Me to We: What’s next for confectionery?

* 8 min read
Consumer first

During Covid, consumers became more in touch with their emotions and prioritised their mental wellbeing and snacks are an integral part of the narrative around self-care. With spending on travel and other activities down, there is more room in many budgets for premiumised snack options that provide an opportunity to ‘treat yourself’.

According to Mondelez, nostalgic brands have been particularly favoured by consumers, with 53% turning to nostalgic childhood snacks and 59% buying snacks that bring back good memories. McVitie’s British Icons range combines a familiar range of biscuits with new flavour combinations such as Sticky Toffee Pudding and Strawberry Cheesecake, evoking nostalgia while appealing to Millennial desire for more unusual flavours.

mImage source: McVitie's

Rowntree’s went a step further with Dessert Pastilles combining the need for a vegan offering with traditional British flavours like Cherry Bakewell and Apple Crumble.

rowntrees colored bundles newsfeed

Image source: Nestlé

Vegan NPD will continue to grow and presents an interesting design challenge, especially when the product innovation shifts your position from a “brand you love” to a “brand that loves you”.
GC1Clare Leeland
Shaped by insight

The key to success is to amplify your brand purpose in a way that is reassuringly familiar, but refreshingly distinctive. To focus on integrating the new product idea into your core brand design, moving away from a visual kit of two parts to create one powerful brand voice which reflects the conscience of your consumers by combining imaginative creative with smart problem solving.

We’re watching the newly-launched Kit Kat Vegan with interest, Alexander von Maillot, Head of Confectionery at Nestlé, says:

KitKat continues to surprise people with new flavors and ingredients. One of the most common requests we see on social media is for a vegan KitKat, so we're delighted to be able to make that wish come true. This is for everyone who wants a little more plant-based in their life when they treat themselves!
GC1Alexander von Maillot - Nestlé Head of Confectionery

Consumers might be unhappy that it costs 30p more then the dairy Kit Kat, but they are delighted that it tastes like the original so we predict success (even if the design is a little disjointed)!

Vegan KitKat

Image source: Vegan Food & Living

Nostalgia has been an important source of comfort during Covid, but going forward we think that consumers will be looking to the future and focussing on travel, exploration and investing in their health (and their looks!). Treats like chocolate, biscuits and sweets will move from ‘me time’ to ‘sharing time’ and from comfort eating, to a discerning treat. So what does this mean for confectionery brands?

Chocolate trends are challenging for mainstream brands to check into. Think wellness, health, craft, small batch, super-premium. While vegan, gourmet flavours, textural exploration, personalisation, more bitter tastes and improving sustainability might be more achievable.

A cue that could be taken from the craft, small-batch, exploration positioning is that of ‘origins’. Mainstream chocolate hasn’t managed this route yet and whilst Belgian brand Planète Chocolat, is famous for its artisan chocolate workshops, at €45.90 for the Origin Collection of bars, it’s a way off being appropriate for the grocers.

origin collection3

Image source: Planète Chocolat

Origin and a more adult flavour profile will be communicated through premium codes as complex, bitter and savoury tastes are deemed more sophisticated than sugary tastes, mirroring a shift in adult soft drinks, seltzers and mixers as sugary oranges are out of fashion (see Somersault and Free Spirit as soft drink brands to watch). In 2020 Brits’ rekindled romance with dark chocolate saw Bournville stablemate Green & Black’s grow by 3.5% to £43.3m.


Image source: Green & Blacks


Image source: Foodbev Media

Free Spirit Range

Image source: Foodbev Media

Meanwhile, Cadbury Darkmilk, launched in 2018, has doubled its value to £23.6m. The 40% cocoa brand represents a crucial part of chocolate’s growth, suggests Mondelez’s Nash, who says darker variants continue to bring new shoppers into the category. “Although not all consumers grow to love the stronger flavour profile of dark chocolate, many still appreciate a richer-tasting chocolate as their tastebuds mature.”


Image source: Food & Drink Technology

Sharing and gifting are back on the rise (thank goodness!) but the real innovation to come will be in personalisation. Personalisation combined with DTC through your letter box is a trend to watch. Online is a great place to take risks that might be too expensive to roll out to traditional retail partners. Brands can test customer response to new products, flavours, colourways and more, using that sales data to inform future decisions. The Kit Kat Chocolatory service launched in 30 John Lewis stores in December 2019 offered consumers 1500 variations of the much loved bar.

The Chocolatory’s ‘Create Your Break’ service marked “a whole new business model” for Nestlé UK, the company said. The DTC service would be available “before the end of the year”.

All across our business, we are investing in our brands to develop the innovation that people are looking for. The introduction of Kit Kat Chocolatory is all about the demand for more luxury, premium confectionery and the opportunity to personalise a product, which is a trend that continues to grow and grow.
GC1Stefano Agostini - Nestlé UK CEO

However the 2020 plans for consumers ‘to personalise the packaging before it is handmade and delivered’ allowing consumers to ‘design their own premium, eight-finger Kit Kat, choosing one of four types of chocolate and from 14 ingredients’ sadly never happened. We’re hoping they crack it in 2021!


Image source: Confectionery Production

As we emerge from this pandemic, there will be a renewed appreciation of health and wellness.  How does snacking fit into this? What is the future for snacking?  However your brand choses to evolve, there is a very real opportunity to increase sales through effective brand and packaging design; keeping your brand authentic, relevant and distinct whatever challenges lie ahead.

About the author

imageedit 1 6168940299Clare Leeland - Brand Strategy & Consumer Insight

Clare is a Client Partner and Project Manager. She specialises in brand strategy, consumer insight and packaging design. Clare has worked in packaging design across automotive manufacturing and FMCG brands, combining pragmatism with creativity, She's passionate about delivering effective design by getting the most out of client briefs and working closely with designers and insight agencies.

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