China’s functional candy crush: Iron, collagen and taurine fortification could provide a sales boom

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Throat candies featuring TCM ingredients are hugely popular.
Throat candies featuring TCM ingredients are hugely popular.

Related tags Marketing

There is vast scope to increase functional confectionery innovation and sales in China by including iron, collagen and taurine in products, according to analysts.

Ahead of next week’s FI and HI China exhibition in Shanghai, where NutraIngredients-Asia is the International Digital Media Partner, we asked the experts at market research firm Mintel where they thought there was scope for market growth.

One of the hot topics they identified was functional candy – a segment analysts said could thrive in China if there was more innovation.

The sugar confectionery market value has been going down in the country since 2014, but functional confectionery still records robust growth. However, its penetration rate is still low compared with other subcategories.

According to Mintel’s Loris Li, the popularity of functional candy, and its potential for growth, relates to people’s knowledge of TCM.

“Chinese people traditionally consume throat-soothing candy, especially those in certain career groups such as teachers,”​ she said.

Popular ingredients

In 1994, Golden Throat Candy was first launched and has since become very popular throughout the country.

“This can be attributed to the widely accepted knowledge of the purported benefits of typical ingredients​,” said Li.

“The ingredients include honeysuckle and monk fruit.”

But despite the fact that research shows that around one-in-two consumers in most major cities regularly consume functional candy, there is currently an absence of innovation to try and expand the market.

“Because the types of functional candy are quite limited, concentrating on throat-soothing candy and vitamin C or calcium enriched candy, brands could consider developing more options to expand the market. Developing products based on varied demands from different demographic groups could be a good strategy​,” she added.

She pointed to Sam’s Garden which launched a chocolate-flavoured marshmallow containing collagen, an ingredient which can be marketed on an anti-ageing platform, while in Taiwan and Japan there are several examples of candy enriched with iron.

“Functional candy with taurine could also target consumers who would like to enjoy sports and working out,”​ added Li.

In shape

“According to our research nearly half (48%) of males and 25% of females want to have muscle mass. Among younger consumers, those aged 20-24, 41% want to be in shape instead of slim.

“Thus products with the function of improving sports performance or helping build muscle could be popular among those consumers. A brand, Devilion Energy, from Germany has already launched such a product. This hard candy contains caffeine and taurine, and is said to taste like, and have the effect of, an energy drink.”

After the sugar confectionery market declined by 5% in China from 2015-16, Li reiterated that brands should look to expand their offerings in the functional space.

“Functional candy still has much room to increase its usage. Product innovation that addresses varied demands from different demographic groups can be a good strategic direction for brands,”​ she added.

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