Healthy candy? No, it’s not an oxymoron. Consumers and companies are embracing the idea that indulgence has a sweet spot with plant-based confectionary options. Currently, they represent a very small slice of the market (estimated at about 2%), but it’s growing rapidly and industry watchers are bullish about its future.
Fact: MR predicts that the vegan candy market will increase by 14% between 2021 and 2031.
That fact hasn’t been lost on some of the category’s heavyweight players, sparking many to jump in with new plant-based offerings.
Hershey has modified some of its bestselling products to remove animal-based ingredients. In March 2023, it launched dairy-free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which swaps regular milk with oat milk. It is also featured in its new Hershey’s Confection Almond & Sea Salt Candy Bars. Both new products are part of the company’s ‘Plant Based’ line.
The move follows Cadbury’s earlier successful introduction of two new plant-based bars in November 2022—Chocolatey Smooth and Salted Caramel. Almond paste replaces milk to bring the creamy mouthfeel consumers are accustomed to. “Since the launch of the Cadbury Plant Bar in the UK in 2021, there was also interest in this product in Canada,” explains Stacey Biggar, director of marketing, chocolate, Mondelēz Canada. “Flexitarian lifestyles are on the rise. We’ve recognized this need and thought that giving Canadian consumers the option for a plant-based chocolatey treat would be a win-win for everyone.”
Flexitarians opt for a primarily vegetarian diet, but may eat meat or fish occasionally. About one in five Canadians have gone this route, according to a November 2022 survey by Chef’s Plate.
How c-stores can grow the category
Dare has been working to broaden distribution, promote RealFruit through social media, collaborate with media influencers and provide support to retailers. To take advantage of the growth in plant-based candy, she suggests that convenience stores should ensure it has sufficient merchandising presence.
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Since candy is an impulse item for consumers, it needs to be readily available, near registers and places where they wait and line up. Special promotions, bundling and message prompts in-store or near the gas pumps for c-stores that have them to get people inside to shop. Dare is also looking at sales drivers, such as digital coupons and deal-of-the-week specials.
Flavour-wise, Canadians are sweet on sour candy, notes Berry. “Our feedback from consumers has been phenomenal. Everyone loves them. We do have a great assortment for every taste.” While strawberry and cherry reign supreme, tropical flavours, like mango and pineapple, are coming on strong.