What new flavour combinations and developments are being made to ensure confectionery manufacturers can offer better-for-you products whilst creating a sensory experience for consumers
Use of functional ingredients such as rice starch in confectionery is on the rise, especially considering the growing consumer interest in cleaner and clearer ingredients, the demand for natural products and the recent changes in legislation which are forcing industry players to adapt their formulations. According to the ‘Functional Confectionery Market Report 2018-2028’ by Transparency Market Research, the consumption of healthier or ‘better for you’ snacks and confectionery have and will continue to increase greatly over the next few years. This is mainly due to more shoppers seeing the benefits of increasing their intake of nutritional foods that can support a specific health requirement, such as high levels of fibre to boost their digestive systems, protein to help muscle and skin repair or vitamins and Omega3 for cognitive wellness and immune health.
The report estimates that this increase in popularity has created a positive demand for functional confectionery worldwide and especially within North America and Europe; both areas that expected to dominate the market over the next few years owing to a strong consumer base focused on health and wellness. In these regions functional confectionery has already mostly entered the mainstream market with several key product launches in recent years, including the introduction of high-protein chocolate and snack bars and vitamin infused chews and sweets.
That’s where functional ingredients come in – ingredients that have a positive effect on health and wellness beyond basic nutrition. They might promote optimal health, improve mood and focus, or reduce the risk of disease. For example, many new entrants to the confectionery category are mixing indulgent cocoa with spices like ginger or turmeric, both used in herbal medicine for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, or with botanicals like angelica root and garlic which can improve energy levels, immunity and memory.
Many confectioners see functional ingredients as an opportunity but don’t have the necessary breadth of expertise. They need help to understand how to incorporate these ingredients in a way that delivers on functionality and flavour and creates something unique, authentic and on-trend.
Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO says: “Rice starch has been proven to be the perfect clean label alternative for artificial coating agents. As a natural alternative rice starch is used in confectionery coatings, chewing gum and chocolate lentils, as well as in icings in bakery.
“Globally, ethical and sustainability are the two leading areas for confectionery claims overall, while no additives/preservatives, reduced allergens, gluten free and organic also feature in the top ten claims. These figures really highlight just how much of a shift there has been towards claims that promote transparent labelling, sustainable sourcing and storytelling trends in the confectionery category already. As these trends continue to gather pace, there are many opportunities that exist for manufacturers to tap into these growing areas of interest through the use of functional ingredients in product development, as well as on pack communications.”
“Many new entrants to the confectionery category are mixing indulgent cocoa with spices like ginger or turmeric”
She continues: “Rice is widely considered a familiar and recognisable product, with 61% of consumers worldwide regarding rice starch as natural, making it the ideal ingredient for the development of products that respond to the increasing trend for clean and clearer labels. BENEO forecasts that the growing demand for natural and clean label products, in applications such as coated confectionery, will intensify in major existing markets, including Europe and the Americas, presenting manufacturers with new opportunities for growth.
Today, a very large number of candies and chewing gums are already sugar-free. However, for other applications it may seem unrealistic to aim for a complete ban of sugar, mainly due to technical and nutritional reasons.
Snaet adds: “Confectionery is a treat for all of us and taste, texture and mouthfeel are all key when it comes to indulgent treats. However, technically it is not possible to replace sugar entirely in all confectionery applications without impacting those things.
BENEO says four out of five consumers worldwide are saying that drinking and eating needs to be an experience and seven out of ten consumers are globally now agreeing that: “Texture gives food and beverages a more interesting experience,” the sensory satisfaction provided by texture is therefore key in confectionery.
“Translating this trend and overcoming a range of technical challenges, the experts at the BENEO-Technology Centre have been working on a range of unique candy and gum applications to help demonstrate the potential for new confectionery coatings. The result is a raft of new product concepts from BENEO. These include ReMix – a translucent coated chewing gum, Mellow Moments – a translucent coated chewy candy, and Rush – a soft mint chewable with sanded coating,” Snaet says.
While each of these applications face different challenges in the production process, they all have one thing in common: BENEO’s sugar replacer isomalt. Thanks to different grades being available, coupled with isomalt’s unique technical characteristics, the sugar replacer can help manufacturers overcome various challenges in the production process and offer individual solutions for confectionery applications.
