Special edition: Flavour inspiration

The flavour trends redefining chocolate indulgence

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Caramel is making a splash in chocolate this season. Pic: GettyImages
Caramel is making a splash in chocolate this season. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags Chocolate Confectionery Indulgence Flavours

Luker Chocolate, a premium and sustainable brand from Colombia, has also been at the forefront of introducing new flavours to chocolate bars over the past couple of years, and the company has gathered valuable insights from recent trade fairs ExpoWest 2023 and Sweets&Snacks in Chicago to reveal chocolate flavours that are dominating the market in 2023. Diana Cifuentes, the brand’s Product Innovation Manager, shares her insights with ConfectioneryNews.

As we discovered at this year’s Sweets&Snacks Expo, the chocolate market is brimming with an array of captivating flavours that tantalise the taste buds. Luker Chocolate also discovered unique and innovative flavour profiles coming out of America, from luscious salted caramel to indulgent dark chocolate infused with exotic spices. “Expect to encounter bursts of tangy fruit, velvety smooth nutty notes, and the enchanting harmony of floral and chocolate undertones​,” it said as we enter the autumn/winter period.

ExpoWest 2023 was also a spectacular event that showcased the best of the best in chocolate flavour trends. Classic flavours like hazelnut, almond, and caramel will remain popular this year, particularly among brand owners and manufacturers looking to expand their product portfolio​,” Luker Chocolate revealed.

Cifuentes noted that: “Caramelo is a beloved classic flavour in the world of chocolate confectionery. Designed for those seeking moments of relaxation and self-indulgence, Luker’s new chocolate couverture, Caramelo 33%, offers a delightful caramel experience. Crafted with caramelised milk, it strikes a perfect harmony between the familiar and the sweet, leaving you with a luxuriously smooth sensation. This couverture opens a world of culinary possibilities, inviting to unleash creativity and delight discerning taste buds. What is interesting is the seasonal use of these flavours​.”

In an exclusive interview with ConfectioneryNews, Cifuentes went into more detail on what are the seasonal trends to watch.

Q: You mentioned Caramelo, what are the other seasonal flavours should we expect as we head into autumn/winter?

A​: Pumpkin spice is a hallmark of autumn, so we expect to see some confectionery creations inspired by this flavour over the coming months. Likewise, hazelnut is an indulgent pairing for chocolate during autumn/winter, and peppermint is also a popular choice, especially in chocolate bars and hot chocolate over the Christmas period.

Q: Will exotic fruits such as guava, melon, passion fruit, and pomegranate make a comeback in 2024? 

A​: Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, and they also want to have a better understanding of the ingredients and nutritional properties of the products they consume (Innova Market Insights, 2023). In terms of potential health benefits, guava, passion fruit, melon and pomegranate provide a significant amount of vitamin C, serving as antioxidants that support the immune system. Given this trend, we do expect to see more fruit-inspired chocolate creations in 2024.  We’re also seeing brands become more adventurous with flavour combinations as a point of differentiation, so exotic fruits, in particular, may make a comeback. This is especially true when paired with creamy and indulgent white chocolate. 

Q: What are the flavours dominating plant-based confectionery?  

A​: We’ve seen first-hand how oat milk has been gaining popularity in chocolate confectionery. Due to its natural creamy texture and range of applications from milk to white chocolate, it is often paired with some of the universally popular confectionery flavours: red fruits, caramel, sea salt, and nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. We’re definitely seeing greater demand for these flavours and products!

Q: Has Luker ever received any bizarre flavour requests from a client? 

A​: We’ve perhaps not universally seen as bizarre flavours, but we often get requests that are novel to us in South America. We offer products and services globally, so we get requests for innovative flavour combinations like white chocolate with cardamom and roasted cacao nibs, or bacon with dark chocolate – both of which aren't very typical here. We’ve also had requests for black forest gateau; that’s something that is obviously very common in bakery, and it’s exciting to see how it can also be extended into confectionery.

Q: What is the most popular flavour as demanded by consumers, in a chocolate bar? 

A​: Milk chocolate holds the largest market share in the UK. Globally, it's most commonly paired with caramel flavours and almond (Research and Markets, 2023).

Q: Is there any difference in flavour preferences in South America, North America, Europe and Asia? 

A​: Flavour preferences are strongly influenced by cultural factors and traditions. In North America, there is a notable preference for indulgent flavours such as caramel, peanut butter, and red raspberries. In contrast, Europe tends to strike a balance by favouring the rich indulgence of milk chocolate complemented with nuts like hazelnut, almond, and orange. Latin America sees more confectionery product launches using peanuts, crispy rice, and blends with coffee, as well as enticing flavours like passion fruit and strawberries. In Asia, the most popular flavours include nougat, hazelnut, and cashew, alongside inventive combinations incorporating matcha tea, green tea, or mango.

 Q: Have any flavours caught you by surprise over the past 12 months?

A​: Our R&D team can be wildly creative, so it’s rare that we’re faced with flavours that are considered ‘surprising’. However, flavours like rose or blood orange can be unexpected when paired with specific chocolate and cocoa profiles. 

The Institute of Food Technology said seasonal flavours are considered to be ‘sentimental’ by consumers – and we have seen plenty of strawberry and orange flavour confectionery trending during the warmer months.

According to Innova Market Insights, in 2022, launches of plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian chocolates worldwide corresponded to 20.7% of all new chocolate products. With rising concerns about the planet and our health, younger generations especially are becoming more aware of the impact of their food choices, contributing to this growth.

In a recent blogpost, Luker Chocolate said: “We are committed to addressing consumer insights and developing innovative solutions that respond to sustainability concerns. As part of this commitment, we continuously expand our portfolio with new plant-based and reduced-sugar products that meet these changing needs. We work closely with our customers, co-creating unique solutions that meet their specific needs and preferences. This collaborative approach drives innovation in our products and delivers top-quality products that are at the cutting edge of flavour trends. The research and development teams host multiple sessions to fully understand the needs of our client’s consumer base, tackling these groups’ challenges and creating bespoke solutions. Flavour profiling is one way the team is driving this.”

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