The world of confectionery flavors is “busting all over” with innovation. From entirely new profiles to trends that continue to expand, the flavor makers are on it. They’re attentive to both the consumer that drives the confectioners and the confectioners who drive them.
There’s no denying the importance of this interaction. What’s anything without good flavor — candy and chocolate especially? That said, the most important ingredient in candy is continuing on the path of unique and exotic profiles. As of late, they come in the form of creative combinations, surprising sensations and entirely new experiences.
Flavor technology is not exempt from the utmost trend that seems to be seeping into everything. One of today’s biggest pushes from increasingly educated consumers is for healthier options, even when it comes to confections. So those bringing flavor to candy and chocolate makers are feeling an impulse to adapt their ingredients.
Making flavors healthy and natural
“Natural, natural, natural… is now around 40 percent of our flavor portfolio in North America, and steadily growing,” says Frederic Schulders, sales and marketing director at Silesia Flavors Inc.
With many more mass-marketed natural confectionery products on the shelves, flavor providers are seeing an up-kick in requests for natural solutions.
The steadily increasing flavor market is attributable to consumers associating natural flavors with healthier, premium or authentic products, Schulders explains.
Two clever ways flavors are becoming more beneficial to the body are through the inclusion of juices and vegetables that can actually provide vitamins. Gummy confections for children are especially incorporating the technique, explains Cindy Cosmos, senior flavor chemist at Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.
While the health and wellness concept is relatively new in the confectionery realm, it has great potential, asserts Jim Hamernik, director of research and development at Flavorchem.
“Everyone likes confections and if they can contain something “healthy,” it is a win-win situation,” he explains.
Flavor fusion is still hot
Although flavor fusion is not as brand new of an umbrella term, it’s still hot and evolving, says Hamernik.
“Everyone is looking for unique and exciting blends that have not been seen before. There are countless possibilities and I don’t see this ending anytime soon,” he says.
One distinct role played by flavor fusion is in the acceptance of new fruits to the market. Fusing something unheard of with something familiar is a subtle form of new flavor launching.
“As the two are merged, acceptance grows and eventually the new product is accepted on its own,” says Cosmos.
Panned confections such as Hershey’s Brookside brand are doing this by combining superfruits with dark chocolate in a panned piece along with a recognized flavor profile.
In WILD Flavors’s case, the company focuses on mint when it comes to mixing profiles.
According to Chuck Dodson, director of global mint product management and strategy, a great deal of interest in mint plus flavors is occurring in Asia and Europe. These include herbal and emerging new fruit flavors, he says.
A range of more economical peppermint oils was launched by the company due to interest in the oils at a lower price point. Dodson says WILD Flavors also has a set of natural mint oils that work well with stevia, and that the innovations are being well received by the confectionery industry.
Another new launch under the fusion umbrella that’s gathering interest is shifting — that is transitioning from one profile to another. Silesia has been working on the new approach for the past two years, Schulders says.
“With the 1+1=3 trend, you taste two very distinct flavors that when combined, create a third, very distinct flavor. For example, apple + banana = pear,” he explains.
The growth of flavor fusions and shifts has brought the company to utilize new encapsulation technologies. Their use of the new Sil-A-Glass range is mainly focused on gums and chewy candies. Its array of flavor granules offers a wide variety of applications, from flavor bursts, to flavor shifts, and new flavor fusions.
In order to match a steady increase in global demand for this kind of delivery system, Silesia recently completed a major expansion of their main dry production facility. Around 50 percent capacity was added for the production of spray-dried and granulated flavors, including the Sil-A-Glass range.
Making sweet and savory confections
Fusion is taking hold in the more decadent realms of the confectionery world as well, and it isn’t all sweet.
Chocolatiers now infuse things like spices, peppers or salt, into chocolate confections to combine sweet and savory nuances. Flavor can be used in these circumstances to top note or extend the taste profile.
An overall trend in food culture toward the marriage of traditional sweet products with a specific influence from a savory ingredient is also on the rise, Cosmos says.
