Research shows alternative confectionery ingredients and vegan markets continue global growth

According to recent Grand View Research figures, the vegan segment was last year worth a total of $1.1 billion, with 11 per cent growth rate expected until 2030, as functional health-based ingredients markets in particular proving particularly strong, reports Neill Barston.

With the ‘plant-based revolution’ continuing to gather pace right across the food and drink sector, confectionery, snacks and bakery markets have played their part in its upturn in performance.

As analysts note, the sustained rise of vegan trends of the past few years has meant this is no mere passing foodie fad, it is very much here to stay, and it seems the pandemic has very much fuelled this perspective among many consumers. It’s clear that health and wellbeing are now bigger business than ever before.

This is underlined by Conor Power, business development director for proteins at Kerry, who noted that global launches of products carrying vegan/vegetarian or plant-based claims have more than doubled since 2020, according to Innova Markets’ research- with the organisation set to be part of our World Confectionery Conference on 9 September, for which you can still register at the following link.

This dynamic growth is creating innovation opportunities across a broad range of new categories, including sugar confectionery. Notably, he explains that the number of sugar confectionery launches featuring a vegan claim has grown by over 25 per cent in the last five years (CAGR 2016-2021). However, while confectionery products with plant-based claims have continued to show a strong surge in growth, such products aren’t always simple to make. To develop vegan/vegetarian confectionery, animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin and egg white must be replaced. The alternative ingredients need to provide similar functionality in formulation, whipping and gelation.

Traditional ingredients
As the Kerry specialist explains, gelatin and egg white are highly functional animal-derived proteins that are responsible for the aeration, stabilisation, and gelation of many sugar confectioneries.

Significantly, gelatin is well-known for its whipping, stabilising and gelling properties. It produces an elastic gel at high sugar concentration and is odourless, flavourless, and colourless, allowing for a broad variety of applications. Because it is easy to work with, it is used in many confectionery applications including jellies, marshmallow, and chews. Gelatin dissolves easily in hot water; its low melting point contributes to its pleasant mouthfeel and only mild heating is required to keep the confectionery mass in liquid form. Egg white is prized for its whipping and stabilising properties. The ingredient can be beaten to form a foam for products such as nougat, meringues, or mousse.

It produces  a very stable white foam with mild taste. However, price volatility is currently a major issue in the egg industry, with the recent Avian Flu outbreak in the US causing a 52 per cent surge in egg prices. Therefore, manufacturers are now seeking out egg alternative solutions for sugar confectionery applications. Discussing plant-based solutions, Power continues: “Plant Protein offers great functionality to deliver vegan confectioneries. In order to replace the functionality of egg white or gelatin, plant proteins are often looked to as a solution.

It is important to make sure these solutions are also clean label and allergen free. The big challenge is to deliver a plant-based sugar confectionery without compromising on either aeration, mouthfeel or foam stability. “Kerry developed Hyfoama, a plant protein ingredient to support vegan and vegetarian aerated confectionery formulations. With exceptionally consistent whipping performance, Hyfoama can be used to replace the aerating properties of egg-white or gelatin – helping manufacturers to overcome formulation challenges and deliver delicious plant-based aerated confectionery to meet the soaring demand for vegan sweets. We recently developed a vegan confectionery concept e-book including concepts such as marshmallow, nougat, chew and jelly.

Future of vegan confectionery

The specialist adds that there is now a strong focus on innovation within the vegan confectionery sector at the moment. Novel ingredients are constantly being assessed for the development of innovative vegan food products. In this context, moving away from the conventional plant protein source towards novel plant protein sources such as hemp, fava bean, sunflower and chickpea could allow the discovery of novel aerating and gelling properties. Fermentation is also being investigated for its potential to develop clean label, better tasting plant protein ingredients with aerating or gelling properties. Healthy snacking and functional gummies are a trend that continues to grow. Sugar-free vegan confectionery is an area of keen interest as well as confectionery with enhanced health credentials fortified with vitamins, prebiotics, immune health ingredients, and probiotics for example.

Speaking to  Confectionery Production, Adrian Ling, CEO of vegan specialist business Plamil Foods, believes that innovation is alive and well within the segment.

He says: “Having had a forced Covid break from the concentrated melting pot of expo events, it is so refreshing to once again see all that is new when wondering down aisles of stands full of new treats to try.

“It will hardly have escaped anyone’s noticed that alternative ingredients and products are in the ascendency. While many trade show offerings have not hit the shelves yet, there really does seem to be the signs of a Sunami of NPD’s of which are plant based or vegan,” notes the CEO, whose own company’s So Free vegan chocolate series is enjoying strong fortunes within the UK.

“Breaking through onto shelves there are a number of disrupter brands in the confectionery sector, but multinational brands are waking up and starting to enter the ‘suitable for vegan market’. These multinationals however have invested many decades into their brand values, so to convincingly offer vegan alternatives challenges the most ardent brand value departments.
“For instance, having told consumers that a pint and a half of milk makes the best bar, convincing vegans in the ‘z generation’ that alternative ingredients provides the same pleasure has got to be an uphill battle. And a battle it will be, for z generation belief system are so different and are naturally suspicious of big brands, no matter how much authenticity or ethical values are attributed.”

As previously reported, the market is continuing to throw up some fine surprises in terms of diverse products using alternative ingredients, as with fellow British business Sheer Element.

To its credit, the brand is something of a stir in asserting an industry first combining confectionery and wellbeing with its organic artisan chocolate bar including minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

As the company explains, development of its new line took over three years for experts to create, reimagining consumer’s daily supplement routine, transforming the chore and stress of swallowing multiple pills into a single product. In addition, as previously reported, the market is continuing to throw up some fine surprises in terms of diverse products using alternative ingredients.

