Guest post

Confectionery trends for 2021 - celebrating cocoa as an ingredient in its own right

By Wouter Stomph

- Last updated on GMT

 Olam's deZaan D11MG single origin cocoa powder is crafted purely from Ghanaian cocoa beans and meets the appetite for fully traceable and segregated ingredients. Pic: Olam Cocoa
Olam's deZaan D11MG single origin cocoa powder is crafted purely from Ghanaian cocoa beans and meets the appetite for fully traceable and segregated ingredients. Pic: Olam Cocoa

Related tags: Olam Cocoa, Clean label

Given the unprecedented upheaval of this year, predicting ingredients trends for 2021 might seem a risky business, writes Wouter Stomph, North America Head of Product Development & Innovation, Olam Cocoa, as he explains why the whole won’t be greater than the sum of its parts in the new year.

In 2020, many consumer shifts that had seemed unstoppable suddenly ground to a halt. Take the convenience trend – once an NPD stalwart, the demand for convenience foods and on-the-go snacks stalled as people were asked to stay at home.

Or the demand for new and more exotic flavours – in anxious times, consumers turned away from adventurous, new combinations in favour of familiar and comforting products and tastes.

Yet it’s not all stasis and retreat. The pandemic may have stopped some trends in their tracks, but it accelerated others. Health considerations have long been growing in the confectionery market, but now consumers are even more focused on making sure their diets support health and wellbeing.

We’ve already seen increased interest from customers in the health benefits of cocoa, which is packed with fibre, minerals and antioxidants ...

This is boosting long term trends, like the shift to plant-based. We’ve seen more and more consumers seek out plant-based food during lockdown as they become more health-conscious. A trend we expect to continue world-wide and really take-off in Asia.

So, given these unpredictable turns, what can we expect with any degree of certainty in 2021?

Well, as a result of this increased focus on the health and quality credentials of the food we eat, consumers will lean towards simpler snacks that use just a few select ingredients. They won’t just think about the whole product but about each of its constituent parts, scrutinising each individual ingredient for health benefits, quality, sustainability and the story it has to tell. Ingredients that are wholesome, in both the physical and the moral sense, will be king.

Taste, texture and health

As consumers will carefully study and consider each ingredient in a product, manufacturers will have to select those that pack the biggest punch when it comes to taste, texture and health.

Cocoa ingredients will be a great way to deliver against these new consumer expectations. They can help product developers keep their formulations simple, providing a natural colour and flavour to snacks and boosting a product’s health credentials, both because cocoa comes with natural benefits and because it reduces the need for artificial colouring or flavouring.

We’ve already seen increased interest from customers in the health benefits of cocoa, which is packed with fibre, minerals and antioxidants. Whereas cocoa was once seen as a way to add flavour or colour, going forward more manufacturers will focus on celebrating cocoa as an ingredient in its own right.

Clean labelling

Clean labelling has been a focus for some time now, but this will accelerate next year as manufacturers design products around cocoa and its properties, upping cocoa content and removing sugar or additives to create a more wholesome product.

Wholesome ingredients also have another dimension to them. Consumers no longer just care about which ingredients are on the label, they also want to understand the provenance and impact of those that have made the list. This is a trend that has become stronger not weaker this year, with one third of adults saying they are more concerned about sustainability now than they were before the pandemic (research agency Kantar). The consumers of 2021 will demand even greater transparency and be drawn to those ingredients with strong origin stories and sustainability credentials.

To meet this demand, manufacturers will want full traceability in the sourcing of ingredients, from the farmgate through to processing. That’s why we recently achieved 100% traceability in our directly sourced cocoa supply chain, giving customers unprecedented transparency in where their cocoa ingredients come from and traceability right back to the farm or community

On our AtSource platform, they can also view data about everything from the sustainability programmes implemented in that community, to the water and carbon footprint of the crop.

Single origin

The appetite for fully traceable and segregated ingredients and an authentic provenance story will also fuel the growing trend in single origin cocoa. Industry figures show there has been a 25% increase in chocolate launches with a single origin claim since 2015 (CAGR) and we can expect more in the year ahead as manufacturers put ingredients like cocoa, and its origin story, front and centre of new product development. It’s why we’ve developed ingredients like our deZaan D11MG single origin cocoa powder, crafted purely from Ghanaian cocoa beans.

Common wisdom holds that the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts. But that is not the case for confectionery in 2021. Next year will shine a light on the individual building blocks of any given product, from their origin and journey to the consumer, to their benefits in terms of taste, flavour and health. With a huge array of flavour profiles and colours to choose from, combined with the significant advances being made when it comes to transparency and traceability, cocoa could take centre stage as confectionery becomes more wholesome.

Related topics: Editor's Blog

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