In the second part of Candy Industry’s two-part series on flavors, we ask several flavor technologists about trends within the industry as well as challenges they face in addressing demands from the public and their customers.
Participating flavorists, marketers and executives include: Cindy Cosmos, principal flavorist, Bell Flavors & Fragrances; Chuck Dodson, director global mint product management, ADM; Kelli Heinz, director of marketing and industry affairs, Bell Flavors & Fragrances; Karine Maffre, Application & Evaluation Manager, Aromatech; Alan Owen, marketing director - Sweet Flavors, Sensient Flavors; Kacey Smith, applications scientist – confection, Flavorchem Corp.; and Christoph Witte, Head of Product Management B2C, Döhler. Photos courtesy of Aromatech.
CI: What kind of fusion trends have you seen in the confectionery sector?
Karine Maffre: In confectionery, we can have various kinds of products like hard-boiled candies, jellies or chewing-gum, and they offer a very wide range of applications. The main flavor trend is on taste association like black currant/lemon or raspberry/blackberry and on flavors close to beverage tastes, such as cola-cherry/ice tea peach/ice tea mango…
It’s important, too, to note that in countries like China or Russia, people love creamy candies so tastes like milk, vanilla, cocoa are very appreciated. Of course, we can imagine all kind of tastes in candies even with surprising flavor combinations like a sweet and sour taste (carrot/lemon), exotic tastes (calamansi), “sensation tastes” like lemon with a hint of chili or more indulgent tastes like “framboisier” or panettone, because when we create flavors we always have to keep in mind that candies are not only for children!
CI: Dessert flavors have burst onto the scene in several confectionery categories… more in the works?
Cindy Cosmos: Yes, consumers seem to enjoy the nuance of their “desserts” in a confection. This is very common in the chewing gum arena. Also, birthday cake, S’mores, red velvet, apple pie to name a few, have ventured into baking chips, panned confections, cookie fillings, gummies and chocolate. At the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show, snickerdoodle was touted to become the next pumpkin spice. S’mores is coming on strong, too.
Christoph Witte: This definitely is the case. There is huge interest in offering totally new taste experiences to the confectionery market, and dessert flavors are a great way of achieving this. In sugar and gum confectionery, as well as in the chocolate segment, cake flavors are really coming to the fore. We provide our customers with a comprehensive ingredients portfolio that allows them to capitalize on this trend and attract a new generation of consumers with flavors such as cheesecake, cookies, black forest, red velvet and tiramisu. Creativity is key in this segment – and with our expertise in developing exciting new concepts, we bring ideas to life.
Kelli Heinz: Dessert flavors deliver that indulgent flavor consumers crave. We’re also seeing indulgent breakfast item flavors, such as French toast and spicy honey coming into play. And stroopwafels, which are two thin layers of baked waffle dough sandwiching a caramel-like syrup filling, have also become a popular flavor note.
CI: The emergence of confections as a carrier for supplements, be it calcium, vitamins or even probiotics, requires the need for masking in most cases. How do flavors factor into the formulation?
Kacey Smith: We get many requests for masking off-notes in various confections and often have a great solution for these issues. Depending on the off-note in the confections, flavors themselves can act as a masking agent. Many manufacturers will select flavors that work well with the ingredients in the product or work to cover up the off-note. However, in many cases the simple addition of a flavor doesn’t work well enough, so we utilize specialized technology called masking agents that provide true masking of the off-notes. They will “trick” the taste buds into not detecting certain tastes or sensations. The first step is to evaluate the off-note in question to determine the profile. We can then select the proper masking agents and flavors to use. Again, we need to work closely with our customer to set realistic expectations. We will often receive requests to make an unpleasant tasting product taste pleasing, which we have become very successful with.
Christoph Witte: The fact that confectionery is becoming more and more popular as new dosage form for functional ingredients means that the flavor industry has had to develop innovative ways of masking, making sure consumers don’t taste these ingredients in the end product. Döehler’s new generation MultiSense Masking flavor range helps fortified confectionery to maintain a pleasant and well-rounded taste profile, while any unpleasant off-notes associated with functional ingredients are masked. But aside from masking, it’s also important to create a unique flavor profile that will provide overall consumer appeal. This does not only require the right portfolio of flavors and masking agents, but also comprehensive know-how and formulation expertise.
