Big sugar confectionery players have finally woken up to the idea that to keep consumers sweet, they need to go down the better-for-you route.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett is bringing The Natural Confectionery Company to the UK next month, while Nestlé Rowntree is understood to be introducing a similar range under The Real Confectionery Company banner.

The Natural Confectionery Company range, which is already available in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, contains no artificial colours or flavours and consists of six variants: Party Jellies, Jelly Dinosaurs, Jelly Snakes, Forbidden Fruit, Jelly Squirms and Jelly Unbearables. They come in 180g packs priced at £1.39.

CTB is supporting the UK launch with a £1m marketing push including roadshows and sampling.

"The growth in healthier confectionery shows there is a consumer trend towards natural products," said Kate Harding, acting head of customer relations for CTB. "Ingredients used in products from The Natural Confectionery Company will resonate well with parents and the taste, fun shapes and bright pack designs will appeal to younger generations."

Nestlé refused to confirm The Real Confectionery Company launch but registered the trademark in the UK in March.

Healthier confectionery has grown by 40% in the UK since 2001, according to Mintel (2006) and is now worth more than £390m. However, until now, the sector has been overlooked by the major players.

Instead, Cadbury, Nestlé and Masterfoods have focused on recipe changes to their standard brands, launching lower-calorie and portion control versions and removing artificial colours and flavours. The most recent example was CTB's reformulation of Bassetts Allsorts and Maynards Wine Gums with natural colours and flavours last week.

Meanwhile, the smaller players have led the way. Leaf, for example, launched Red Band last summer, which included sugar-free and reduced sugar lines.