Sweet and exotic enjoyment
without the guilt
Eating is synonymous with enjoyment – and in these uncertain times, it is something that is being celebrated and appreciated like never before. With populations unable to travel freely at present, consumer interest in becoming ‘food explorers’ in their own homes is on the increase and food manufacturers are having to adjust to keep up with changing demands. Here, Rudy Wouters, Vice President BENEO-Technology Center, discusses how functional ingredients are playing a part in this rising
trend and helping producers create exotic, sugar-free confectionery that taps into these new snacking opportunities.
At-home snacking on the rise
Many studies are beginning to show a shift in consumer attitudes surrounding our relationship with food in these challenging times. A recent study by the Guys’ and St Thomas’s Charity in the UK showed a 40% increase in snacking by 14-19 year olds. According to the market research company FMCG Gurus, 3 in 5 Europeans bought more comfort food such as confectionery or ice cream during the pandemic. One reason for the increase in the recent past, according to research by Mintel, is that “snacking fulfills a range of essential needs, both emotional and physical”.
Current trend observations see the consumer as a “food explorer” – and this is also reflected in markets worldwide with the annual growth of new food and beverage launches with ethnic flavours showing double-digit growth rates. In the USA, for instance, more than two thirds of consumers surveyed by the market analysts at Innova are enthusiastic about ethnic flavours. Given this background, the confectionery and snacking segments need exciting concepts that appeal to all the senses and send consumers on an emotional journey.
The extent to which this desire for something special has already conquered everyday life can be seen in changing supermarket listings. Scottish shortbread is now as much of a standard product in full-range stores as American beef jerky or Japanese sushi. Also, at a time when our travel options are limited, enjoying an indulgent dessert that reminds us of a past holiday destination can create emotional ‘feel good’ and ‘escapist’ moments.
The trend towards such multi-level taste experiences is often summarised as “full sensory immersion”. Whether it’s unusual aromas, new textures or a surprising visual appearance, the aim is to offer consumers indulgence with all of their senses, to awaken memories and tell stories.
For many people, confectionery is the epitome of indulgence. As genuine “mood foods”, products such as chocolate and other sweet treats are closely linked to our emotions. Recent product hybrids like pretzel-caramel popcorn or chocolate with exotic notes of chilli or matcha are increasingly satisfying consumers’ desire to experiment and escape from everyday life.
The steadily growing demand for sweets is unwavering. However, within the candy segment specifically, which includes drops and lollipops, as well as jelly products and fondants, demand is weakening. For example, K&A Brand Research cited in its 2020 Sweets study7 that hard boiled candies are losing popularity, especially among generation YZ consumers (those born between 1980 and 2020), who are eager to experiment. For these generations, hard boiled candies are associated less with enjoyment and more with functionality, for example as effective remedies for sore throats or fresh breath.
Creating total sensory indulgence
To help address this issue, BENEO, a leading provider of functional ingredients and Symrise, a major producer of flavours and fragrances, decided to combine their expertise and develop candy concepts that were sugar-free, yet enabled consumers to taste a range of exciting ethnic flavours.
Together, BENEO and Symrise had to overcome various challenges. As well as containing no sugar and having an exotic taste, the sweets needed to meet increasing consumer demands for natural colours and flavours. The solution was to focus on the synergy between the two companies. While BENEO provides the expertise in sugar-free confectionery and functional ingredients, Symrise has decades of experience in natural colours and flavours and knows the latest trends in these areas.
The end result was the creation of BENEO’s Sweets Collection, which was launched at ISM in Cologne early 2020. This sugar-free range of candies is based on the sugar replacer ISOMALT and addresses consumers’ demands for new taste experiences. These sweets take the consumer on a sensory journey around the world, combining convincing regionalised tastes with functionality.
Key to the Sweets Collection’s success was the creation of an attractive overall sensory package, that combined exciting aromas and – where technologically possible – natural colours and flavours. The first prototypes delivered promising results. Over a period of six months, the product developers were in close contact with each other to optimise the recipes in terms of sweetness, taste intensity, colour brilliance and sustained flavour release. In tasting panels with technologists and marketing specialists at various locations worldwide, regional preferences were identified and translated into appealing candy concepts.
