Thursday, June 3, 2010


Sugar confectionery industry was predicted to be on a declining growth trajectory after the huge outcry against the products churned out by this sector for its supposed role in the health front world over. Many manufacturers tried to make products without lowering the sugar levels by adding some nutrients here and there to make them more acceptable to the health conscious consumers but that ploy also does not seem to be working as relentless pressure from food authorities and critics is building against them to moderate their products in terms of calories. Even the combined voluntary commitment by the food industry in the US to reduce 1.5 trillion calories from their products within 5 years came about due to public campaigns against this industry. It is against this background that the so called "healthy sweets" category of products are emerging in the market with increasing frequency.

The idea of marrying "healthful" and "sweets" might seem like an oxymoron, particularly here at the largest U.S. gathering of candy makers, where a dizzying selection of sweets had attendees bouncing on the trade show floor like kids going wild on Halloween. But such products are becoming more common, manufacturers said, as the industry tries to strike a balance between feeding the public's desire for indulgence and responding to government pressure to fight obesity. State and local lawmakers increasingly are pushing junk-food taxes and other fat-fighting measures. And in recent months First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity has made headlines with increasing frequency.

Food companies are listening. An alliance of major manufacturers this month said the companies would roll out more-healthful options, reduce portion sizes and lower calories in some existing products. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation — a coalition of more than 80 companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle USA — vowed to cut 1.5 trillion calories by the end of 2015. (The companies, however, haven't released specifics on what these new products would be or what existing products would become slimmed down.) The political pressure may be having some effect. For the first quarter of 2010, two of the three fastest-growing confectionary product segments were sugar-free diet candy and sugarless gum, according to data compiled by Information Resources Inc. and the National Confectioners Assn.

In the rush to flood the market with sweets containing less sugar and more non-sugar sweeteners, the industry must be cautioned with regard to the health consequences of such products. The situation needs careful monitoring considering that sugar-free products are growing at a fast pace enticing more and more consumers, trying to "have their cake as well as eat it", with low resolve to shun sweets from their diet. Non-sugar sweeteners are, after all, intended for consumption by health compromised people like diabetics and weight watchers and what consequences their use in regular foods for normal consumers may be imponderable. Hence the need for caution.

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