Trick or Trend: A Seasonal Peek at What’s Happening in Premium Sweets

October 25, 2022

In a month when eating at least a little candy seems obligatory, we’re taking a look at the trends and innovations shaping the premium confectionery category. Along with loads of temptation, we’ve uncovered our share of surprises and a few intriguing contradictions (healthy candy, anyone?).

Whether you’re a chocoholic, a sugar-tooth or a lean, mean clean-eating machine, it turns out there’s something for everybody in the ever-widening world of specialty sweets.




Strange as it is to open this list with a trend against sugar, the data doesn’t lie. With scrutiny about sugar and its effects on health growing ever more intense, lower-sugar and sugar-free confections are surging in popularity. In fact, analysts predict the sugar-free candy category will grow by more than 5% per year between now and 2029.

We need look no further than Hershey’s 2021 acquisition of Lily’s to find proof that lower sugar content in candy is big business. While the stevia-sweetened Lily’s portfolio leads Hershey’s charge in sugar-free, “permissible” scaled-down variants of Hershey’s classics — think Reeses and York Thins — further demonstrate the candy giant’s breadth of investment in the less-is-better trend.

In the realm of boutique and specialty brands, reduced sugar innovators abound, targeting all age ranges. Notable newcomers include TiDBiTS gummies, which tout minimal sweeteners (from fruit juice) and simple ingredients. For grownups, clever brand Behave continues to tout its low sugar, and reduced calorie and carb gummy offerings under the wry promise “we’re good so you don’t have to be.”




Riding the same “newstalgia” wave that’s bringing back Jell-0 and Froot Loops, s’mores are having a moment. And while we’re certainly seeing s’mores catch fire with mainstream brands (yes, s’mores Pepsi is now a thing), specialty and gourmet producers are also taking the trend upscale.

Gift Basket behemoth Harry & David celebrates s’mores with a tempting aggregation of cookies, candies and cocoas all centered on the theme, as does super-premium Vosges, replacing traditional grahams with European butter crisps and ordinary Hershey’s squares with exotic mini-bars.




No dairy. No corn syrup or animal products. No heavy processing. No gluten. “Avoidance of negatives” could be cast as the macro food trend of the decade. Turned on its head, it’s the widespread embrace of whole, simple ingredients, minimally processed. From whichever angle you approach the topic, these sensibilities don’t fall away when sweet cravings strike.

Case in point: the boom in chocolates marketed as vegan or plant-based, even though most high-quality dark chocolate already met both of those criteria long before such dietary frameworks reached the mainstream.

Trendmaker Barry Callebaut is answering the call for plant-based and less-processed options with whole fruit chocolate. Made from 100% pure cacao fruit, the product was recently honored for its superior environmental sustainability. While whole fruit chocolate is in minimal US distribution today (see one option from Vosges), we’re watching with interest to see where the innovation may lead.




For those who follow confectionery closely, ruby chocolate has been on the radar for a few years, having been launched by Barry Callebaut in Europe and Asia well ahead of its US rollout. But this year, it seems the rose-tinted delicacy is everywhere in premium treats. It stars in multiple varieties of Chocolove bars, Whole Foods’ 365 store brand treats, and boutique offerings like San Francisco-based Charles’s Chocolates.

Contrary to skeptics’ assumptions, ruby chocolate is not just white chocolate treated with coloring, but rather a unique type of chocolate with its own fruity, sweet-and-sour flavor profile. While manufacturer Barry Callebaut closely guards the secret to its production, many close to the industry agree that the distinctive flavor and color is likely the product of a special processing method, rather than unique source beans.




When “permissible indulgence” doesn’t meet the bar, consider “beneficial indulgence;” the growing category of candies promising functional wellness perks. Displaying more in common with herbal teas and smoothies than traditional sugary treats, these sophisticated bonbons blur the lines between food, medicine and self-care in fascinating fashion.

Surely these innovations, which tend to target adults, owe a debt to the cannabis gummy trend. Consider chef-created Oomp Sweets, offering gummies infused with lion’s mane mushroom for anxiety, acerola for immunity and cider vinegar to help regulate blood sugar. Funcho functional chocolate goes even further with indulgent bars that promise everything from better sleep to superior focus to a little extra spark in the bedroom!

Guess it’s okay to have seconds.

At Wilks Communications Group, we’re always on the lookout for trends, innovations and inspiration to help our team and clients achieve breakthrough ideas. If you’ve got an up-and-coming brand with cutting-edge innovation and big ambitions, we’d love to be part of your success. Contact us to get the conversation started.



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