New inspiration for a challenging segment
Out of numerous prototypes, six taste variants were selected for the tasting panels. The resulting Sweets Collection currently includes “Garden Chills” – two coloured stamped candy in green and yellow that offers a refreshing taste of lemon, lime and garden-mint and reminds the consumer of warm summer days in an Italian garden. “Yuzu Candy” – this hard boiled candy contains the refreshing, tropical taste of the Asian fruit Yuzu and reminds consumers of their far-flung travels across the world. With its typical candy swirl look, “Tropical Blossom” combines the fruity, flowery flavour of orange blossom and hibiscus enabling the consumer to sense the summer breeze from America’s Deep South. Interestingly, during the development phase, hibiscus powder was found to be a great all-rounder: completely natural, the ingredient is not just easy to process, it also provides a pleasant acidity and a brilliant, deep red colour.
Candy experiences with health benefits
The Sweets Collection is an inspiring example for manufacturers. It clearly demonstrates how the best flavours can easily be combined with functional added value to deliver enhanced consumer appeal. All products are based on BENEO’s ISOMALT, the only sugar replacer made from beet sugar, but with only half as many calories as sucrose. BENEO invented isomalt as a sugar replacer more than 30 years ago and since then it has grown to become the number one sugar replacer in hard candies worldwide. ISOMALT’s sweetening profile is very similar to that of sucrose, with a relative sweetness of about 50%. There are no undesired aftertastes. On the contrary, ISOMALT candies remain in the mouth for longer due to their slower melting kinetics, thus ensuring that aromas develop much more intensely.
ISOMALT has a natural taste and sweetness and is toothfriendly, carrying a respective EU health claim and one of the rare FDA health claims stating that it “does not cause dental cavities”.
Another advantage is that it has a very low glycaemic effect compared to conventional sugar. As a result, the sugar replacer has a moderate effect on glucose levels and is ideally suited to those consumers wanting to follow a low-glycaemic diet.
Regional expertise means authenticity
BENEO supports and advises its customers from the initial idea, throughout the development of the recipe to the marketable concept. The food technologists at the BENEO-Technology Center and the experts at the BENEO-Institute ensure that end products meet the highest standards, from texture to sweetness and added health value.
When it comes to authentic flavours, BENEO has realised the potential limitations of only using taste testers from its European locations. To capture a country’s typical flavour, local and regional expertise is required, as everyone’s taste preferences are shaped by their own home country, from childhood onwards. For this reason, BENEO has continuously expanded the company’s network of regional offices around the world over the past ten years. Thus, the company’s experts in regional application centres such as Parsippany, USA, São Paolo, Brazil, and Singapore ensure that recipes reflect regional characteristics, enabling manufacturers to create homely flavours and authentically exotic taste experiences.
No one knows how long the current pandemic will continue to restrict foreign travel. However, as ‘food explorers’ continue to demand tastes from abroad that they can eat from the comfort of their own homes, there is an opportunity for forward thinking manufacturers. For those willing to embrace the potential that functional ingredients and exotic flavours provide, memorable, yet exciting taste experiences can be created.
For further information on BENEO and its ingredients, please visit: www.beneo.com and www.beneonews.com or follow BENEO on Twitter: @_BENEO or LinkedIn: www.linkedin.comcompany/beneo
1 Research from the Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity and the Bite Back 2030 healthy eating charity, [over 1,000 14-19 year olds in the study].
2 FMCG Gurus survey COVID-19, May 2020
3 Mintel Food and Drink, Snacks in a post-COVID-19 world, May 2020
4 Innova market insights
5 Innova Discovery 2019
6 Nielsen Süßwarenmonitor (Confectionery Monitor) 2019
7 K&A Brandresearch: Sweets 2020: Süß, jung, erfolgreich? (2018).
8 Innova Consumer Survey 2019
9 Innova Consumer Survey 2019. Average of UK, US, Spain, France, Brazil, India, Germany, Mexico and China.
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