The confectionery industry has suffered in recent years from consumer and regulatory fears that chocolate and sweet products are unhealthy. Figures from Mintel indicate that just over 34 per cent of UK consumers are now actively avoiding sugar, while in France and Germany, the figures are 40 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.
It is therefore not surprising that companies are looking beyond ingredient changes, and are seeking specialised technology and packaging machinery for these products.
Keith Graham, a spokesperson for Bakery Perkins, a processing firm specialising in the bakery, snack and confectionery markets, told ConfectioneryNews.com that demand for this kind of machinery is relatively recent, taking off in the past two to three years.
"For example, at previous Interpack trade shows, there was some nodding in the direction of healthier products, but this year everyone is likely to display some kind of knowledge of it," he said
Baker Perkins this month announced it has adapted its ServoGel depositing process, previously used to make jelly and gum sweets, to make healthy fruit pieces.
The company now uses a new cooking system and temperature which allows the company to use real fruit juice and added vitamins as ingredients, but with no added sugar, Graham explained.
Indeed, processors that can handle fruit as a primary ingredient are popular throughout the global packaging market.
The German technology group Bosch is planning to exhibit the BFK 1000 fondant competence model - a fruit extrusion confectionery machine - at this year's Interpack show, while the BCH processing firm claims that its new extrusion machine can turn fruit and even vegetable juice into confectionery.
"BCH's new extrusion line has been designed in tune with the continued move towards more responsible, healthy-eating attitudes," the company claims in its advertising blurb.
The growing market for functional confectionery - confectionery that contains a supposed 'health-boosting' ingredient, is also having an affect on the processing industry.
Bosch said that it is currently 'trialling' a number or processing lines especially aimed at this market, as "the past three years have seen a boom in new confectionery products marketed on a functional or netraceutical platform."
"Prime examples are sweets incorporating vitamin additives that can be used to supplement daily vitamin consumption."
Furthermore, the packaging needs of healthier confectionery products go further than simply putting the product in a traditional box or bag.
First of all, manufacturers often want to be able to publish health claims on their products, such as 'sugar free' or 'low in fat', but the different ingredients or substance mean that packaging needs sometimes need to be adapted.
For example, the PFM packaging company has this year created a multi-headed weighing machine. The increased number of buckets means that fruit pieces, that may be different in size and weight, can be weighed separately then packaged in one bag by the same machine, the company claims.