Plant-based Confectionery

Top 3 trends in plant-based confectionery

The global plant-based confectionery market is poised for significant growth in the coming years. R&D expert Julie Emsing Mann provides her insights into the top 3 trends in the market.

Written by KMC

It began with milk and meat, but today the plant-based revolution has ventured into the sweet world of confectionery.

The global plant-based confectionery market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Health concerns, climate worries, and a growing awareness of animal cruelty are fueling the growth as consumers become increasingly conscious of their choices – even when it comes to sweets. 

– Most consumers haven’t had an understanding of the animal products being used in confectionery, but today many have started to realize the concern associated with it. At the same time, many companies are realizing that they need to cater to their customers’ needs, says Julie Emsing Mann, the founder of Appropriately Rogue Consulting based in Pennsylvania, US.

With 25 years of experience in the confectionery industry as an R&D scientist at Hershey and Ingredion, Julie Emsing Mann has a central role in the pioneering of plant-based confectionery. Today, she consults a wide range of companies looking to enter the growing market of plant-based foods, including beverages, dairy/meat analogs, and confectionery with gummies, chocolates, and other sweets.

In this article, she shares her insights into the top 3 trends shaping the future of plant-based confectionery.

1. Clean labels take center stage

One of the most prominent trends in the world of plant-based confectionery is the emphasis on clean labels. Clean label confectionery refers to products made with simple, recognizable ingredients, devoid of artificial additives, preservatives, or excessive processing. Today, most consumers have a strong desire for transparency and a growing awareness of the importance of healthy eating.

– In most Western countries, clean label is emerging as the number one trend. People have been let down by food companies so many times that they’ve become more selective about what they consume, says Julie Emsing Mann.

However, the introduction of new plant-based ingredients also requires proper education of consumers, and companies should put a greater effort into communication when launching a clean label product. 

– If you use an ingredient that people don’t know, you need to do the work and educate them. People care about the foods, beverages, and ingredients that make up these products. Especially because they’re buying it for their family and kids. It is important to provide transparency to your consumer base, such as where the ingredient comes from, how the ingredient is produced, and what this means to the consumer, says Julie Emsing Mann.

Wine gummies

2. Cost optimization without sacrificing quality

Affordability is another crucial aspect driving the plant-based confectionery market. Often, plant-based products are pricier for the consumers – and high inflation has added to the expenses. Therefore, Julie Emsing Mann emphasizes the importance of cost optimization for manufacturers. 

– People are cost-sensitive these days, and some are barely breaking even. Companies need to find ways to offer plant-based options that are both high-quality and affordable, says Julie Emsing Mann.

In fact, cost-optimization can be achieved within some areas of plant-based confectionery. Gelatin, for example, can be replaced with a starch blend. In the end, cost optimization also involves evaluating multiple ingredients from different sources and finding the perfect balance between the taste, texture, quality, and cost of the final product. 

– It’s about working with the right suppliers, finding the right blend, and experimenting with production flows. Sharing knowledge and collaborating with suppliers can also lead to novel product innovations, cost efficiencies, and higher product quality, says Julie Emsing Mann.

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3. Ethical considerations drive innovation

Beyond health and affordability, ethical considerations drive innovation in plant-based confectionery. A growing concern for animal welfare, sustainable sourcing, and the reduction of environmental impact is shaping consumer preferences, Julie Emsing Mann points out: 

– The concern around animal welfare is growing, and many people are worried about the fair treatment of animals in the food industry, says Julie Emsing Mann.

This trend extends beyond the ethical treatment of animals. It includes a broader focus on sustainability, although consumers’ understanding of climate consequences and regenerative agriculture is often limited. 

– The average consumer is becoming more aware of the issue of sustainability, although they still lack in-depth understanding. But a movement is underway, educating consumers and calling attention to these concerns, she says.

It’s all about the consumers

The plant-based confectionery market is not only a response to dietary preferences but a reflection of evolving values. As consumers demand products that align with their ethical and environmental principles, the confectionery industry is adapting to meet these expectations.

– The plant-based revolution in confectionery is not just about what’s in the candy; it’s about aligning with consumer values and needs. Companies that fail to do so will not succeed. But if they understand how to mimic animal-based ingredients in their confections, educate their consumers, and cater to their challenges, the opportunities are endless, says Julie Emsing Mann.

As the plant-based confectionery industry continues to innovate and expand, it promises a bright and delicious future for both consumers and the planet.


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