Philippa Cresswell of EP Evolution discusses a range of alternatives in the world of sweets.
With 2014 kicking off to a not too sweet start with the huge focus and trend on removal of sugar from our diets, I wonder how this trend is actually impacting our high street.
We have all lived through the removal of sweets from supermarket checkouts – and then noticed how they have started to creep nearer and nearer again. Schools begin to ask parents to send in ‘healthy snacks’ – and then we are harassed by our children whose raisin and apricot snack doesn’t compare with their friend’s chocolate bar. Our own New Year’s resolution to eat less chocolate is now a distant memory.
Claims made about sugar
- highly addictive
- can cause insulin resistance – a stepping stone towards diabetes
- has unique fat-promoting effects due to its effects on hormones and the brain,
- leading contributor to obesity in both children and adults
- raises cholesterol and which can lead to heart disease
- suppresses the immune system
- promotes inflammation – which promotes ageing and health issues
These do make you wonder why we love it so much!
In Warwickshire, our local and very cosmopolitan town has fabulous and modern restaurants, great cafes and bars and more recently a number of sweet shops.
The latest one, which I was persuaded by my children to enter, was quite a revelation.
On entering we were greeted by the normal kaleidoscope of candy colours, jar upon jar of sugary delights and the ‘pocket money section’, I suddenly tuned into the owner, explaining to another customer with real passion how their range of products goes beyond the norm, and has a real focus on catering for wider dietary requirements including sugar, gluten and dairy free and options for vegetarians.
I asked the owner, where this strategy had come from.
He had originally started stocking normal sweets and then for personal reasons – his mother is diabetic – he looked into finding interesting less ‘artificial’ sugar free sweet options. After his search he introduced two varieties of sugar-free sweets to the range.
This had a positive response and he hasn’t looked back – now offering a whopping 70 varieties including chocolate, boiled sweets and traditional favourites such as Cola bottles which together account for 70% of total sales.
These sales are built on strong repeat business and a very loyal customer base which has enabled the opening of a second shop and with the confectionary business in the UK valued at £5.5 billion and sugar free products seen as a huge growth area, the future looks bright.
Historically seen as a niche market of health food stores, sugar free sweets are now a mainstream attraction – seen as a healthier alternative to ‘sweet’ rather than just a replacement for diabetes sufferers, with even high end chocolatiers such as Godiva experimenting in this area.
The sweetener he uses is Isomalt which is derived from sugar beet and is used widely across the food industry.
Although all sweeteners have some side effects – (stomach upset and the famous laxative effect), Isomalts risk and effect are less. It is natural, non-addictive, contains half the calories of sugar, has no bitter taste and with no sugar in the equation (sugar dulls the taste of the end product) the flavour of the sweet is intensified.
I have to say I was bowled over, not just because I go to taste test a few options, but because they actually taste really great.
If sugar free can taste this good, and have such a positive impact on health, you have to ask why – assuming it can be applied in a wider context, this trend shouldn’t be one that stays the course …..
Philippa has worked in the hospitality and travel industry for 20 years, specialising in brand and concept design, operations and implementation. During that time she has worked for high profile brands including NEXT, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Safeway and the Virgin group. Most recently Philippa was New Product Development Director at Virgin Trains, responsible for scoping the customer experience strategy and ensuring its delivery to support the Virgin Brand umbrella. A creative, customer centric and results driven consultant with a passion for delivering real value at all levels of a business.