Responding to a rapidly evolving dairy market
The dairy market still has a valuable part to play within confectionery, despite the emergence of alternatives in recent years. Confectionery Production examines some of the product trends for sweets and ice-cream that are making an impact this year
One of the most eye-catching product innovations headlines of the past year as far as chocolate confectionery is concerned has been Cadbury’s decision to launch a 30 per cent less sugar Dairy Milk bar.
The company highlights a growing demand from consumers for a greater range of healthier options, with the firm confident that its classic creamy taste has not been compromised. Significantly, the business is also reportedly considering creating an entirely vegan option, once it has devised the as-yet seemingly elusive ingredients to ensure the right quality.
But beyond the trend for reformulation of product ranges to reduce sugar in the light of Public Health England’s call to manufacturers to reduced sugar levels by 20 per cent this year, one of the most notable market developments has been the marked rise of dairy-free alternatives with chocolate ranges.
There are now a number of companies that are engaged on this front, including British-based Plamil, which has for many years been ‘on trend’ in this segment, with its most recent offering, So Free, gaining a strong spotlight in a bid to rival conventional bar ranges.
Recently, Swiss-headquartered business Barry Callebaut launched its own plant- based ‘M_lk chocolate’ entrant into the market, which will be produced from a new factory being established in Germany next year.
In terms of supplying dairy-related ingredients, there are a number of specialist companies working with confectionery manufacturers including Uelzena, to enhance taste profiles and adapt recipes to create healthier products.
The company recently explained to Confectionery Production that technical processes such as deodoration, allow the removal of both colour and – if needed – taste from butter, while the reduction of cholesterol is also possible.
Consequently, this produces results that offer white fat for light crèmes, white or fruit filled cream candies and chocolates, and fats with a bland taste that can be mixed with nuts, brittle or flavourings.
According to latest research from Innova Market Insights, pleasure is still the driving force behind ice cream purchases, with consumers naming its taste, the fact it’s a treat and makes people feel happy as the top three reasons for buying it.
In the contemporary consumer environment, however, the balance between health and indulgence is increasingly important.
As the organisation notes, there is now an emphasis upon manufacturers to deliver a pleasurable eating experience that won’t create guilt later down the road.
Innova explains that there is now a focus within ice cream development that has seen a clear shifting from fat to sugar.
Through 2015-2019, global launches of low sugar ice creams increased at a CAGR of 48 per cent. In contrast, launches of low/no/reduced fat ice creams dropped at a CAGR of 12 per cent over the same period.
The non-dairy movement is also impacting on ice cream innovation as significantly growing numbers of consumers explore plant-based eating. “Non-dairy ice creams tripled their share of total ice cream launches in North America between 2015 and 2019, reaching a significant figure of 18 per cent penetration,” reports Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights.
“Meanwhile, Australasia and West Europe are other important stamping grounds with 15 per cent and nine per cent non-dairy penetration, respectively.” Even within these healthier ice cream categories, however, indulgence is never far away and the idea of ‘permissible indulgence’ is leading to the combination of healthier formulations with decadent tastes. For example, salted caramel is an indulgent flavour that has exploded into the mainstream in recent years. It was ranked as the fifth most popular taste within launch activity in 2019, up 10 places since 2015.
However, it is even more popular in helping to deliver an indulgent image to guilt-free products, taking fourth place in non-dairy ice cream launches, third place in low fat ice cream and second place in low sugar NPD.
As Mindy Leveille, global strategic marketing manager for dairy and plant proteins at Kerry, explains, creating products that are easily identifiable as being clean label remains an issue for the confectionery sector.
While progress has been made on the issue in line with the rest of the food sector, analysts note the sweets and ice-cream segments of the market have not always been as clear as consumers would like.
“One concern in confectionery is sustainability in sourcing dairy and dairy ingredients. How clean label are the ingredients and where are they sourced from? Our research shows that the public is increasingly concerned about clean label and this is spilling over into confectionary and baking,” explains Leveille, who adds that delivering sustainable products is a major priority for the business. As such, all its dairy ingredients are sourced from grass-fed cows.
She says: “Sustainability is an important concern for consumers as is transparency, naturalness and nutrition and, of course, taste which is paramount. Today’s shifting marketplace definitely presents a strong challenge for food and beverage makers.”
“Consumers are also looking for sustainability in their foods and beverages all the way from farm to fork.
“Just over 50 per cent of a consumer’s belief about a product’s sustainability is attributed to ethical manufacturing practices, eco-friendly products, responsible sourcing and ethical farming practices.”
“Grass-fed is perceived by consumers as a natural, sustainable and transparent source. 70 per cent of consumers want to see more natural and transparency
in their food products. Consumers are willing to pay more for natural food and drinks.”
Furthermore, on the issue of dairy protein ingredients and plant-based protein ingredients working together to improve products, Leveille reveals that there were some considerable areas of potential.
She concludes that proteins such as cereals, legumes, and nuts, are lower in certain essential amino acids and the PCAAS of most plant proteins, with a few exceptions, is less than 1.0. Cereal proteins, for example, are low in the essential amino acid lysine, while legumes are low in the essential amino acid methionine.
When formulating nutritional products with plant-based proteins, she added that it is beneficial if different sources of plant proteins are used to complement deficient essential amino acid profiles.
Because, milk proteins contain all the essential amino acids in the right proportions to meet the body’s needs they are a good protein source to use in combination with plant proteins to improve the overall protein quality.
Leveille notes: “Due to taste and functionality challenges that can be encountered when formulating solely with plant proteins, there are many protein bars and beverages on the market that combine dairy and plant proteins to deliver good tasting high protein products.
However, as the market continues to become more polarised in terms of offering dairy and “dairy free” products, many consumers could be confused by the positioning associated with products that combine both these protein sources.