CN: What have been the main shifts in consumer perceptions of confectionery over the past 12 months?
Madeline Bills: Confectionery is no longer just about satisfying guilty pleasures. Consumers today are more and more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. They are opting for snacks that help them to top up on essential nutrients throughout the day and fulfil their health and dietary preferences. From high protein, high fibre snacks that boost energy levels, to low or no added sugar and keto bars – products with health claims have grown significantly in recent years.
In the wider market, the sweet and savoury trend which has dominated in recent years is continuing to grow
CN: What has been the response to this trend from the industry, in terms of flavour?
MB: Confectioners have responded by experimenting with new ingredient or flavour combinations, whether that’s adding cinnamon and spices or including defatted nut flour to reduce wheat flour in a gluten-free product. Natural cocoas are also increasingly being used to deliver a strong and fruity cocoa flavour while adhering to the clean label trend. ofi’s premium red alkalized cocoa powders, for example, have dark appearances that can be used at lower percentages to achieve the same indulgent colour but required less sugar for flavour balance. They are also effective in masking off-flavours from plant-based proteins and high-intensity sweeteners.
CN: What about functionality in confectionery ingredients?
MB: It’s no longer enough for confectionery to just be lower in salt, sugar, or calories. Today’s discerning consumers are looking for snacks that also boost psychical health, mood, and immunity, whilst still tasting great.
That’s where functional ingredients come in – ingredients that have a positive effect on health and wellness beyond basic nutrition. They might promote optimal health, improve focus, or reduce the risk of disease. For example, many new entrants to the confectionery category are mixing indulgent cocoa with spices like ginger or turmeric, both used in herbal medicine for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, or with botanicals like angelica root which can improve energy levels, immunity and memory.
At ofi, we support our customers in identifying hard-working ingredients solutions that will take their products to the next level, combining cocoa with unusual grains, spices and botanicals for the ultimate combination of flavour and function. To stand out from the crowd in the functional confectionery category, it’s all about creating exciting products that are healthy, nutritious, delicious and natural.
CN: Finally, what’s hot in the confectionery flavour-sphere?
MB: At ofi, our ability to collaborate across our five business units – cocoa, coffee, nuts, spices and dairy – means we can help confectioners by co-creating natural, functional ingredients that are compatible, complementary and deliver a punch when it comes to taste.
We’re currently experimenting with some delicious and surprising combinations using functional ingredients, such as spicing up freshly-baked churros with a peppery cocoa and turmeric dipping sauce.
Meanwhile, our nuts team are delving into where and how to use various nut ingredients – whole nuts, butters, milks or oils – for protein fortification, to boost certain micronutrients like magnesium which help to manage blood pressure, and to replace dairy in vegan chocolate. By thinking outside of traditional silos, we can truly innovate.
In the wider market, the sweet and savoury trend which has dominated in recent years is continuing to grow, as we see unique flavours like chili, miso or wasabi chocolate and lychee and yuzu flavored products – previously considered exotic treats – come into the mainstream.
We also expect to see the development of products such as spice-flavoured granola bars, and the incorporation of botanicals such as lavender, ginger and rose into confectionery, giving people a taste of something new, whilst reassuring them that the product is natural and helping support health claims.
Olam Food Ingredients (ofi) focuses on raw materials and ingredient platforms in commodities including: cocoa, coffee, dairy, nuts, and spices.