Health claims influencing purchasing decisions
As consumers see the devastation that has been wrought by a global pandemic, health is very much front of mind. FMCG Gurus’ latest snacking survey shows that 47% of global consumers are now regularly researching ingredients that can boost their health. The snacking survey results also show that 49% of European respondents are looking for ways to boost their energy levels. With this in mind, confectionery products that help consumers to balance their health and energy level requirements could prove popular in the coming year.
The concern for longer-term health is also influencing purchasing decisions taken for children, with 75% of parents globally saying it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important for children’s products to have better nutrition. With health such a focus for old and young consumers alike, confectionery manufacturers will also have to make it easier for shoppers to swap to healthier options by using transparent communication, labelling and/or claims.
“It is impossible not to see the turbulence of 2020 continuing to influence confectionery choices in the coming year. Key trends that we see impacting the sector include the continuation of comfort eating, the move towards healthier confectionery that supports consumers looking to balance indulgence, health and energy levels, as well as increasing demand for transparent labels. Thankfully, functional ingredients are well placed to help food producers fulfil all these consumer demands,” insists Snaet.
Joe Katterfield, Sales Development Manager, Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients adds: “COVID has had a massive impact – it’s made people focus on their overall wellness and the role their diet plays in it. And if you can get health benefits in a favourite confectionery product, instead of a pill, all the better.
“Confectionery products that help consumers to balance their health and energy level requirements could prove popular in the coming years”
“The high-protein trend is here to stay, and I expect it to extend further into confectionery segments such as bars. Then as markets become more crowded, it will be essential to find new ways to deliver healthy indulgence, differentiate products and maximise consumer appeal.
“To help bar manufacturers meet these needs, we’ve just launched a new bar line at our Application & Technology Science Centre. It’s optimised to replicate industrial mixing, extrusion and enrobing processes, as well as flow-wrapping into the wrapper, and it will further improve the expert support we offer,” he says.
Madeline Bills, Ingredient Development and Innovation Specialist at OFI says: “The demand for functional ingredients has sky-rocketed during the pandemic. While the trend had been growing for some time, Covid-19 made consumers everywhere increasingly health-conscious. More people started looking for ingredients that not only taste great but also come with added health benefits, and their understanding of what that means has become more sophisticated too. It’s no longer enough for confectionery to be lower in salt or sugar; today’s discerning consumers are looking for snacks that also boost health, mood and immunity.”
More than four in ten consumers increased purchases of functional foods in the last year and this could be just the tip of the iceberg, especially since the focus on health and wellbeing seems here to stay. In future, hard-working ingredients like these can help confectioners to respond to this ever-growing demand and take any product to the next level, creating a new bar for adventurous flavour combinations that are also optimised for health and wellbeing.
Joe Katterfield, Sales Development Manager, Health & Performance Nutrition at Arla Foods Ingredients
There’s more demand for functional ingredients in confectionery, driven by the healthy snacking and permissive indulgence trends. Obviously, a product that combines an enjoyable eating experience with the prospect of a health benefit has enormous appeal. However, the growing call on manufacturers to bridge the gap between health and indulgence is still largely unmet – 55% of consumers say it’s hard to find indulgent snacks they believe are healthy.
There is a movement of high-protein products into the mainstream – it’s now easy to get hold of high-protein snacks, bars, that can help quell carb cravings.
In this context a functional ingredient is anything in a food or beverage product that confers a specific health benefit – ideally one that’s proven by a lot of research. Whey protein is a great example, because its benefits in areas like satiety and muscle recovery are so well documented.
Common challenges associated with protein ingredients relate to texture and mouthfeel, as well as shelf life. With many protein bars there’s a risk that they’ll develop an unpleasantly hard texture towards the end of their shelf life. Our ingredient TexturePro offers a solution to this problem. In shelf-life tests, bars containing 5% of it delivered 45% improved texture and 60% reduced hardness after 15 to 18 months, compared to bars made with standard whey protein.
The inclusion of peanut butter can also result in issues such as the leeching of fat and the risk of hardening over time, which can affect mouthfeel and shelf life. We’ve just launched a new concept demonstrating how such challenges can be overcome. It combines Lacprodan SoftBar – a dairy and whey protein ingredient which allows bars to reach up to 37% protein content as well as delivering a soft texture – with creamy peanut butter.
Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO
There are various ingredients available to help confectionery manufacturers cater for the needs of their end customers, including functional ingredients that support consumer health. As well as having a positive effect on the health of consumers, functional ingredients can also help confectionery manufacturers overcome certain technical challenges associated with reformulation.