Cindy Cosmos: Masking by flavors is huge in the nutraceutical arena. Covering bitterness, metallic, vitamin B, chalky and acidic afterbite all require a unique flavor/mask to cover these attributes while keeping the flavor clean and impactful. In most cases, once the confection form has been decided, the next steps are to see what ingredients might cover any off-tastes. Sometimes a sweetener may be the solution, other times it could be a blend of a neutral mask plus the desired flavor. Every case is different and every mask is different, hence the creativity and talent of the flavorist is key.
CI: Super fruits and super seeds appear to be making a big splash with premium and better-for-you niches in the confectionery sector. Are they moving into mainstream soon?
Christoph Witte: We are convinced that super fruits and super seeds will find their way into the mainstream, and the key here is “Soft Health.” This means that although consumers are now largely very health conscious and well-informed, there is still room for indulgence. Health and indulgence are no longer mutually exclusive. So, where superfruits and seeds come into play is in premium or better-for-you products that are inspired by nature. Already, a huge number of confectionery innovations with super fruit ingredients have entered the market, and super seeds and grains are also trending. Within this arena, Döhler offers a vast range of exciting premium and better-for-you ingredients and concepts, including African extracts like baobab and ginger flavors.
Cindy Cosmos: I think the movement has already begun, especially in the chocolate sector. When Brookside hit the market with their panned confections — each containing a super fruit — the sales generated showed the interest of the public. Since then “me-too” type confections have come onto the scene, setting superfruits up as a permanent category in confections. Gummies are slowly being seen with superfruit blends along with non-chocolate panned confections. As the concept of superfruits continues to be accepted, I think we will see more superfruit blends taking a larger role in confections.
Kacey Smith: Formulating with super fruits and seeds for a mainstream audience comes with many challenges. Fruit flavors like maca and camu camu have bitter and pungent qualities that are polarizing to some consumers. Additionally, seeds rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like chia, hemp and flax will generate off-flavors if not stored properly. Because these ingredients deliver on consumer demands for global flavors and nutrient density, expect to see their popularity rise as developers find creative ways to balance and preserve their integrity.
CI: Are alcohol-inspired flavor combinations generating interest in the confectionery sector?
Kelli Heinz: Most definitely. We’re seeing influences from the alcoholic beverage market having an impact on confections. The whole mixologist trend is transferring concepts over into confections. There’s such a broad range of flavors to choose from, be it sakes, sparkling wines or pina coladas. It’s a way of connecting with the adult consumer.
Christoph Witte: Rum was the top alcoholic flavor in 2016 in the confectionery categories, and gin-based variants are popping up now, too. Globally, we are seeing growing numbers of products in the confectionery market with alcoholic flavors. This is another trend that appears to be being driven by the increasing pursuit of individualization and cross-categorization. Döhler offers various exciting and innovative concepts in this area — including stout pralines inspired by the trend for craft beer. These sorts of flavors appeal to consumers looking for a less sweet, somewhat harsher taste experience, which are especially popular among the more adult target groups
Cindy Cosmos: Yes, I think alcohol and confections are becoming a pair. Who hasn’t chewed a Mojito-flavored gum or had a Swedish Fish Vodka. The lines of flavored liquors are being loosened, especially this year with the continued “beer” concept and now “bourbon” has entered the scene. Beer and champagne-flavored jelly beans, beer brittle and now bourbon-flavored chocolate, bourbon vanilla caramels and more. I think we will see more in the future as niche products in both the alcohol and confection categories, but I don’t think it will impact every confectionery category.
Kacey Smith: Champagne, rosé wine and cocktails are popping up in products like gummies and jelly beans. Dark liquors like bourbon and scotch are popular in buttery caramels, and even absinthe is spiking mints and chocolate bars.
CI: Are you getting more calls for organic and non-GMO certifications for confectionery flavors?
Kacey Smith: Organic and non-GMO certified flavors are increasing in demand and have been a large growth segment. They can add additional development time to a product, but customers are accepting of this, and the trend will only continue to increase. As some companies are trying to get out of the negative light of artificial ingredients (colors, flavors, etc.) and to de-escalate the perception of an unhealthy indulgence, they have been elevating the perception of their confections to be certified non-GMO or organic to appeal to the marketplace.
Cindy Cosmos: Yes. Non-GMO has been the greatest request which impacts the solvent system of the flavor. Usually it is not too hard to change, but there are those rare times where it just can’t be done. Some confectionery categories are beginning to create a small organic line of products. In those instances, the flavor can cost a lot more, but that is the price for additional certification of the ingredients.