Will you be my Vegantine? The Growth of Plant-Based and Vegan Confectionery

Whether it’s asking that special someone to “Be mine” or celebrating with your favourite “Galantines”, nothing says it better than something sweet.

In fact, 92% of Americans plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate and candy. In the US alone, this leads to around $4 billion in confectionery sales each year during the Valentine’s season.

valentines confectionery

While this might mean you can forget the flowers this February, they aren’t the only plant-based gifts that you can share the love with this Valentine’s Day.

For the longest time, products containing ingredients from animal sources have dominated the confectionery market. However, In recent years, the growing popularity of plant-based products has led to a surge in vegan confectionery items. As of 2024, the global vegan confectionery market is estimated to be worth US $1.377 billion and is expected to rise 7.3% (CAGR) to US $ 3.3 billion over the next decade.

Still, creating decadent and indulgent treats worthy of your vegantine can come with some challenges. 

confectionery valentines cupcakes

“One of the primary challenges in crafting vegan confectionery lies in the meticulous selection of ingredients,” says Susan O’Shaughnessy, Edlong’s Senior Applications Specialist, EMEA. “Replacing traditional dairy, eggs, and other animal-derived components requires innovative substitutes that maintain taste, texture, and overall quality. The quest for the perfect plant-based alternatives involves navigating a myriad of options.” 

She continues, “Creating vegan confectionery products that match the luscious textures and mouthfeel of their non-vegan counterparts is an art and a science. Achieving the perfect balance of creaminess in chocolates, the fluffiness in marshmallows, or the chewiness in gummies without animal-derived ingredients demands relentless experimentation, expertise, and innovation.”

Life is Like a Box of Vegan Chocolates

chocolates

According to research from Mintel, 95% of Brits eat chocolate, with 4 out of 5 consumers eating it at least once a week, with the US not far behind.

This is good news for the vegan chocolate industry. Valued at US $532.7 in 2022, conservative estimates believe that with a 10.5% CAGR, the global vegan chocolate market will be worth US $2 billion by 2032.

Reaching these figures means that developers must create the same chocolate experience consumers know and love without sacrificing taste or texture.

Looking to replace the traditional milk and dairy-based ingredients used in many chocolates, developers are turning to plant-based alternatives such as oat, almond, cashew, rice, etc.

This can apply to fat alternatives as well. 

In order to maintain the proper texture while avoiding animal-based fats, many plant-based chocolate developers are opting for ingredients such as cocoa butter, shea butter, or coconut oil.

Though suitable and functional replacements, all of the above alternatives aren’t without inherent challenges that could benefit from dairy flavour.

Along with building back the expected diary notes, they can assist in masking unwanted grainy or nutty notes, in addition to any waxy or greasy perceptions from the alternative fats.

Hari-no

Not limited to dairy, a number of other animal-derived ingredients enjoy widespread use in non-chocolate confectionery products.    

Found in some of the UK’s most loved treats, gelatin is probably the most commonly used of these ingredients.

Gelatin can be easily replaced by a number of ingredients, such as gum and hydrocolloids. Some examples of these are vegetable gelatin, agar agar, cornstarch, pectin, xanthan gum, guar gum, and carrageenan. 

Other common non-vegan ingredients are glazing agents such as shellac and Beeswax and food colouring like carmine.

gummies

Shellac and Beeswax are used to glaze or coat products and can often be replaced with hydrocolloids or plant proteins. While effective, these may introduce off-notes not present in the original ingredients.

Carmine, known for its red colouring, may be substituted with something like beetroot.

Although still considered vegan, questions also arise about certain sugars and palm oil. Linked to deforestation and habitat destruction, such ingredients can raise ethical concerns, especially with vegan consumers.

More than just a Sugar Rush

Vegan confectionery has an opportunity to do more than just ride the plant-based wave. O’Shaughnessy believes it has a chance to capitalise on other trends growing in popularity with health-minded consumers.

making a cake

“The world of vegan confectionery is dynamic, marked by continuous research and development that fuels a surge in innovation within the industry. Similar to trends in various food categories, the confectionery market is witnessing a shift towards functional ingredients as consumers adopt a more holistic approach to health. The inclusion of ingredients like matcha, turmeric, spirulina, and adaptogens adds a healthier halo to these delectable treats.”

She adds that despite the issues that come with creating these vegan sweets, the future is bright: “While the challenges in developing and distributing vegan confectionery are numerous, the passion for cruelty-free treats and the commitment to sustainability continue to drive innovation in this space. As developers and manufacturers overcome these hurdles, the availability and variety of vegan confectionery on retail shelves are expected to expand, catering to the ever-growing demand for ethical and indulgent treats.”

Learn more about how our international R&D team can help you satisfy your vegantine’s sweet tooth, with decadent and delicious dairy-free flavours for your sweet plant-based creations. 

About the Authors:

Emily Sheehan,
Applications Manager,
EMEA

Emily Sheehan, Edlong EMEA Applications Manager

Let’s connect on LinkedIn!

Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!

Susan O’Shaughnessy,
Senior Applications Specialist, EMEA

Susan O'Shaughnessy, Edlong's Senior Applications Specialist, EMEA

Let’s connect on LinkedIn!

Susan O’Shaughnessy is a Senior Applications Specialist for Edlong, where she works in the Ireland based applications lab on a variety of different customer projects and applications including bakery, snacks, sauces, beverages and plant based products. Susan joined Edlong in 2018 and has a BA in Food Technology from the Technical University of Dublin and an MBA from Dublin Business School. Prior to joining Edlong, Susan managed the development of private label food products for a major Irish retailer and was a product development manager for an ingredient’s manufacturer prior to that. Susan has also trained professionally as a chef with 9 years’ experience in the restaurant sector.


Topics: Culinary indulgenceFunctional FoodsInnovation
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: EULATAMUS

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