Sulá, Europe’s number one manufacturer of sugar-free confectionery, has been producing premium-quality sugar-free products for more than 40 years and now produces 70% of Europe’s sugar-free boiled sweets.

Sugar-free sweets currently have a 4.5% share of total UK confectionery sales, which is very low compared to Spain for instance, where the figure is more than 20 times greater. Hence Sulá is now offering UK retailers the opportunity to make the most of the sugar-free opportunity in their stores with its latest range of products for the UK market, offering exciting new flavours and modern packaging.

Backed by record breaking levels of advertising and promotion, Sulá’s completely revamped range of sugar-free sweets features six mouth-watering and traditional flavours appealing to British tastes, presented in convenient, pocket-sized 42g flip-top click boxes featuring clean and simple new packaging designs that will maximise on-shelf impact.

Tanja Höke–Woltering, Area Sales Manager for the UK and Ireland at Sulá, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – Tanja, to bring our readers up to date, can we start by asking you to tell us a little about the history of the Sulá company and its expertise and experience in the sugar-free confectionery market?

The Suwelack brothers founded Sulá in 1950 in Metelen, Westphalia, Germany. Initially the company’s main focus was on the production of hard caramels. In 1967 they started manufacturing moulded fruit drops of a very high quality, with natural ingredients such as aromas and fruit juices.

GT – When did you move into sugar-free?

After a visit to the USA in 1970, one of the Suwelack brothers returned with the knowledge to start the production of sugar-free sweets. These sweets, which were produced using the sugar substitute Sorbitol, were initially only sold on the local market in Germany as sweets for people suffering from diabetes.

GT – When did you start offering sugar-free sweets to consumers generally?

Sugar-free Sulá sweets for mainstream consumers were launched both nationally in Germany and internationally in 1988.

GT – Who owns Sula now?

The Italian company Perfetti took over a 100% share of Sula in 1996, and then in June 2002 Sulá GmbH was taken over by the Dutch Group van Mook.

GT – And now Sula is Europe’s leading manufacturer of sugar-free sweets…

Sulá has been established for more than 60 years and has been producing premium-quality sugar-free sweets for more than 40 years. We now produce 70% of Europe’s sugar-free boiled sweets.

GT – Where do you develop and manufacture your sugar-free confectionery?

Our production facilities are located in Metelen in Germany. Significant investment in recent years has significantly increased the size of the facility and the production capacity.

GT – What standards are your factories accredited to?

Since May 1997, our factories have been certified in accordance with DIN EN ISO 9001. Since July 2006, Sulá GmbH was the first German sweets manufacturer to be certified in accordance with the new DIN ISO 22000 standard.

GT – What do your sweets contain instead of sugar?

Since 1999 we have been specialising in the production of sugar-free sweets, using the sugar substitute Isomalt, which is derived from sugar beet. We also produce sweets with other sugar substitutes such as Sorbit and Stevia.

GT – How do your sweets compare with ‘normal’ confectionery?

All Sulá sweets are free from artificial flavours, preservatives, hydrogenated fat and Aspartame and are a natural choice for a healthier lifestyle. The sugar-free sweets are suitable for diabetics, vegetarians and perfect for people wishing to reduce their calorie intake without sacrificing confectionery treats, as each Sulá sweet contains only 7-9 calories.

GT – I appreciate all that, but here’s the crunch. Do Sulá sugar-free sweets taste as good as traditional boiled sweets?

Sulá’s manufacturing process delivers superior sweets with a smooth, appetising look and a high-quality flavour that is so good consumers would never know the sweets are sugar-free.

GT – How many countries are you operating in worldwide?

Sulá products are available in more than 29 countries worldwide, including Eastern Europe, South Africa, North and South America, Australia and Japan.

GT – How big is the UK market for sugar-free confectionery?

Sugar-free sweets now account for 4.5% of total hard candy sales in the UK, but this compares to a 63% share for sugar-free sweets in Spain, for example. The UK market for sugar-free confectionery is still very small but it is growing steadily. I think the encouraging thing for Sulá is that there is increasing recognition from retailers that sugar-free sweets are a natural choice in a market increasingly driven by a demand for healthier products. And people only have to look at other key European markets to fully understand the enormous potential and opportunity for sugar-free confectionery in the UK market.

