Critics say the only innovation in confectionery is coming from existing brands. Fiona McLelland reports

Last year’s level of innovation in confectionery left retailers and market analysts with a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.
The beacon of innovation in 2004, Cadbury’s Snaps, still gets the thumbs up from across the industry and the mood remains positive that it has carved out a niche in the market as new variants have been added to the range.
But Asda buyer Philip Hancock, who was working in confectionery until a recent move to cereals, says that innovation in 2005 has been lacking. “We have not seen a massive amount of innovation and there are only a handful of innovative products to have come through this year,” he says.
However, Hancock has been impressed with Nestlé’s tie-in with Warner Bros for its Wonka range, as has Alison Rhodes,
head of trading for confectionery at Woolworths.
She says: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Willy Wonka evoke memories of our childhood. The product presentation was true to the film and the golden ticket promotion added to the excitement. There is something magical about a product called Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.”
Nestlé picked up the lucrative deal with hit film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and generated excitement about the Wonka range.The film was an absolute dream for a chocolate manufacturer, says Nestlé Rowntree sales communications manager Graham Walker.
“Nothing like that has been done before. I don’t think there has ever been as perfect a link between a movie licence and product. In the first week after the launch three out of the top four impulse products were Wonka chocolate.”
Walker says Nestlé Rowntree has pushed through 30 innovations from January to September. The relaunch of Aero has been the biggest of its projects and Walker says it has achieved phenomenal success.
Another huge project for Nestlé Rowntree has been to use real fruit juice and no artificial colours or flavours in the entire Nestlé Rowntree range. “This has been really important for mums who are becoming more health aware and are looking for more permissible options,” says Walker. Its new Fried Eggs, which it is launching in time for Easter next year, continue this theme, he says.
Cadbury Trebor Bassett has also brought out new Milky Babies and Fruity Babies in line with the health trend, and Fox’s Confectionery has taken the healthier option with its
Clearly Better Sweets now containing real fruit juices and natural flavours.
Tracey Wilson, marketing manager at Fox’s Confectionery, says: “The consumer’s desire for sweet treats is never going to go away and, as responsible manufacturers, it is our duty, where appropriate, to try to produce ‘healthier products’ that do not compromise on taste.”
Editorial director for Mintel’s global new product database, David Jago, says the health trend will continue. He also says that Fairtrade and organic chocolate are becoming more important, especially with Cadbury Schweppes buying Green & Black’s. Fairtrade will be the more important trend, according to Jago.
He says that more dessert-flavoured confectionery is coming through - a trend that is already big in Europe - and more manufacturers will be promoting the health benefits of chocolate, such as the anti-oxidant qualities in dark chocolate.
But he adds: “Manufacturers are struggling to come up with something new and I think that’s a bit sad. Although it is difficult, as you can look back
as far as records began to see that the best-selling brands have remained more or less the same. Innovating around these brands is therefore a safe option.”
Cadbury Trebor Bassett is one company sticking to what it knows best, and has based much of its NPD around the Dairy Milk brand as part of its centenary celebrations. New launches have included Dairy Milk Almond & Honey and Turkish variants.
Asda’s Hancock agrees that launching new confectionery products is difficult in a mature market and says that manufacturers are good at the less risky option of playing with existing brands. “Everyone agrees that Cadbury successfully relaunched its Dairy Milk products and it continues to add to the range - that type of innovation is easily understood by the consumer. Nestlé has been very successful at relaunching Aero and has brought out interesting new flavours.”
He is impressed with Cadbury’s newly launched sharing tubs, but says: “Cadbury Snaps was completely innovative, but the tubs are about following the trend of sharing and are more about innovative packaging than product innovation.”
Walker defends the use of limited edition ‘tweaks’ to existing brands as a good way of building sales.
“Limited edition is a very important part of the mix. There is very much a role for limited edition products as they do stimulate the category and can deliver incremental sales.”
Andrea Taylor, trade relations manager at Masterfoods, says that consumers buy the brands they know and trust. “The 10 best-selling singles have a combined age of more than 400 years.
“Research shows that the top 10 chocolate bars generate more than a third of chocolate sales, so it is vital that the best-selling lines are stocked and given the space they deserve on the confectionery fixture.”
Last year’s launch of Mars Delight gained plaudits. It is performing well and has stayed in the top 10 impulse countlines since its launch, says Taylor.
“Strong new product development like Mars Delight has shown that new products that are linked to best sellers can also make an impact on the market, providing they are backed by big advertising and marketing spend.”
Galaxy Promises
Masterfoods has set out to create a new category of ‘everyday luxury’ with Galaxy Promises by being the first to bridge the gap between the everyday and luxury block chocolate markets.
Galaxy Promises comes in four variants - Roast Hazelnut, Caramel Crunch, Cocoa Crisp and Rich Coffee, and each square piece is shaped into two triangular sections; smooth Galaxy milk chocolate in one half, the flavoured chocolate in the other. Masterfoods says Promises should be merchandised with other everyday lines. Bassett’s Babies
The Bassett's Babies brand, which was established in 1920, has been made more relevant to the modern consumer with the launch of Bassett’s Milky Babies and Bassett’s Fruity Babies.
Cadbury Trebor Bassett has targeted families, particularly the mum who is buying to share with her children.
The new ranges are made with natural colours and flavours and real milk or real fruit juice to appeal to more health-conscious shoppers and make the product a more permissible treat. Snaps and Share Boxes
Cadbury Trebor Bassett continues to target the big night in category with two new variants of its Snaps range - honeycomb and coconut - to add to milk chocolate, orange, hazelnut and mint, as well as its Share Boxes- in Dairy Milk, Crunchie and Dairy Milk Variety.
Since launch in September 2004, Cadbury Snaps has achieved sales of £19m and Cadbury is hoping for similar success with its share box range, which include individually-wrapped variants of its block chocolate. pouch Packaging
Masterfoods claims that its new pouch packaging for Maltesers, White Maltesers, Minstrels, Revels and M&Ms sharing bags is boosting sales for retailers. The new packaging has been designed to be easier to open, can stand upright on its own for easy sharing and can be resealed.
A £3m marketing programme, including point of sale material, such as dump bins and counter units, supported the launch. The company also increased its advertising for bite-size products to support the rapid growth of the bite-size category. Wonka Range
Wonka bars - Triple Dazzle Caramel, Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight and Nutty Crunch Surprise - as well as Fruity Wobble Drops, linked with the hit film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, were an overnight hit for Nestlé Rowntree.
Sales communications manager Graham Walker says: “We have great confidence that the success will continue into Christmas.” New products such as a Wonka selection box, a Wonka Cane filled with sweets and a decorate-your-own chocolate bar will be out for Christmas. Aero
The relaunch of Aero and the introduction of the bite-size Aero Bubbles has been Nestlé’s biggest project of the year, says Graham Walker.
Nestlé introduced a larger 50g block to fit in with one of the key consumer trends - indulgence and sophistication. The new flavours introduced, Sticky Toffee and Irish Cream, are also attracting new consumers.
Walker adds: “The new bite-size product Aero Bubbles has been a phenomenal success.”