Chocolate makers are increasingly opting for dried fruit inclusions over sharper flavor additions like chilli and nuts because of their perceived healthy image and flavor enhancing properties, according to confectionery equipment supplier Egan Food Technologies and market analysts Mintel.
Mike Sherd, product manager at Egan, told this site: “For our molded products, we are seeing a lot of dried fruits being incorporated into the bars. This could be cranberries, blueberries – any sorts of dried fruit that are automatically fed and mixed into the molded product.”
Examples: Lindt, Hershey and Theo Chocolates
One manufacturer getting in on the act is Lindt, which recently added blackberry, cranberry, passion fruit and coconut versions to its Excellence range.
Theo Chocolates has products with figs, freeze-dried rasperbberies and dried cherries, while Hershey manufactures fruit pieces such as blueberry, goji and pomegranate covered in chocolate through its Brookside business, acquired in 2011.
Fruity flavors overtaking extreme flavors, says Mintel
Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight at Mintel, said: “I see the sharp flavors of chili, wasabi etc. starting to fade and fruity flavor notes, which have a much bigger range of possibilities, moving in.”
“The whole thing is likely to be spurred by the health benefits attributed to the fruit, which gives the chocolate confectionery a bit more of a positive positioning. It is also likely to provide a new flavor horizon and more textural interest to the products, keeping the consumers engaged.”
A 2012 study by Belscak-Cvitanovic et.al found that freeze-dried raspberry extract could up the antioxidant content of chocolate.
Sherd said the trend for fruit inclusions was mainly for larger 75 g chocolate tablets.
“It seems to be rising more. It’s been going on for five years or so, but you’re seeing a lot more of it and a lot more systems that incorporate the dried fruits as far as automatically feeding them into the lines.”
Dried fruits can become sticky and need to be handled under certain conditions, he said.
“It’s important that you keep them at the right temperate prior to the process of feeding them into the chocolate. You want to keep them cool to stop them from gumming up and sticking together.”
“Cranberries are tough to deal with, but if you keep them cool and feed them the right way they’re good.”
Sherd added that chocolates with dried fruits were for the higher end of the market and would naturally cost more to produce, perhaps even more than other inclusions.