GT – Sugar-free confectionery is clearly a more developed market in Europe, and sales are much larger there than in the UK. Why do you think that is?

The sugar-free confectionery market is much more established in other European countries and perhaps, here in the UK, we still find consumers who believe that “no sugar means less taste.” We have to convince the consumers with the quality and taste of Sulá products, because we know that people who try our sweets will love the taste. This is the reason we are investing heavily in a major new marketing campaign that features a wide range of sampling activities. It really is exciting to see the reaction of consumers when they have the chance to try our Sulá sweets, because they really seem to love the flavours.

GT – Turning specifically to the UK, how big is the potential UK sugar-free market?

Sales of sugar-free sweets in the UK are booming, and the opportunity for future growth is absolutely massive. Products such as soft drinks and chewing gum have demonstrated the enormous potential for sugar-free in the UK market and confectionery is set to be the next big growth sector for sugar free products.

GT – So, sugar-free could be the next big thing in the UK confectionery market?

Yes, there’s no doubt about it. We believe there is a fantastic opportunity for UK retailers. There is increasing demand for healthier, natural products and this trend is set to continue. So Sulá certainly seems to fit the bill.

GT – What range of Sulá products is available in the UK?

Sulá’s completely revamped range of sugar-free sweets features six mouth-watering and traditional British flavours. The new range introduces tasty and classic new Butterscotch, Mint Humbugs, Rhubarb & Custard and Strong Mint varieties to sell alongside Sulá’s established and ever-popular Strawberry & Cream and Fruit Mix flavours. The new products will have a retail price of around 95p for a 42g pack.

GT – Why did you select these particular flavours?

We have developed the new range and flavours following extensive consumer research. We’ve chosen these traditional British flavours for our delicious and indulgent new products because they bring back fond memories of favourite childhood sweets.

GT – You’ve also introduced new packaging to go with the new flavours. Can you talk us through that?

The new products are presented in convenient 42g flip-top click boxes featuring clean and simple new packaging designs to improve on-shelf impact. The packs are pocket-sized, so they are very easy to carry around. Once again, we have received very positive feedback about the new packaging from the trade and consumers.

GT – Where should these products be merchandised in store for best results?

Sulá flip-top click boxes are perfect for all types of stores. Consumers are interested in healthier products, so displaying the different flavours close to the till in convenience stores and forecourts creates excellent impulse sales. Our products are also creating a lot of interest in the multiple grocery sector because they have a great USP which combines indulgence and low calorie. Confectionery retailers are always looking for fresh, innovative products – especially if they give consumers a healthier option – so Sulá really is the natural choice for all retail sectors.

GT – looking at your web site, you also have many other products that we haven’t touched on in this conversation. Are there any plans to bring any of these out here?

You’re right, Sulá has a very large range of products, which are many and in other markets. We manufacture an extensive range of sweets and toffees, with and without sugar. Our efforts in the UK at present are concentrated on developing the interest in sugar-free confectionery and we believe we have a superb range of quality products with exciting new flavours, which will allow us to do this. Our desire and our longer-term plan is certainly to launch other sugar-free products in the UK but we will take this step by step.

GT – How do you plan to support the new Sulá sugar free products in the UK?

The new range and flavours will benefit from record-breaking levels of advertising and promotional support in 2012.

GT – Trial is crucial with sugar-free confectionery. Is consumer sampling also an important part of the support programme?

Very much so! One of the key elements of the marketing campaign will be to demonstrate to consumers the great taste of Sulá sweets… with no need for sugar. A national consumer sampling campaign will take place in leading supermarkets and at major events, supported by an advertising campaign featuring national and regional press plus women’s interest, lifestyle, health and fitness magazines.

GT – These are clearly exciting times in the UK market for sugar-free confectionery and for Sulá in particular. How do you see the sugar-free confectionery market developing in the UK?

Sugar-free sweets offer a very exciting opportunity for UK retailers. We are delighted to be launching a great-tasting range of classic flavours, which will give further impetus to a dynamic, fast-growing market category. We strongly believe that sugar-free is the next “big thing” in the UK confectionery market and Sulá is delighted to be leading the way with an exciting product range and record-breaking levels of support.

Sulá UK

Tel: 0208 123 9672


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