Chocolate trend: omega-3 laced bonbons and all-natural products

In a bid to lessen the guilt of indulging in one of life’s little, sinful pleasures, chocolate makers are releasing a slew of new products that pull double duty with omega-3 infused candy bars, use organic and all-natural ingredients, and ease the conscience with Fair Trade labels.

According to organizers of the Salon du Chocolat, the largest chocolate show in the world that takes place every year in Paris, these are just some of the consumer-driven trends that are transforming the chocolate industry.

Consumers are looking for traditional, authentic and local products that evoke “nostalgia for the needs of the good old days,” recalling artisanal craftsmanship and whole, unprocessed foods, reads a trade show report.

For example, to respond to consumers' growing interest in foods with health benefits -- known as functional foods in the industry -- some chocolate makers are replacing sugar with stevia, a natural plant-based sweetener that’s 200 times sweeter than sucrose and has zero calories.

Earlier this year at the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Cologne, Germany, for instance, Belgium-based chocolatier Cavalier was named the most innovative product for its sugar-free, stevia-sweetened chocolate.

Others are adding omega-3 oils, said to help with heart health and cognitive function.

One square of Maramor Dark Chocolate, for instance, supplies 105 mg of omega-3 fat and clocks in at 50 calories.

The demand for healthy foods, meanwhile, picks up momentum after being sidetracked by the economic crisis between 2006 and 2008, when consumers abandoned their health concerns and sought comfort in the small, affordable luxuries like chocolate.

'End child slave labor'

In addition to healthy alternatives, socially responsible consumption is also becoming top of mind, particularly in the chocolate world, where public awareness has been growing about the use of child slave labor and unethical trading practices.

Most recently, for instance, American chocolate company Hershey announced plans to source 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020 in response to mounting pressure over the widespread use of child slave labor in the cocoa industry.

The company joins Mars and Ferrero, which have made similar claims.

Consumers are also increasingly looking for brands that use organic and natural ingredients like Green & Black’s.

Other such brands include Equal Exchange Chocolate, Newman’s Own Organics Chocolates and Alter Eco Chocolates.

The Salon du Chocolat runs until November 4 in Paris.