Key investment

Beyond chocolate, there are others seizing upon the potential for alternative ingredients, including Beneo, which has just announced plans to invest in a new €50 million investment in a new pulse processing site in Offstein, Germany. The site is reportedly set to will produce protein rich pulse ingredients for food, focused initially on protein concentrate, starch rich flour and hulls from fava beans – which according to the business, will have potential across confectionery markets.

As the company noted, the resulting protein concentrate and starch rich flour will be used for protein-enrichment and texture improvement in meat and dairy alternatives, as well as (gluten-free) bakery and cereals, in response to growing demand.

Christoph Boettger, member of the executive board at Beneo explains its potential. He says: “Our recent investment into a new pulse production site is only the starting point. We strongly believe in plant-based  ingredients and therefore see the new facility as an important first step in enlarging our protein offering moving forwards. This will enable us to produce a wider variety of sustainable plant-based protein ingredients over the coming years.”

Finnish finesse

As Olga Halme, Customer Development Manager at Finland’s Valio explains, health-conscious consumers demand a combination of indulgence and healthiness from confectionery and chocolate products, putting the FoodBev producers into creative search for innovative solutions. Within the confectionery sector, health and wellness is one the fastest developing categories, which volumes will predictably grow with double digits pace till 2026.

She said: “Confectionery products, and chocolate in particular, are standing apart as indulgent product, appropriate for everyday snacking, as well as for special festive occasions and family events. Hence, the choice of candy bar or Christmas chocolate box is influenced by complex of factors: sensory, emotional, social occasion, ethical and diet preferences. With Valio specialty ingredients and solutions, FoodBev producers may modify their products to meet the demands for tasty, healthy, nutritionally balanced food of customised functionality and same time fitting for all consumers.

“Valio’s patented technology and sustainably produced Finnish dairy ingredients allow to create confectionery products with better nutritional values, processing properties and maintaining the authentic sensory and texture of genuine chocolate, while meeting national regulations on relevant claims. Our versatile Eila specialty milk powders line are designed to capture consumers´ demand such as natural sugar reduction, clean label and digestive wellness.”

As she added its work has included deploying over 100 years heritage in milk processing, based on nutritive and sensory targeted leadership excellence, in combination with state of the art AI system, designed for Valio Bettersweet concept, its team supports confectionery customers with final product and on-pack claims conceptualisation, global market consumer insights, nutritive formulation, verifications of relevant regulations, sensory and process tuning in numerous confectionery categories, including milk and white chocolate, fudges, toffees, cacao drinks, sweet spreads, fat based fillings.

Wider snacking trends

Furthermore, as Glanbia Nutritionals notes, momentum in European consumer snacking trends is turning toward better-for-you options supported by functional ingredients like protein. In its research, one in six people are weekly consumers of protein fortified snacks, which they consider to be a healthier option to ‘traditional’ sweet and savoury snacks.

The business enthuses that high protein, high fibre and low sugar products are driving the snacking category forward, with many consumers now choosing snacks they perceive as healthy over more traditional options. However, at the same time, many people still want to fulfil the treat yourself moment,’ making taste a key consideration for many consumers. Seeking snacks that deliver on both indulgence and health, consumers are turning to protein fortified snacks which are seen to deliver both. Clearly, as the company asserts, when it comes to healthy snacking, it’s not as simple as one size fits all. A recent survey by the global nutritional solutions provider found that for inactive or less active consumers, protein snacks meet needs around satiety, a healthy hold over between meals. For more active consumers, protein snacks are used for managing daily nutritional intake, refuelling and improving sports performance, demonstrating the versatility and broad appeal of protein fortified products.

Sonja Matthews, senior manager, strategic Insights EMEA and ASPAC at Glanbia Nutritionals, comments: “Across Europe, as consumers begin to emerge from varying degrees of lockdown, people are determined to put their health at the top of the agenda whether than be physical, mental, or a combination of both. For many, this is impacting the choices made in the food and drink aisle – especially when it comes to snacking. “Our research has found there has been a surge in the demand for healthier snacks. Consumers are seeking out better-for-you, not necessarily best-for-you, as they are not prepared to compromise on taste.

Protein fortified snacks is set to continue to be an exciting and dynamic growth category as it continues attract new consumers, demonstrating there is room for growth from both existing brands and new players entering the market.” For its part, Kanegrade is continuing to expand its healthier option fruit powders, used in hundreds of applications including confectionery, plant based food and fillings. As the company notes, “consumer interest in plant based products is at an all time high,” with many people choosing a plant based diet. The main reasons being it can be better for your health, it can assist in losing weight, it is a good diet variation, it’s good for the environment and it can save you money. A plant based diet is usually made up of foods which come from plants, which includes fruit powders. These are fine, normally highly soluble powders with long shelf life, making them ideal for use in food manufacturing. In response, the company’s Pomegranate Powder is among its key offerings.

This pink/yellow powder has a flavour and aroma typical of the fruit, which is produced by low temperature spray-drying. It is a free-flowing fine powdered product with hygroscopic characteristics. As well as its distinctive taste, it is thought to have a powerful array of antioxidants. The fruits are nutrient-packed with healthy vitamins and minerals that your body needs replenished on a daily basis. The company also produces a number of other flavoured powders including lime, which is reportedly ideal for the confectionery sector – which is becoming increasingly alive to the prospect of intriguing alternative ingredients and flavours





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