Mondelez International has announced plans to launch a range of lower-sugar chocolate and confectionery products in the UK over the next two years, including a new Cadbury Dairy Milk bar with 30% less sugar. However, with consumption of snacks like chocolate and biscuits predominantly enjoyment-led, rather than health-driven, the brand’s strategy may struggle to gain traction with consumers.

Despite the ongoing backlash against sugar, chocolate and confectionery is still big business in the UK. Over two thirds (68%) of consumers – according to GlobalData’s new Q3 2018 consumer survey – claim to indulge in such products at least once a week; while 26% claim to consume these products more than four times per week or daily.

It is no surprise that manufacturers feel under pressure to find ways to reduce the contribution they are making to our overall sugar intake, but without impacting sales. However, brands will face a tricky challenge to reformulate in a category so synonymous with taste and indulgence.

Indeed, GlobalData’s Q3 2018 survey revealed that just under half (49%) of UK consumers claim to be always or often influenced by how a product impacts their health and wellbeing when choosing food products. By comparison, how enjoyable or unique a product is – for example, its taste – always or often influences a more sizeable 68% of UK consumers’ choice of food.

Source: GlobalData’s Q3 2018 global consumer survey

The new chocolate bar will go on sale next year and sit alongside the original recipe, giving consumers the option to stick with the taste they enjoy, or make the switch. Cadbury have not revealed the “secret” recipe for the 30% Less Sugar Dairy Milk bar, but have said it replicates the taste of the original without artificial sweeteners, and uses fibre in place of some of the sugar.

So will consumers actually go for a low-sugar chocolate in an indulgence-led category, especially considering the calorie content will be similar, gram for gram, as the original bar?

Last year, Nestle made a similar move by reducing the sugar content of its classic KitKat brand in the UK by 10%. However, unlike Dairy Milk, the reformulated bar replaced the original variant entirely and was marketed with a message that kept the focus on indulgence rather than health; namely “now with extra milk and cocoa”.

Only time will tell if consumers will consciously opt for a low-sugar chocolate bar. With reception to low-sugar reformulations from long-established brands in other sectors (for example Irn Bru and Lucozade) being less than favourable, Mondelez is likely to face a battle to gain mainstream consumer approval, especially if placing its marketing focus on health instead of indulgence.

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