Tess Wicksteed: Sweeter Futures – New Candy Challengers Stake A Claim On Health Innovation

Tess Wicksteed: Sweeter Futures – New Candy Challengers Stake A Claim On Health Innovation

A look at how brands are embracing the junk foods we love in a healthier, more organic way.

Tess Wicksteed, Pearlfisher
  • 27 february 2014

The food industry continues to shape our brand landscape with breakthrough innovations that are not just changing what and how we eat but our very culture. We previously talked on PSFK about the impact of the allergen free sector steering a radical change for the future direction of food. Now, hot on its heels, we are also seeing an uprising in the candy sector. A new generation of candy brand contenders is breaking into this space in a new way by challenging creativity and credibility and staking a claim in health.

Many of our best-loved confectionery brands have stayed reassuringly the same (aside from maybe an extension or flavour variant) to enable kids to fall in love with them and everyone else to revisit them throughout their lives. Others in the industry have focused on the retro and artisan trends to revive and re-market perennial favorites. Elsewhere, Bazooka is continuing its steady revamp by reinventing its comic heritage for a digital age while Hershey recently announced its first launch in 30 years.

As appropriate and exciting as the evolution of these icons is, an even bigger and more significant change is being driven by a few – but potentially as powerful – new candy brands.


In 2012, Unreal kicked up a media storm with a unique proposition to ‘unjunk’ the world by not just providing a great tasting candy, free from artificial ingredients, but by launching with five candies that, in both look and taste, mimic popular brands such as M&M’s, Milky Way and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Unreal is already challenging the big boys of this industry by providing a meaningful alternative. And, this Spring, Legit Organics hits the shelves, looking to further reinvent the confectionery category with a range of products that are socially and environmentally responsible, organic and with a new urban aesthetic.

So just what could this mean for the future of the international confectionery category and in what way can we see this as setting the path for other organic brands?

Firstly, our nostalgic associations with candy have kept us from challenging its credibility for long enough. Legit Organics and other challengers are disrupting the notion that candy is an unhealthy and nostalgic indulgence and using a new visual and verbal language to get this message across.


Snacking – healthy snacking to be precise – is a phenomenon in its own right and such an integral part of our food renaissance and innovation and it is good to now see confectionery stake a claim in health to change positioning and aesthetic.

The bottom line is that health is not an infinitely flexible debate. Eventually we’ll hit a point where proving healthy options is an essential part of a successful brand. Why not start now? Many brands have done this with great success from Annie’s, Amy’s and Stonyfield on a small scale to large brands such as Starbucks and Target.

In the same way, the visual language of organic is ready for a change. While organic brands such as Annie’s and Amy’s initially infiltrated and changed the face of the food market, it’s now time to express organic in new ways.


The standard in organic confectionery has always been about compromise: worthy not tasty; timid not tempting; cluttered not cool. Brands such as Legit Organics are looking to negate this compromise by creating a new visual language for organic – both within confectionery and beyond – that is simultaneously enjoyable, accessible and authentic.

We are seeing a new celebration and pleasure in healthy eating. These new confectionery contenders are now looking to do the same by shifting us from junk to joy with new brands that taste good, have meaning and purpose and challenge communication and culture.

With the help of our partner Boehringer IngelheimPSFK Labs has released the latest Future of Health Report, which highlights the four major themes and 13 emerging trends shaping the evolving global landscape of healthcare. To see more insights and thoughts on the Future of Health visit the PSFK page.

Images: Jeff Adair, UNREAL, Legit Organics, Annie’s


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