This isn’t news to Flavorchem.
“Salted caramel has been a hot flavor over the last couple of years and we still get requests,” Hamernik says. “I believe this is a marketing twist on an old flavor. There seems to be a trend to take an old concept and add a twist to make it new and exciting.”
While there certainly is a trend there, Schulders warns not to get overly excited about it.
“Sweet and savory combinations are limited for the time — eye-catching, amazing and tasteful — but still limited.”
He says it’s connected to a temptation to simply try something new and different, even if it’s a limited-time offer.
That said, indulgence has been and continues to be a big millennial trend according to Schulders.
Rich combinations, with cream, dairy and pastry profiles have invaded most confectionery categories to the joy of many older kids.
WILD Flavors is taking the lead on this, with a new line of flavors designed to evoke an indulgent profile. Featured flavors include salted caramel, cookie and French toast.
Flavors get exotic
As with indulgence, you may be familiar with the exotic trend. It’s still on the rise, in part because such products are often positioned as a natural, more beneficial indulgence, and flavor makers have a number of new things up their sleeves.
“We see interest in many exotic flavors for confections — such as acai and pomegranate, but even ‘native superfruits’ such as sour cherry, blueberry, cranberry, and black raspberry,” says Jones-Dille.
Taking specificity a step further, many new concepts display typical Hispanic flavor profiles, largely Mexican inspired. It won’t necessarily be a mango, a guava, a tamarind or a guanabana, but often a different type of strawberry, pineapple or lime for example.
That’s what Silesia Flavors is doing, with the help of branches in Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. Internal panels and immediate access to top flavors sold in these countries give them accurate insight into such key areas.
The pursuit of ethnically unique flavors continues to expand due to the melting pot of cultures in the United States today, Cosmos explains.
“From a savory perspective, as more consumers are introduced to different cultures’ eating venues, the desire for those new products is increasing,” she says. “This infiltrates the confectionery industry in an agricultural sense where new and different fruits can be imported and used in new confectionery concepts.”
Not so exotic, but a step above basic, true-to-fruit flavor profiles also are also in the making.
Silesia’s research and analytics teams have developed new ranges of fruit flavors based on the actual fruit variety for apples, pears, mangoes, strawberries, etc.
These new flavors address adult demographics, seeking more authentic tastes. For example, the range includes a Granny Smith or a Red Delicious Apple, an Alphonso Mango or a Senga Strawberry.
WILD Flavors is tackling the same concept with its line of varietal fruit flavors. Using natural varietal flavors allows manufacturers to list and picture a specific fruit variety on the label. Fuji Apple, Clementine, and Bartlett Pear have been very popular in confectionery applications, says Jones-Dille.
And while new flavors are being introduced to the exotic category, the veterans aren’t so exotic anymore. Exotic fruit — tropical profiles in general — are part of the standard range now.
“Do you recall the time when pineapple was ‘exotic’? Well now mango is on the ranks,” says Schulders.
If you thought the exotic and fusion flavors were exciting, this next trend might just knock you off your feet.
With the idea of flavor fusion here to stay, according to Jones-Dille, searching for the next great standout flavor is always a priority. And that’s expanded to include beverage-inspired flavors, such as teas and juices, but most importantly — alcohol.
They like to call the emerging set of flavors “mocktails” because the confections are intended to, quite literally, mock a cocktail.
“The collection of mocktail flavors includes flavor types emerging in seasonal cocktails, but translated to a non-alcoholic variety,” Jones-Dille explains. “Some examples of the mocktail flavors include Peach Sangria, Vanilla Rum, and Lava Flow.”
If you’re talking the real thing, meaning actual alcohol, the flavor chemists have your back.
Wine- and spirits-infused chocolates are on the rise, in response to the increasing trend of wine and chocolate pairings and tastings.
There too, the search for new markets and demographics influences new developments.
“All of a sudden you bring chocolate from a cheap bar to a connoisseur item just by associating, or infusing it with a noble product like wine,” says Schulders. “I don’t see why it would stop, and I don’t want it to stop!”
