Published on

December 9, 2022


Nick Halliday

This year, the PTL team has been on the ground, working with some of North America’s largest bar and chocolate manufacturing plants and co-manufacturers. We’ve been at the coalface of the bar and chocolate industry as it navigates many new challenges: inflation, supplier chain issues, increasing costs and shipping delays.  

But despite all the unknowns, PTL has had a great year with some big wins.  

Top two triumphs

1.Return of the face-to-face conversations

While we’re grateful for Zoom, we’re pleased to be back on the floor with our customers again. We’ve enjoyed being able to support clients with technician visits and hands-on installations so you get the most out of your bar machinery and chocolate melters. Alongside catching up with key stakeholders across the business, we’ve reconnected with the market and attended tradeshows and training opportunities.

2.New growth and more international projects

This year, our team got involved in projects worldwide – the US, Australia, Singapore, Japan and New Zealand. That’s given us exposure and insight into the challenges of supplying bar and chocolate equipment in other parts of the world, and how we might be able to fill a gap in the market. We’ve also seen an increased demand for multiple barlines and melters.

The five market trends we’ve spotted

1: More demand for comfort food and convenience

The pandemic has significantly impacted the demand for convenience and comfort foods. As consumers return to their everyday, on-the-go lives, market data shows that snack bars and confectionary are still top of mind. However, more health-conscious consumers have emerged from the pandemic, causing a shift towards alternative nutritious snacks and confectionary options.  

2: Higher spending on indulgent items

Off the back of lockdowns, 51% of consumers reported wanting to splurge and indulge post-pandemic. Despite the booming health trend, little luxuries that became pandemic staples – think indulgent mid-afternoon snacks and treats – have stuck around.

3: Evolution and expansion

People are generally still sceptical about lead times and supply chain issues. However, the market continues to grow and expand into new areas like protein bars, functional bars and nutraceuticals.  

4: SKU proliferation continues strong

We’ve talked previously about micro-segmentation leading to an ever-increasing demand for a broader range of bar SKUs – and that trend is moving at an even faster rate. Customers want the same equipment to deliver a more comprehensive product range beyond the typical granola bar, requiring equipment that allows quick changeovers and different production parameters.  

5: Acceleration of automation and other labour-saving initiatives

Many of our customers use automation, robots and cobots to cut labour costs. There’s also been a call for more flexibility from internal teams and customers. The demand for more remote service and supplier access via the cloud compounds that.

The PTL crystal ball – what’s next in bar and chocolate manufacturing?

While we’re not expecting any significant new trends, here’s what we’re predicting for 2023.

  • The unexpected

The market has been through a prolonged period of disruption, and some of the effects remain. But there’s a silver lining. In many instances, disruption has forced the industry into accelerated innovation. We predict that the shake-up will continue in the new year.  

  • New flavours and mashups

We expect our customers to push the envelope with flavour profiles, particularly savoury. We also see multinationals joining forces for more brand mashups as an opportunity to merge their core products into other snack categories.  

  • Sustainability is still a big focus

There will be a greater focus on sustainability, traceability and ‘good’ ingredients, particularly in the chocolate category. Cocoa is in the spotlight, and consumers want to know they can indulge in their favourite treat without harming other people or the planet. The origin and craftsmanship, including organic and sustainable manufacturing, will play a big part in the future of chocolate.

Consumer behaviour is also shifting away from animal products, with people gravitating toward vegan protein sources, presenting an opportunity for the growth of plant-based snack bars.

  • Sugar goes out the back door

Keto isn’t new, but an upward trend of keto and other healthy food choices continues in the confectionery and snack market. Consumers still desire a variety of treats, but they also want healthier alternatives and plenty of options.   

A year full of potential and learnings

As in many industries, bar and chocolate manufacturing has had a full-on year. Our staff have worked hard to overcome many freight and supply challenges. But it’s also been great to connect with new customers worldwide that have invested in PTL equipment.  

We’re looking forward to returning even better next year.