Health-conscious consumers are showing a greater focus on clean-label confectionery and chocolate products which means a rise in natural colour alternatives and authentic, traceable, Fairtrade chocolate.
Both flavour and colour are two huge factors in confectionery products; the vivid colours associated with sweet treats give the visual appeal to customers, whilst the sensory and experiential element from the flavours is what keeps the customer coming back. As the pandemic has had an overwhelming effect on how people shop, live and eat, International Confectionery investigates how flavour and colour have developed to offer health improvements, natural pigmentation and immunity boosting benefits.
Innova Market Insights’ consumer research indicates that one in four people globally has become more concerned about their immune health since before the pandemic. The most significant increase was among Millennials (aged 26 to 35 years) and younger Gen X (aged 36 to 45 years). Higher levels of concern among these relatively young age groups indicate the potential for longer-term consumer interest.
“Alongside these rising concerns,” reports Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova Market Insights, “consumers are taking a more holistic approach, with getting enough sleep, being physically and mentally healthy and eating the right things ranking highly as ways of achieving immune health.”
Sunarie Servais – Director, Marketing Product Ingredients (EMEAI) at ADM agrees and says: “Many consumers are taking a more holistic approach to nourishing their body and mind, so the psychology of flavour and colour is more important than ever before. For example, citrus flavours and bright colours may signal uplifting feelings of happiness or joy whereas blues and botanicals, like lavender, can evoke calming feelings when used in combination. And then, there’s flavours like vanilla, caramel, coffee and tea, that when paired with soothing neutral tones can evoke feelings of comfort or nostalgia.
Consumers are increasingly looking for clean and clear labels across all food and beverage categories, although the terms “clean” and “clear” aren’t defined. In fact, ADM ‘Outside Voice’ research finds 62% of consumers actively avoid artificial colouring in foods and beverages, and this number is growing. CaroUp is one of ADM’s botanical solutions and a rising trend ingredient. CaroUp is made from the carob bean, which is locally harvested processed in Spain, it is used to make more nutritious chocolate alternatives, and to meet the demand for clean label confectionery products.”
In Innova’s 2020 Consumer Survey, choosing foods naturally high in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) came third as a way of achieving immune health behind getting enough sleep and being physically healthy. Overall, 59% of consumers globally said that they were looking for food and beverages to support them in this regard.
Immune health claims were already trending upward before COVID-19, particularly in Europe and North America. It was one of the fastest-growing health claims in food and beverage globally in terms of the number of new product launches between 2016 and 2020.
With consumers looking for immune support via food and beverages, there are ongoing opportunities for growth in providing suitable products. Interest may have started in sectors with strong nutritional credentials that form a natural fit for immune-boosting benefits; still, there is potential across a wide range of food and drink products and geographical locations.
In addition, the understanding that a holistic and preventative approach to health needs to take account of physical, mental and emotional aspects could see immunity ingredients increasingly bundled with other ‘feel good’ claims, with mood, emotional well-being, relaxation, and sleep all seen as key areas moving forward.
“Immunity may become less top of mind as the immediate threat of the current pandemic subsides,” says Williams. “But if products are easy to integrate into daily lives and have established benefits (e.g. probiotics in yoghurt), they are likely to continue to be sought after as part of the ongoing move to healthier lifestyles and the more proactive and holistic approach to health.”
Natural colour solutions
EXBERRY concentrates can be used to achieve vibrant shades comparable to synthetics in many confectionery applications. “We use our own seeds and traditional selection methods to ensure we’re growing the most efficient and reliable crop varieties, allowing us to maximise their natural colour intensity,” explains Lorraine Jansen, Communications Manager, GNT Group. Once the crops are harvested, the raw materials are turned into intense colour concentrates using physical methods and water.
Jansen says they can then provide a combination of colour concentrates containing different raw materials to achieve the exact shade the customer needs. “Each confectionery application has its own technical considerations, with factors such as pH and processing temperatures having the potential to influence the hue. We can provide full support every step of the way. GNT has more than four decades’ experience working with Coloring Foods, so we can provide solutions to almost any challenge that may arise,” she says.
