Special focus: A perfect flavour match

Confectionery Production examines how colours and flavours in 2023 are all about cherishing the past, indulging in the present and innovating for the future. Daisy Phillipson reports

Earlier this year, taste and nutrition group Kerry released its annual Taste and Nutrition Charts, revealing that taste remained the top driver when it comes to food and beverage choices, with consumers motivated by simplicity, sustainability and meeting their nutrition goals.

At the same time, Kerry highlighted a resurgence in heritage flavours, combining age-old cooking practices and heirloom recipes, with a strong interest in provenance.

A significant trend in Kerry’s report has been the rising consumer preference for mashups of familiar food and drinks they grew up with combined with emerging new flavour tonalities, accentuated by the influence of social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Additionally, confectionery and bakery NPD has been driven by unconventional combinations of traditional ingredients and emerging taste profiles from other regions.

For instance, Naksha recently launched sweet-themed baking kits inspired by flavours of the Middle East, including milk chocolate blondies with Lebanese tahini and a sprinkle of salted sesame sugar, as well as dark chocolate fondant with Turkish coffee and a cocoa cardamom dust. Earlier this year, Fudge Kitchen announced a relaunch of its much-anticipated summer flavour menu with three flavours combining traditional tastes in inventive new formats: Eton Mess Fudge, Vegan Pina Colada Fudge, and Lemon Cheesecake Fudge.

Classic combinations are also present in the chocolate segment in 2023, as observed by premium confectionery business, Luker Chocolate. In its forecast for the year, the company outlined the popularity of classic flavours like hazelnut, almond and caramel, which have remained top choices in the chocolate segment. With Caramelo being a beloved flavour in this area, Luker recently released its Caramelo 33 per cent chocolate couverture, crafted with caramelised milk.

The company also stated that unique and innovative flavour profiles are top of the agenda, from luscious salted caramel to indulgent dark chocolate infused with exotic spices, as well as also delivering bursts of tangy fruits and floral undertones. Seasonal tastes are important to take

note of too, such as strawberry and orange in summer and salted caramel for indulgent winter treats. Finally, the health trend continues to dominate the chocolate market, with Luker expanding its portfolio with new plant-based and reduced-sugar products that meet these changing needs. In the context of colours, GNT has identified the ‘Healthy Hedonism’ trend.

As the business noted, the latest generation of shoppers is increasingly searching for products with natural, sustainable ingredients and joyful, vibrant colours. GNT’s Exberry colours can be used to deliver these bold shades in confectionery applications while matching up to expectations on the ingredient list. Exberry Colouring Foods are clean-label concentrates made from non-GMO fruit, vegetables and plants using physical processing methods, while GNT is also committed to becoming a leader on sustainability.

Petra Thiele, managing director for GNT Europa, commented: “Inspired by Generation Z’s joy and creativity, Healthy Hedonism is a disruptive new trend that uses natural colour to deliver spectacular visual effects. Our plant-based Exberry Colours are available in stunning shades from across the spectrum, allowing manufacturers to create cutting-edge confectionery with completely clean labels.”

Traditional tastes
With classic taste profiles in mind, nostalgia has emerged as a dominating trend in the confectionery and bakery sectors. As explained by inclusions and decorations specialist Nimbus Foods, consumers are looking to create happy memories through food, especially in the current financial climate, with many having to tighten their belts because of inflation and rising energy bills. Turning to favourite sweet treats can spark feelings of joy and nostalgia, and flavours play an important role in this context.

Toffee, caramel and fudge continue to be enjoyed across generations, with manufacturers driving NPD by offering modern twists on these classic flavours. For instance, Pure Protein recently added two new flavours to its line of high protein bars: Galactic Brownie and Caramel Churro. Meanwhile, Nimbus produces a range of fudge and soft caramel inclusions, as well as toffee products such as chips, brittle and butterscotch, allowing manufacturers to in- corporate these distinct tastes into products such as chocolate bars, cakes and biscuits.

Studies have shown time and again that the colour of a sweet treat will have a dramatic impact on purchasing intent, and yet if the colour doesn’t match the taste, it can create a negative perception. For those creating toffee, caramel or fudge products, there are numerous options available that can generate the required colour match while also being clean label. Natural colours group Oterra, for instance, extended its range with a new caramel offering following its 2021 acquisition of SECNA Natural Ingredients Group SL, which was one of the largest producers of colour from caramelised sugar.

Following the integration, Oterra added a full range of caramel products to its portfolio, varying in strength and shade Fudge Kitchen announced the relaunch of its much- anticipated summer flavour menu. Pic: Fudge Kitchen and available in liquid and powder forms, making it ideal for a variety of applications including confectionery and bakery. All products are fully certified and accredited, including non-GMO, halal and kosher.

Tickled pink
Alongside traditional tastes and innovative flavour twists, colours have been defined by bright and bold hues, accelerated by the TikTok generation. This is reflected by Pantone’s Colour of the Year, Viva Magenta.

