Natural flavours and colours proving major confectionery trends

Confectionery Production looks at the cutting-edge trends in colours and flavours for the bakery and confectionery sectors, and why the industry is saying “go natural, or go home”. Daisy Phillipson reports.

The food industry is facing more challenges than it has ever encountered before. Discussions about obesity and sugar consumption has led to a surge in the popularity of natural products and clean label. And yet, when it comes to confectionery and baked goods, consumers are also seeking bright, vibrant products with unique taste profiles.
It is possible for a manufacturer to tick all of the proverbial boxes – by utilising flavours and colours that allow them to adapt their recipes and stay a cut above the rest when it comes to standing out on the shelves.

Going natural
One of the biggest drivers when it comes to colours and flavours has been naturality, as some have been linked to health scares over the years. In Europe, the Southampton Six study published in 2007 discovered a link between some artificial colours and increased hyperactivity, which triggered the shift towards major changes in food labelling over the years.
These actions teamed with the sugar debate have contributed to a changing attitude towards food items – even ones considered to be an indulgence. A company that knows this well is Kanegrade, which is why it launched its Kaneberry trademark: a healthy alternative to artificial colours made from extracts of vegetables and vegetable blends.
The ingredient supplier also offers up a list of flavours for use in confectionery products that come as liquid or powder, natural or nature identical. Wendy Sollis, marketing coordinator at Kanegrade, said, “The company works with its customers on factors such as ph, dosage level, processing temperature and light exposure to recommend the correct ingredients and achieve the desired colours and flavours in the finished product.”

The future’s bright
Of course, going natural does come with technical challenges, one of the key issues being colour fading. To overcome this, ingredients supplier Lycored developed a range of carotenoid-derived colours that have proven to remain bright in both vitamin-enriched gummies and hard-coated candy.
Lycored’s Tomat-O-Red range of pinks to reds is sourced from natural lycopene from tomatoes, while the Lyc-O-Beta that can be used for yellows and oranges is extracted from the company’s own strain of Blakeslea Trispora fungus.

Christof Ruttgers, confectionery technologist at D&F Drouven, which carried out research on the colours, said: “Water-soluble reds can be challenging to work with in confectionery as they often become white or dusty when sugar crystals form. This is the case with synthetics and maltodextrin-based colours as well as vegetable concentrates such as beets. However the Lycored colours we tested are oil-based, which makes them much more resilient.”

Simply red
But it’s not just in the confectionery sector where the topic of natural colours comes up. As outlined by Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager UK & Ireland at Dawn Foods, red colours, for example, that are natural, vegetarian, and Halal-suitable are still the most challenging in bakery products such as Red Velvet, which remains on-trend across all bakery lines. But Dawn managed it, by developing a Red Velvet Mix using natural colours.
“There are alternatives to using colouring too; adding fruit juice and vegetable juice concentrates and extracts are another way of adding both flavour and colour without artificial additives,” added Passmore.

Dawn offers several products such as compounds – all-natural flavoured concentrated pastes which can be added to frostings and filling creams – which can be used in this way. All the compounds feature natural fruit juice concentrates such as pomegranate, blueberry, mango or passionfruit and add a subtle flavour and colour too.

Blue dawn
Blue as a food colourant has been a point of contention ever since the Southampton Six study, as it’s more difficult to generate in a natural way. Spirulina can be used as a blue food colour source, and no company knows this better than GNT. As a leader in the industry, its Exberry colours are a trusted premier brand of natural colours for food and beverage industries.

In anticipation of the role of the ingredient in food colouring solutions, in the 1990’s GNT became the first company to develop colouring foods from spirulina. It’s important to remember that spirulina refers to the dried biomass of the cyanobacteria, and that this material needs to go through further processing before it can be used as a colour solution.

Blue and green Exberry colours are optimised in such a way that they function in a wide variety of confectionery and bakery applications. “Our standard blue powders are perfect for bakery mixes, while our lines of micronised powders and oil-dispersible products are ideal for fat-based confections such as compound and chocolate,” explained Michael Serrur, communications director, GNT USA Inc. “Adding spirulina into a buttercream or frosting is another way to incorporate blue and green shades into bakery products.”

When discussing current trends, Serrur explained that blue coloured foods easily capture the attention of shoppers and are especially popular with kids and adolescents, adding, “In terms of current health trends, spirulina is already a popular dietary supplement because of its robust nutritional profile.
“When used at the proper dosage levels, Exberry’s spirulina-based products can be used for both colour and also as a potential nutrient claim in, for example, a protein cookie or muffin.” In addition, thanks to its new state-of-the-art spirulina production facility, GNT is in a leading position to meet the food industry’s demands for blue and green colouring foods.

Flavour fusions
When it comes to flavours in confectionery products, innovation is key, but new flavour blends also need to taste good and be a perfect match. It therefore makes sense to develop unexpected concepts while integrating methods such as food pairing.
“This is how our experts from product development and application create flavour combinations which might otherwise not have been matched with each other but are an unexpectedly good blend,” explained Bastian Hörmann, category and product management, WFSI – ADM Nutrition.
For instance, years ago it would have been nearly impossible to imagine that people would show such interest in candy with salt, sugary treats with bacon, or chocolate with chilli.

“However, now these are just some of the options which generate new impetus in retail and stimulate sales,” added Hörmann.
This trend towards new product developments with interesting flavours will continue to rise in popularity as consumers seek new and exciting options, as will the evolution of generating bright and interesting visual profiles using natural colours.

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