Flavour sensations

From indulgence to sugar free, Joy Thomas highlights the innovative flavour trends confectioners are exploring to stay ahead of their competitors.

Consumer palates are constantly evolving which means confectionery manufacturers are always on the hunt for exciting flavour experiences and combinations that tickle the tastebuds.

From indulgent flavours, to sweet and savoury blends, to revisiting childhood classics, ingredients distributor to the food and drink sector Cornelius Group explores consumer priorities and flavours which are driving current trends and creating key opportunities for confectionery manufacturers and retailers.

Joy Thomas, technical manager, health and nutrition at Cornelius, says, “Flavour is one of the most crucial aspects of any confectionery product. If it doesn’t taste good, the chances are we don’t want to eat it. In the confectionery market, flavour is an essential part of the product with consumers expecting new product ideas on the shelves of their supermarkets. Flavours should be a pleasant surprise, but new flavours and flavour blends also need to taste good.”

According to a report carried out by market research company Key Note, confectionery sales in the UK are due to grow by 8.6 per cent by 2019. But what are the key trends driving innovation in confectionery?

Flavour blends

Sophisticated taste profiles are often associated to adults and are described as ‘adult tastes’. These include savoury flavours, blended with vegetables or flavours that are typically linked to international food and drinks.

Adults and millennials are much more experimental with a desire to try new foods and flavours – with many calling themselves adventurous eaters. New and exotic taste experiences, such as floral flavours, spices, sea salt and honey, appeal to this group of consumers.

Thomas explains, “I believe we will see more savoury, spice and herb blends coming out in the confectionery arena. Herbs are now being fused with chocolate, nuts, fruit pieces in bars with a fruit flavoured glaze. Premium chocolatiers are increasingly innovating with savoury ingredients such as basil, ginger and cardamom as well as botanicals. We are also experiencing extreme flavour sensations with confectioners looking at adding cayenne peppers, tabasco, chai, sriracha, jalapeno to products.”


Consumers are seeking out more new experiences to excite them which is allowing new flavours, formats and combinations to find a place in the market. Confectioners are vying for the attention of the consumer by launching more exotic and indulgent products with added premium flavours such as cinnamon and gingerbread.

For indulgent confectionery, coffee is one of the more traditional flavours and often in the form of mocha, espresso and cappuccino. Other luxury combinations include fruits/berries and spices such as strawberry/tarragon and mandarin/ginger with other new combinations being developed.

According to Datamonitor, personalised chocolate is a major trend that confectionery manufacturers should tap into. It claims manufacturers have considerable potential to draw on other categories as inspiration for innovative flavour combinations that ‘surprise and excite consumers.’

“Bespoke flavourings could be key to personalised indulgence,” notes Thomas. “Cornelius partners with Sluys International who create bespoke flavours to distribute to the food and drink industry. Sluys explores the fringes in the universe of flavours, offering surprising concepts and product innovation to enhance brands. The company is no stranger to engineering unique taste experiences and is particularly well versed in the complex flavours of coffee, tea and wine.”


The demand for old fashioned sweets is largely a trend for grown-ups as nostalgic adults search out treats that hit a sentimental sweet spot. In a saturated market, the idea strikes a chord with those looking for a retro treat created solely for adult tastebuds.

Thomas notes, “The confectionery market can appeal to both children and adults equally, a fact which producers are taking advantage of. For example, a sweet treat that appeals to the child in all of us like pear drops, sherbet lemons and parma violets are gaining a resurgence in popularity.”

A number of childhood classics have been recreated for grown-ups, with new formats being launched. An example is Cloetta-owned chewy sweet brand Chewits, which has released an ice cream flavoured variant that joins the traditional strawberry, blackcurrant, fruit salad and orange flavours.

This classic confectionery trend is now filtering down to the younger generations who have been given recommendations by their parents and grandparents and want to give them a go. It is creating a real sense of the sentimentality among the older generation though equally appealing to the younger generation.

Anti-sugar movement

Sugar remains a key ingredient to deliver a sweet taste in the confectionery market. However, many consumers are adopting healthier lifestyles which have increased their awareness of natural ingredients and their associated health benefits.

Thomas adds, “Many consumers are now looking at reducing their sugar intake, but not at the expense of taste and experience. Removing sugar and replacing it with sweeteners can change the flavour profile of the product, but effective and creative application of flavourings can help to keep flavours consistent.”

Sugar is an integral part of the confectionery industry, with a large proportion of sweets still using sugar as their base. In 2015, there were 1,304 new confectionery products launched in the EU, of which just 74 were low or no sugar, according to research firm Mintel. Sugar free is being driven by artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners such as trehalose. “Several major food and beverage brands have already incorporated this particular ingredient in their products,” says Thomas. “The sweetener is a unique, naturally occurring sugar with many important functional characteristics. It’s about 38 per cent as sweet as sucrose and can be used in a range of applications, from sports nutrition to dairy and confectionery products. However, the use of trehalose in the confectionery market is currently somewhat limited.

“Trehalose is a multifunctional sugar that stabilises proteins, which is made from starch via a proprietary process. It acts as a sugar replacement and will strongly improve the taste, texture and appeal of food and beverages, such as confectionery.”

As consumers increasingly try to cut their sugar intake, there is a clear space in the market for similar low sugar alternatives.

All about flavour

Led by consumer demand and an increase in new product launches, manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to stand out from the competition. As well as experimenting with unusual tastes and textures, confectioners are also creating new products to keep in line with evolving trends.

Thomas concludes, “Despite concerns about the levels of sugar in food, the popularity of confectionery is far from waning. Instead, innovation is as evident as ever. The market is appealing to both adults and children with its unusual flavours, retro offering and indulgent nature.”

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