Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Jelly Belly Expands Sugar-Free Line

Jelly Belly expands sugar-free line

By Matthew Bunk

-- Sugar-free Jelly Belly candies now have fewer calories, but a decision to tag them "low-carb" had more to do with marketing than change, a company product manager said.

Fairfield-based candy maker Jelly Belly recently began distributing six new sugar-free candies and changed the recipes for its two existing sugar-free products. On Wednesday, the company added a feature to its Web site that describes the sugar-free candy line and gives nutritional information for each variety.

Jelly Belly made the switch as a result of growing consumer demand for sugar-free and low-carb products, Jelly Belly Senior Product Manger Rob Swaigen said.

"It's a hot market," Swaigen said. "We've definitely seen an increase in sugar-free sales, which certainly was why we decided to expand the line."

The company's Web site touts the sugar-free candies as effective for "weight control, diabetes management or carb-control dietary plans." A sugar substitute lowers calories and "net-effective carbs," while retaining Jelly Belly's trademark flavor, it said.

While the new recipes lowers calories significantly from previous sugar-free formulas, the carbs aren't any lower, Swaigen said.

"The old sugar-free recipe was also low-carb, we just didn't tag it as such at the time," Swaigen said. "Since then the low-carb diets have become much more popular."

The company's sugar-free jelly beans have 37 grams of carbs per 35-piece serving, but Jelly Belly also uses a measurement called net-effective carbs that doesn't consider the effects of sugar alcohols and dietary fibers. Using the net-effective measurement, Jelly Belly says its beans have only 4 grams of carbs.

"That hasn't changed from the previous (sugar-free) recipe," Swaigen said.

The big change was fewer calories, which resulted from using a different sugar substitute, he said. The new sugar-free candies average 40 percent fewer calories than their full-sugar counterparts, according to the Web site.

The switch also makes the sugar-free varieties easier on the stomach, Swaigen said.

"It's much better in terms of taste and for those sensitive to sugar-free products," he said. "A certain percentage of people have stomach problems with sugar-free products."

Jelly Belly now produces sugar-free varieties of its jelly beans, jelly bean sours, fruit slices, spice drops, gummi bears, fruit drops, cola bottles and inchworms. Until recently, only its jelly beans and gummi bears were available sugar-free.

Low-carb diets might be a fad, but not sugar-free foods, Swaigen added.

"I don't know where low-carb is going," he said. "But people have always responded to sugar-free."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.

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