Premium and sustainable confectionery ranges set to dominate 2023, says ofi

The ofi ingredients group has offered its latest analysis of the core trends set to be shaping events in 2023, with plant-based products, as well as premium confectionery ranges expected to thrive this year, despite market challenges, reports Neill Barston.

As the company explained, its cocoa innovation team identified four key areas for the business this year, spanning environmentally-focused brands, through to luxury chocolate ranges, and a growing desire for new and different flavours, are all major consumer purchasing factors.

Clearly, as ofi noted, ‘we’re experiencing a world in flux’ – with sector headlines dominated by the cost of living crisis raising the price of goods for consumers, as well as food and drink businesses operating around the world. As reported this month, in the UK in particular, sector prices have risen 16.7%, which stands as a 40-year record. This is against a backdrop of supply chain challenges, the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as the notable factor of negative impact from Brexit – which has hit small and medium-sized companies especially hard with additional costs of exporting and importing, which is now more complicated than at any point in the past four decades.

In its latest study, ofi has examined core trends for the year ahead for the confectionery, sector – with the delivery of luxury product lines seen as being particularly significant, despite the global squeeze on the cost of living. As ofi noted, ofi’s deZaan brand offers premium cocoa ingredients and innovative solutions to create indulgent treats, while finding ways to help manufacturers manage production costs.

1. Premium will prevail in the cost-of-living crisis
“A premium feel has been important to consumers for some time. But the continued increase in the cost of living is likely to mean people spend less on premium brands and purchase fewer items. And it puts pressure on brands to keep costs down. When money is tight, quality and value is key, and using premium cocoa ingredients can help enhance this. According to GWI, 53% of consumers state ‘quality’ as a top factor when deciding which brands to buy. Small, ‘affordable’ treats like candy, confectionery, or chocolate bars do well in recessions as consumers seek a little pick me up. Also, people could shift toward seeking out these moments of indulgence at home, which means they’re more likely to want a premium experience when they do.”

2. New taste experiences from underused ingredients
“For 2022, ofi said that post-covid, a craving for excitement and adventure would translate into a desire for new and exciting flavours. The latest research by Innova agrees and highlights growing consumer interest in underused ingredients. Take sugar. Its reputation for being unhealthy and the continued impact on production from Russia’s war in Ukraine means there’s a need for alternatives.This is an opportunity for chefs and manufacturers to introduce flavour variation and address nutritional factors while also adapting to supply concerns.

We’ve also looked at using the right cocoa for reduced or sugar-free chocolate and confectionery recipes that don’t compromise on flavour. For example, we’ve found that red alkalised cocoa powders can help mask off notes from high-intensity sweeteners and plant-based proteins like pea and soy.

“We’ve been experimenting with underutilised ingredients which provide natural sweetness when blended with cocoa. Our ready-to-eat bite-size ‘cookie dough’ is healthy, unbaked, and contains no added sugar. It’s sweetened by raspberry and beetroot, which combined with cocoa nibs and our deZaan D11ZR cocoa powder, enhances the flavor profile. Plus, it’s plant-based and gluten-free,” noted Tamara Vissers, Application Specialist, ofi.


3. Sustainability focus shifts
Last year, ofi projected  that growing concerns about the planet would lead consumers to favour brands that can point to the environmental benefits of their products. Now, sustainability faces global headwinds as the cost-of-living crisis dominates, and consumers will weigh up affordability over conscious consumerism. However, our latest research shows that 75% of consumers surveyed still say they’d pay more for a sustainable product.

One way for brands to win here is by using cocoa ingredients with segregated traceability. This means the cocoa beans are sourced via a sustainability program, providing social and environmental support to farmers and are kept separate from non-sustainable beans. It’s a more precise way to demonstrate to consumers the origin of the ingredients from bean to bar.

“deZaan offers segregated and traceable cocoa powders and cocoa liquors. They’re sourced via our Cocoa Compass sustainability ambition, which won Food Ingredients Europe 2022 Sustainability Innovation Award. With our customers, we want to create a healthier future for people and the planet, underpinned by social and environmental metrics from our insights platform, AtSource,” Kamil Sawicki Global Head of Cocoa Powder, ofi.

4. Plant-based proves its position

The rise of plant-based snacking has felt unstoppable in recent years, with manufacturers placing big bets on the trend. And our recent polling data shows interest is still growing. In fact, 61% of consumers indicate that they are consuming more plant-based products than two years ago. However, with costs increasing for everyone, brands will need to work harder to show the value of plant-based, not only in terms of taste, but also the health and environmental benefits.

“At ofi, we’ve been running trials to find out which nut protein powders and cocoa ingredients work best in vegan chocolate. We’ve compared hardness, sweetness, creaminess, melting profile and the overall sensory experience, with what we’d expect to see in milk chocolate. The right cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and nut protein powder pairing can help manufacturers win on taste, texture and nutrition,” Lesya Melechyn, Chocolate & Confectionery Category Manager, ofi.




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