flavor Ideas
Now that you’ve shopped (and tasted), you’re ready to kick off the creative process and discover fun flavor ideas. It’s time to get in the same room (or on the same video call) with your formulation experts and trusted ingredient suppliers. Prioritize concepts with three qualifying questions:
- Does this idea fit within our brand guardrails?
- Are there practical factors like budget, supply chain, or regulatory concerns we need to work around?
- How well does this concept match our production capabilities?
Your ideas should reflect current trends and consumer insights because you have already assessed the landscape and completed in-market research. If you have time and funds to invest, conduct additional research to gauge interest in your concepts. Getting feedback from candy enthusiasts through more formalized qualitative research or a more extensive quantitative study will help prioritize winning ideas for your launch plan.
4. Formulate Benchtop Samples
With a promising concept or two identified for your brand’s next candy innovation, it’s time to draft formulas, reach out to ingredient suppliers, and create benchtop samples.
Brand guidelines and budgets will help guide base formula and label claims. Other practical considerations you might encounter are sweetener, flavor, and color systems.
- Sweetener. Will you use HFCS, non-nutritive sweeteners like erythritol, or cane sugar? If you’re aiming for a reduced-sugar candy, will you need flavor modulators to improve the taste experience?
- Flavor. Are natural flavors important to your customer or brand? Should you explore natural or WONF flavor options? How does that affect your budget?
- Color. Are your brand buyers open to FD&C colors, or do you want natural options? Will natural colors deliver the visual impact people expect?
If possible, plan time in your launch schedule to let internal teams and your customers taste your samples and offer suggestions (and accolades!)
5. Create Your Launch Plan
Now your innovation plan is coming together! You have a delicious, on-trend prototype in hand, and you can head full throttle toward getting your candy on the shelf.
The commercialization process is complex and requires careful planning. Work with your team to coordinate the various steps to ensure a smooth launch.
- Order ingredients and packaging
- Confirm your label meets regulatory guidelines
- Set production and ship dates
- Evaluate quality after product scale-up
- Generate some buzz through marketing or social media outreach
Remember to follow up with retail partners and customers after your candy arrives in market. Their feedback will help you adjust the formula and provide insights for future candy innovations!
Begin Your Journey to Confectionery Success with FlavorSum
Your next candy launch will be easier if you frame your journey with an innovation process based on industry insights and expertise. FlavorSum’s Innovation Journey Guide can help you prepare for a successful trip.
If you have specific challenges, our flavor experts are ready to help you navigate development hurdles and speed time to market. Connect with our team to get started!