Crush candies, which are manufactured using a similar process to normal hard-boiled sweets but cooled using liquid nitrogen, have small cracks below the surface. This gives them an unusual appearance and makes them collapse in the mouth in a peculiar way, releasing the flavour in bursts. The company says that it has been selling its Isomalt ST sweetener (designed for hard-boiled sweets) to Asian confectionery manufacturers for some time. Indeed, the technology for making the products was born out of cooperation between the Beneo-Palatinit's applications team and customers in Japan. It is now presenting the concept to European confectionery-makers. Head of marketing Claudia Meissner told FoodNavigator.com that the concept "could be interesting for big candy makers, who are always looking for something new to update their product lines." She noted that line extensions are usually new flavours, but use of Isomalt in crush candies could be an extension from a visual or sensory point of view. While conventional, sugar-containing sweets can also be made in this way, the thermomolecular structure of sugar means that the edges of the pieces, once the sweet has collapsed, can be sharp. According to Beneo-Palatinit, however, when Isomalt ST is used as a sugar-replacer the cracks in the sweet are visible but thanks to the thermomolecular structure of the crystals, the surface is smooth and even. Moreover, it has a smoother, more pleasant feel in the mouth. The sweets are so structured that they do not break under mechanical pressure - such as when they are packed - nor during storage or transportation, says Beneo-Palatinit. Isomalt, which is made from pure beet sugar, contains half the calories of sugar and has a low-glycaemic effect. According to Beneo-Palatinit, its sweetness profile is similar to that of sugar but it has scope for fruitier, more intense flavours. Isomalt is claimed to be the "most used" sugar replacer for sugarfree hard-boiled sweets, featured in around 1800 products worldwide. Previously Isomalt has proved a popular sweetener in sugar-free chewing gums. Isomalt GS, a highly soluble variation of the product, is said to provide a consistent and even coating, and that pigments can be easily applied. Judging by data supplied to it by ACNeilsen and Euromonitor, Beneo-Palatinit considers sugar-free confectionery as an area is ripe for serious development. Meissner told FoodNavigator.com in September that accumulated findings from the market research firms show industry at large that sugar-free is emerging from the niche where it was cosseted ten years ago. Although sugar-free confectionery has seen ups and downs on a year-by-year basis, the data "show sugar-free will be the winning horse". For instance, in Italy sugar-free products were seen to grow by some 41 per cent between 2001 and 2006, thereby significantly contributing to total market growth. In France, the sugar-free category is said to have had a 40 per cent share of the market overall last year, contributing eight per cent to overall confectionery growth. In Germany, sugar confectionery experienced a seven per cent loss, Beneo-Palatinit has observed - but sugar-free sweets more than made up for it with 31 point growth.