- Russell Stover Chocolates CEO and President Andreas Pfluger told Food Business News his company is looking to end the notion that sugar-free chocolate isn’t tasty.
- The company recently unveiled a reformulated line of its sugar-free chocolates made with stevia leaf extract, matching the taste and quality of its standard chocolates.
- The new products will include dark chocolate mint patties, pecan delights, peanut butter cups, coconut and caramel.
While chocolate has long been a perpetual favorite for millions of consumers, more people have also started to embrace chocolate’s health credentials. In keeping with current trends, those consumers may be looking for sugar-free snacks and treats.
Already the top seller of sugar-free chocolate, Russell Stover hopes to extend its leadership in the category by following changing consumer tastes and preferences. The company likens its new sugar-free products to its regular products, and is marketing them to all consumers — not just diabetics.
And there may be mainstream demand for these type of products, which previously were mainly sought after by people who could not eat sugar. As consumers turn away from added sugars, improving the health profile of chocolate is becoming popular. Candy giants Mars, Nestle, Lindt, Ferrera Candy and Ferrero recently committed to making half of their individually wrapped products 200 calories or less by 2022. Meanwhile, Nestle announced last year that it had created a hollow sugar molecule that would reduce the amount of sugar in its products by about 40%.
Consumer demand for low-sugar candy or candy sweetened with natural alternatives like stevia and monkfruit is being taken seriously. NPR surveyed 102 CPG companies and found 180,000 products were reformulated last year — double the amount in 2015.
Still, consumers are not afraid to indulge. Sales of chocolate and other snack categories continue to rise, even as interest in eating healthy rises. However, if Russell Stover's new chocolate offerings are as good as they claim, the company may help shift consumer patterns. If this happens, the chocolate maker could make the leap from mid-sized player to industry standard-bearer.