As for the future, something to look forward to is tingling. Without releasing too many details, Schulders says it’s in the works at Silesia.
He’s calling them innovative sensation flavors. Silesia recently launched a new range of proprietary tingling flavor compounds, developed in the frame of its internal chemicals division in Germany. Schulders says it’s “an amazing experience associating great confectionery flavors and a surprising tingling sensation.”
All of this innovation comes with a catch — the call for natural flavoring bringing the biggest challenges.
For Flavorchem, and many other flavor manufacturers, an all-natural flavor is something that consists entirely of naturally derived raw materials. It cannot contain any synthetic solvents or ingredients.
The increased demand for natural products has lead to an impact on cost and sourcing, as confectioners work to create a great tasting and good looking product at a good price point, Hamernik says.
Cosmos says the ever-present challenge is always looming in the back of flavor chemists’ minds. “How can we make a synthetic flavor, natural without affecting the cost to the confection?” is a common question.
She says in some instances involving flavors containing essential oils, such as mint, natural is the way to go. And, some citrus flavors are also easily available in natural form.
However, pricing issues can occur when the weather seriously damages crops, creating a shortage.
“This is difficult in much of the confectionary arena because the manufacturing cost of some confections is quite low, so the addition of a more expensive ingredient is challenging,” Cosmos explains.
Connected to the sourcing aspect of going natural is a challenge connected to dietary restrictions. It is particularly challenging to address at Flavorchem, says Sprovieri, v.p. of sales and marketing at the company.
“There are so many dietary guidelines and restrictions nowadays,” he explains. “For example, formulating flavors for Halal-certified products.”
He adds that it helps to know that if a flavor is Kosher-certified and then if it does not contain any alcohol, it’s accepted as Halal.
Creating flavors that can travel the world
The last challenge noted is for global flavor companies to understand and include different country regulations at the development level.
For a global flavor company like Silesia, one of the challenges is to understand and to include the different country regulations at the development level. Confectionery manufacturers in the United States who export or plan on exporting to other countries have to constantly incorporate this into their products.
“This issue gained some importance over the past years, as several emerging markets are putting new regulations in place,” he says.
An innovative strategy to address the challenge is also helping flavor makers better satisfy consumers. It’s through local expansion that companies are making better connections.
Silesia, for example, continues to develop a strong presence in emerging markets in Latin America and Asia, where overall growth leads to an increasing demand of higher-qualitative confectionery products.
WILD Flavors is doing the same thing in response to the growing demand for mint.
The company has extended their mint and flavor development labs to have local presence in India, China, Brazil and new facilities in New Jersey.
“This enhances our ability to identify and develop new flavors to meet local trends and be in a position to introduce them in areas where they are just emerging, such as North America,” Dodson says.
Just this January, Bell Flavors also launched a new way to reach customers as well. They’re doing it through a postcard program that highlights new flavors or concepts on a monthly basis. Included on the cards are a photo of the flavor or food item, a description, a spider chart of the descriptive attributes and suggested applications.
“New flavors that we have promoted have been highly received by customers. In some cases our new flavor profiles were ahead of consumer’s perception, which puts Bell in the perfect position when marketing advertisements have affirmed the new flavors,” Cosmos says.
Classics flavors are still popular
So all of the talk about new flavor technology and marketing strategies is awesome. But you might be wondering about the flavor classics.
Not to worry. They aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re still the top dogs.
Classic confectionery flavors still represent the bulk of sales in confections — especially traditional berries, tropical, citruses, and mint, says Frederic Schulders.
“Our requests were, and still are, for orange, lemon, lime strawberry, apple, watermelon, bubblegum and root beer,” Cosmos adds.
The seasonal nature of candy and the newer trend toward seasonal flavor profiles has allowed confectioners to create additional offerings while not compromising the positioning of classic products, says Jones-Dille.
So we should consider ourselves overwhelmed. As if the trending tastes aren’t enough of a palette to choose from, the flavor makers promise to keep the classics coming.