Chocolate bunny and hi-tech

The consumption of sweets at Easter could reach around 900 tonnes, predicted MÉSZ (the Association of Hungarian Confectionery Manufacturers) at its spring press conference, where the results of a recent survey conducted by the Association and the TÉT Platform revealed why we choose certain sweets and how industry players respond to our sweet preferences.

The turnover of the Hungarian confectionery market is expected to be around HUF 230 billion this year, said Sándor Sánta, president of the Association of Hungarian Confectionery Manufacturers, in his presentation on consumer and supplier trends. Chocolates and biscuits, and sponge cakes account for half of the market (26% and 24% respectively), with ice cream the third largest segment (at 17%). The remaining third of the market is shared in order by pralines, candy and crisps, with 12-10% market shares.

In Hungary, we consume an average of 10-11 kilograms of sweets per person per year, and chocolate accounts for about 3 kilograms in this basket. A third (33%) of the population eat sweets daily, and almost half (45%) on a weekly basis. A mere 6 percent of those surveyed said they do not eat sweets at all.

However, only a quarter of respondents (24%) shop consciously, with 28% admitting to giving in to their impulses when it comes to spending on sweets. At the same time, half of consumers (49%) look for quality, and only 14% admit to choosing based on a lower price, with more than a third (37%) alternating between these criteria.

Exactly three quarters of shoppers are looking for sugar-sweetened products, while more than half (54%) look for non-free-from products. A quarter of those surveyed choose sugar-free or sweetener-based products, while 16% and 10% choose lactose- or gluten-free products.

You can’t say we’re picky about ingredients. Only a third of respondents (34%) said they prefer products made from natural ingredients, two thirds said this was not important for them. The overwhelming majority (80%) are not influenced by the presence or absence of sustainability certificates, as consumers are often unaware of the contents of these badges.

Blonde chocolate and confectionary printing

Why do we like sweets so much? This question was offered an evolutionary explanation from the perspective of nutritional science by Emese Antal, dietician-sociologist and professional leader of the TÉT Platform Association. From the moment we are born, we identify sweetness as a source of beneficial, carbohydrate-rich energy that we can safely consume, so it is no coincidence that it accompanies us throughout our lives. Although a recent study shows that the number of people who prefer sweet tastes decreases with age and a higher level of education, it is also lower among urban populations.

The three main trends in confectionery innovation are the rise of healthy products – functional, free-from and energy-reduced – the emergence of special flavours such as blonde, or caramelised white chocolate, and the use of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. With the conscious dieter in mind, manufacturers are also experimenting with new ways of packaging products. Bite-size sweets have been on the domestic market for a few years now, and according to the survey responses, a fifth (21%) of consumers are already looking for them in shops.

Whether the public buys in small or large packaging, Hungarian confectionery manufacturers expect a stable Easter demand again this year, just like last year, when the confectionery market found its way back to normal after the slowdown in 2020 due to the epidemic, said Sándor Sánta. Consumption volume is expected to be around 900 tonnes, and retailers are forecasting a 10% increase in the sales value compared to last spring’s festive period.

However, forecasting and planning has not been so difficult for a long time. Although the pandemic has receded, the effects of the Russian-Ukrainian war, combined with disruptions in supply chains, trade restrictions, runaway prices and inflation, combined with volatile exchange rates, are creating serious challenges for industry players, who are already gearing up for Christmas production to ensure that enough chocolate and festive candy will be on the shelves of shops and in the warehouses of online retailers from November onwards.