A great example would be isomalt. BENEO invented isomalt as a sugar replacer more than 30 years ago. Since then, isomalt has grown to become the number one sugar replacer in hard candies worldwide and a preferred solution for sugar-free chewing gum (coating and centres).
Isomalt is the only sugar replacer made from pure beet sugar. It has a natural taste and sweetness. To this day, leading sugar-free hard candy brands and medical lozenges use this unique sugar replacer. Isomalt is toothfriendly and carries a respective EU health claim and one of the rare FDA health claims stating that it “does not cause dental cavities”.
In addition, as a clean label whitening agent in confectionery coatings (e.g., chewing gum, chocolate lentils), BENEO’s rice starch provides a natural alternative to other artificial colouring agents. Rice starch delivers exceptional whiteness, without any yellowish or greyish shine – a problem that often occurs when using other starches. Test trials by BENEO have also shown that rice starch is extremely stable and preserves the brilliant white colour of end products for months.
Thanks to its very small granule size, it smoothens rough surfaces on confectionery centres during the coating process. This so-called “smoothing effect” is especially beneficial for confectionery manufacturers during the production process, since it ensures a stable result. BENEO’s native rice starch can also be used to replace wheat starch or flour in liquorice, imparting a soft and chewy texture in gluten-free, clean label foods.
Madeline Bills, Ingredient Development and Innovation Specialist at OFI
Our spices and cocoa teams have collaborated on some delicious and surprising combinations using functional ingredients, such as spicing up freshly-baked churros with a peppery cocoa and turmeric dipping sauce. Meanwhile our nuts team can advise on where and how to use various nut ingredients – whole nuts, butters, milks or oils – for protein fortification, to boost certain micronutrients like magnesium which help to manage blood pressure, and to replace dairy in vegan chocolate. By thinking outside of traditional silos, we can truly innovate.
It is also important to anticipate the next big functional ingredient trends. For example, we have developed a range of coffee cherry cascara products in response to the growing trend for healthy indulgence. Cascara is the pulp and skin of the coffee cherry fruit. Its flavour is very different from coffee, often described as sweet and fruity with notes of cherry, raisins, and even caramel. Typically regarded as an unusable by-product by the coffee industry, it is in fact a superfruit that can be used in jams, jellies, dessert toppings and an antioxidant supplement.
This discovery mindset is important. New applications are being discovered for functional ingredients all the time, whether it’s the use of health enhancing ancient grains like sorghum and quinoa instead of flour in cocoa creations, or the use of powdered chaga mushroom, which is earthy in flavour and good for inflammation and blood sugar control, which tastes great alongside a chai chocolate spice. Confectioners need to feel brave enough to experiment and to have the right partners at their side to do so with confidence.
Any business looking to capitalise on the healthy-eating trend should try combining traditional ingredients like cocoa with these unusual grains, spices and botanicals for the ultimate combination of flavour and function.
Bodo Mittmann, Chief Sales Officer at Paradise Fruits Solutions and Paradise Fruits Health
Better for you’ has been an emerging trend in the food and drink sector for many years, but many of the food industry trends we have seen recently have been driven by consumers that are living fast-paced lives but still trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This has resulted in a higher demand for food and drink products that make it easy for shoppers to gain their recommended daily allowances of fruits, vegetable, vitamins and minerals, but are also enjoyable and can be eaten on the go. Certain digestion conditions mean it can be difficult for some people to eat large quantities of fruit in its raw form, whereas it can be more palatable for them to consume in granulate or gum formats.
Botanical flavour combinations, such as elderberry, elderflower, lavender, and orange blossom are slowly becoming more mainstream, particularly with confectionery manufacturers. That is because not only do these ingredients provide subtle, sweet, and floral flavours that replace the need for added sugar, but they can also provide additional health and wellbeing benefits, which is a big draw for consumers.
Combining floral and botanical ingredients with those that consumers already know and love, such as lemon and elderflower, lime and basil and carrot and orange, will appeal to shoppers that are looking for traditional chocolates, sweets, cakes and pastries with a subtle twist of flavours. Working ahead of the curve, we already offer our customers a variety of products in this category, having recently developed several bespoke flavour combinations including Elderflower, Rose & Basil, Cucumber, Lemon & Elderflower and Peach & Rose.
Image credit: BENEO
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Editor, International Confectionery
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