“In this age of technology, we look to draw inspiration from nature and what is real,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director, Pantone Colour Institute. “Pantone 18-1750 Viva Magenta descends from the red family, and is inspired by the red of cochineal, one of the most precious dyes belonging to the natural dye family as well as one of the strongest and brightest the world has known.”

This trend is evident in the numerous new confectionery and bakery products in bright pink shades and hues. “With its sense of whimsical fun, and the recent consumer trends for more adventurous and exotic flavours, pink has found a new home in flavours such as bubble-gum, unicorn and birthday cake,” explains Jessica O’Sullivan-Munck, global communication and media manager, Oterra. “These are the types of products that consumers around the world photograph and post to their Instagram pages to impress their friends.”

While synthetic colourants are easy to use to achieve these hues in food products, they aren’t suitable for some markets due to local regulations, says O’Sullivan-Munck. Thankfully, Oterra has a range of vertically integrated solutions to provide stable pinks in a range of applications.

For more acidic products, it has the anthocyanins from purple sweet potatoes. These anthocyanins give vibrant, stable pink colours that are crystal clear, and are kosher, halal and vegetarian, making them suitable for use in a wide range of international markets. “For a higher pH application, red beet can hold the answer,” adds O’Sullivan-Munck. “Red beet has been cultivated in all temperate regions for centuries. By pressing, concentrating and pasteurising the juice of the roots, red beet colour (or betanins E 162) can be produced.

“These pigments are perfect for colouring frostings, dairy desserts, ice creams and some bakery products. It is also available in oil soluble formulations for chocolate coatings, decorations and compounds.”
Ingredients business Kanegrade also offers manufacturers a range of food colourings, including clean label options that are vegetable, and fruit derived. Kanegrade’s Beetroot Liquid, for example, can be used to achieve the bright hues associated with the Viva Magenta trend using only natural components.

GNT’s extensive Exberry Colours natural solution portfolio, meanwhile, includes vivid plant-based hues made from familiar ingredients like purple sweet potato, red potato, purple carrots and beets, along with turmeric or paprika when the target colour is red or orange.

Viva Magenta can apply to flavours too, as demonstrated by Synergy Flavours, manufacturer and supplier of flavourings, extracts and essences. The company has utilised the vibrancy of this shade through its carefully selected flavour pairings. For example, lychee pairs well with other fruits, such as pear, raspberry and watermelon. It also goes well with floral ingredients like rose and elderflower, with Synergy’s flavour pairings making an ideal solution for confectionery NPD.

Sweet science
Alongside ingredients for flavours and colours, additional components are often required to ensure stability when formulat- ing a recipe. Highlighting the importance of taste is ingredients group Corbion, which conducted an online survey of 1100 food buyers in Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. The study found that 64% of participants agreed that taste is the most important factor when purchasing candies.

However, flavour is the second most important factor after price that stops a consumer from buying a confectionery product again if it doesn’t taste right. “So, it’s crucial to make candies with great taste that keep customers coming back,” says Willy van Arkel-van Arendonk, senior manager business development and product Management, Corbion.
“However, using certain acids to enhance flavours can sometimes mess with the candy’s stability.” The risks include sugar inversion, which can lead to sticky hard-boiled candies, an unwanted
consequence that may arise when adjusting acid levels to attain the perfect flavour while enhancing fruity notes. “Corbion’s buffered acid blends offer the means to achieve the desired level of sourness while maintaining a stable pH,” says Arendonk.  “With buffers, you can manage the pH with the sourness you want. This approach minimises the risk of issues such as sugar inversion.”

Corbion has developed a series of confectionery solutions centred on lactic acid, including the Corbion Sourness & Stability Calculator. This is a calculation programme to support hard candy producers, providing the required sourness level while managing the pH and thereby controlling the sugar inversion of candy. It assists producers in formulating candies by performing complex calculations based on the equilibrium state of these formulations, reducing time and resources that are needed in the lab.

While finding the right ingredients is a significant piece of the puzzle in market success, so is keeping on top of trends and the overall mar- ket, with companies leveraging technology to assist in this part of the process. This year, the Givaudan fragrance, taste and wellbeing group launched its AI-enhanced Customer Foresight platform, that’s expected to have a key impact on future product development.

In an industry first, Customer Foresight is said to leverage human expertise, big data and artificial intelligence to anticipate tomorrow’s challenges, foresee consumer expectations and create winning food
experiences. It is designed to support customers in understanding, planning for and addressing disruptive changes in consumer desires, guiding strategic planning and leading to co-creation opportunities. According to Givaudan, as the platform becomes smarter through AI, Customer Foresight will have the ability to anticipate what’s next a decade from now or beyond. “I’m truly excited about the limitless applications and use-cases that Customer Foresight will provide,” says Louie D’Amico, president, taste&wellbeing, Givaudan. “Our experts are able to gain insight and foresight into any future food or beverage opportunity. “Their resulting foresights can include anything from customisable and transversal future scenarios, to visualised target personas brought to life virtually.

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