5 Game-Changing Confectionery Trends for Proactive F&B Leaders in 2023

Embrace change and learn about the innovations that are shaping the confectionery industry in 2023 (uncovered by confectionery industry leaders).

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Trying to keep track of candy and sweet trends is like trying to keep up with all the different flavors of Oreo. They’re changing almost daily. So, we sat down with four confectionery leaders to hear their expert predictions for what’s going to shape the industry in 2023. Here are five things we learned.

In Today’s Email:

  • Introducing the Speakers

  • Trend #1: Sustainable Sourcing

  • Trend #2: Upcycled Ingredients

  • Trend #3: Alternative Sugars

  • Trend #4: Local Flavor and Texture Innovation

  • Trend #5: Functional Confectionery

Introducing The Speakers

🧑‍🍳 Phaedra Ruffalo - Global Marketing Brand and Market Strategist (Marketing Innovation and Insights), US

🧑‍🍳 Elena McMahon - Pastry Chef and Bakery and Innovation Consultant, US 

🧑‍🍳 Stephane Journoux - Food Innovation Consultant (25 years in the food industry as food innovation lead, based in APAC)

🧑‍🍳 Hugo Delforge - Confectionary Industry Consultant, represents French pastry brands in Japan

Trend #1: Sustainable (Cacao) Sourcing

We can’t talk confectionary without talking cacao. 

According to the experts from our round table, sustainable sourcing for confectionary is becoming increasingly important to consumers. 

Awareness about unsustainable and unethical practices, especially in the cacao industry, has grown in recent years. Consumers want to know where the ingredients in their products came from and whether they were produced in ways that respect human rights and the environment.  


Stephane Journoux emphasizes that customers are really scrutinizing ingredient lists and packaging like never before when purchasing confectionery. This is an opportunity for businesses to make an impression on consumers by featuring ethical sourcing accreditations, such as FAIRTRADE, on their labels. Not only that, but by adding information to packaging about the farmers who produced the cacao, including photos, companies can powerfully communicate a product's sustainable and ethical credentials.

Trend #2: Upcycled Ingredients

The confectionery industry is abuzz with the potential of upcycling, the process of using food products that would otherwise go to waste as valuable ingredients in new products. 

Chocolate, in particular, has garnered attention for its potential to incorporate upcycled ingredients such as cacao pulp fiber. According to Elena McMahon, this white pulp surrounding the cacao bean can be dried and turned into a powder, which can then be used to enhance chocolate by replacing sugar with a natural alternative. Products containing a minimum of 10% upcycled ingredients can earn an upcycled certification, making a strong front-of-label statement. 

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Beyond the sustainability benefits, upcycled ingredients can also add nutritional value to confectionery products. Barry Callebaut's Evocao line of upcycled chocolate, for example, contains 40% less sugar than regular chocolate.

Trend #3: Alternative Sugars

The confectionery industry is witnessing a shift towards natural sweeteners, as consumers demand healthier and more natural ingredients. This trend is not just limited to upcycled cacao fruit pulp, but also includes natural sweeteners like agave, monk fruit, and honey.

According to Phaedra Ruffalo, this move towards natural ingredients, especially “cupboard ingredients”, has been top of mind for consumers for over 15 years, yet we are seeing a strong drive from Gen-Z consumers to accelerate that change. As a result, companies are moving away from sugar-alcohols like xylitol and erythritol, which have been linked to health risks.

Stephane also emphasized the importance of natural sweeteners that will look good on labels. He highlighted the potential of agave, monk fruit, and honey as promising natural sweeteners.

Elena drew attention to fiber-based sweeteners as an area to watch. These sweeteners are made by breaking down sugars in fibrous plant materials, resulting in products with up to 70% less sugar and calories compared to table sugar. They also provide the bulking properties needed in formulations.

The use of natural sweeteners is expected to play a significant role in defining the confectionery industry in the coming years. As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, companies are recognizing the need to adapt to their changing preferences. This trend towards natural ingredients is likely to continue as the industry seeks to meet the evolving demands of consumers.

Trend #4: Local Flavor and Texture Innovation

To stay ahead in the competitive world of confectionery innovation, understanding local markets is crucial. According to experts, this includes understanding the unique flavor preferences of consumers in different regions.

One brand that has excelled in this area is KitKat, which has launched limited-edition flavored chocolate bars several times a season in Japan. By focusing on local and regional flavors like yuzu and mikan, KitKat has tapped into Japan's love of regional products. Hugo Delforge points to KitKat's Japan's manufacturing agility as a key strength in being able to continuously produce these limited-time offers while ensuring profitability. 


Big brands like KitKat have been more experimental with flavors over the past 5 years. Per Phaedra, these companies look at boutique chocolatiers to gauge flavor adoption - even then, it can take 5 to 15 years before larger companies experiment with them.

The Chicago-based boutique chocolatier Vosges is one of those companies that have been leading chocolate flavor innovation in the US, for example. The brand is known for pioneering the use of chocolate as a canvas to introduce new flavors (savory spices and foods) to consumers, from the use of wasabi in dark chocolate, curry and coconut in milk chocolate to bacon in its chocolate in 2008, which sparked a trend for using cured meat in confectionery in the US.

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With social media driving consumer trends and preferences at an accelerated rate, staying on top of the latest craze is more important than ever. Experts agree that investing in understanding the habits and preferences of consumers in target markets is crucial for companies looking to stay ahead of the curve. In today's volatile business conditions, companies cannot afford to skimp on market research if they want to develop innovative and successful confectionery products.

Trend #5: Functional Confectionery

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are progressively looking for candies that not only appease their sweet tooth but also deliver extra health and nutritional advantages. Phaedra highlights the rapid growth of vitamin-fortified gummies in the US, which claim to enhance cognitive function, energy, and gut health, as well as promote relaxation. Alongside this trend, CBD-infused treats have gained popularity in Thailand and certain US states. These companies are incorporating ingredients into their confections that extend beyond mere indulgence, offering consumers added benefits.

Our panel of experts predicts that this trend is not only here to stay, but it will also grow to play an even more significant role in the confectionery industry over the coming years. The use of plant-based dairy in confectionery and functional gummies are some of the exciting spaces to watch.

One area of opportunity that Elena highlighted is in the ice cream space. So far, companies have been hesitant to develop frozen dairy products enriched with alternative sugars and functional ingredients. However, just like with chocolate and other confections, consumers are looking for healthy indulgence even when it comes to their frozen treats.

With health at the forefront of modern consumers' minds, companies that invest in developing innovative, healthful confectionery products are poised to capture the attention of consumers and drive growth in the industry.

Feeling inspired?

Are you ready to capitalize on the latest confectionery trends and stay ahead of the curve? GourmetPro's global network of talented professionals is here to help your F&B business thrive. Our team of Pros (including some of the talented panelists), with their extensive skills, experience, and local knowledge, can seamlessly support your projects, ensuring your confectionery creations shine in a competitive market. Matching with a Pro takes less than two weeks, so you can have boots on the ground and start seeing results fast. Don't miss out on the opportunity to innovate and succeed—partner with GourmetPro today.

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That’s all folks

We hope you enjoyed today’s post. A huge thank you to our inspiring panelists Phaedra, Elena, Stephane, and Hugo.

We’ll see you next Tuesday. In the meantime, let us know your takeaways from today’s post in the comments section.

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