Jansen continues: “Painted decorations are a great way to create spectacular products that tap into some of the hottest trends. For example, terrazzo has been an important trend in the interior design world for some time but is now emerging as an exciting new development in chocolate. Coloring Foods can be used to create terrazzo themes and other striking visual effects through vibrant painted decorations.
“We also offer specialist EXBERRY products that can be used to colour the chocolate mass or create dustings. Our Micronised Powders are made with a unique multi-stage milling process that delivers smaller particles that are ideal for these applications. Because of their size, the particles can’t be perceived individually by the human eye, resulting in a highly homogeneous colour effect and more intense visual impact. There is also a liquid-based EXBERRY OD range, which is designed to deliver optimal results in applications including fat compounds for chocolate decorations.”
Travelling through tastebuds
With the pandemic impacting our ability to travel, consumers are looking for global flavours that enable them to experience the joys of travel and adventure whilst staying at home. This idea of travelling through your tastebuds has enabled consumers to connect to different areas of the world through specific regional flavours. For example, consumers may want to try yuzu flavoured products which come from the East Asian fruit, or amba, a popular seasoning from the Middle East.
It is something that has become critically important over the last 18 months, and we anticipate that consumers will continue to seek out more adventurous flavours from around the world. The confectionery world will continue to see more innovations as consumers look for multisensorial experiences, permissible indulgences and support for their holistic health. In fact, 55% of European consumers stated they have paid more attention to exciting and novel flavours in the last month due to COVID-19.
Added value such as natural-source ingredients, vitamin fortification in confections and experiential treats are expected to become more mainstream. However, taste and sensory attributes will remain at the forefront for consumers. Additionally, coloured food and beverage sales are growing with the rise in young people sharing visually interesting foods on social media. This means that brands will need to continue to offer showstopping products to make it more appealing for consumers to share their foods on social media.
“With this in mind, ADM has launched micronised colours, bright and natural colour solutions as a response to this growing trend. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the confectionery industry, and how we will adapt to meet evolving consumer demands and trends,” says Sunarie Servais.
She adds: “Over recent years we have seen a rise in customer demand for healthier snack options, including more plant based and clean-label products. As consumers become increasingly health conscious, more are looking to opt for snacks that don’t leave them feeling guilty afterwards and complement their vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free or Keto/paleo dietary choices. In response to this, our customers are exploring different ingredient and flavour combinations, such as blending chocolate with dairy alternative milks, and incorporating fruits like raspberry, or nuts as a high source of both protein and fibre.”
Environmental credentials are becoming more and more important in the confectionery industry and the issue goes far beyond chocolate. Research carried out by FMCG Gurus shows that three-quarters of confectionery consumers consider sustainably sourced ingredients to be appealing in candies, gummies, hard-boiled sweets, gum and licorice. Awareness of the environmental and social impact of our food is growing and consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. They want reassurance that when they buy a product, they are limiting their carbon footprint and supporting a supply chain where farmers earn more, and communities are supported.
With customers wanting to know more about what they’re putting into their body the trend of clean labelling is also on the rise. Conscious consumers are drawn to product labels and packaging that is easier to understand, and which list recognisable ingredients. That includes organic ingredients, which provide reassurance to consumers that products have been produced in a way which respects nature.
Sustainable sourcing is more than just a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential for protecting both people and the planet. There are many challenges currently facing cocoa supply chains; much of the world’s cocoa is produced by smallholder farmers on small plots of land that produce low yields, and as result many farmers struggle to support their families. This can lead to further problems like deforestation, as farmers clear more land for crops, and child labour, as children are kept at home to help their parents on the farm rather than attend school.
It’s fair to say that for a better and sustainable future that is free from child labour and has better living incomes for farmers then action must be taken sooner rather than later.
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Editor, International Confectionery
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