Confectionery Makers Sweet Talking with Candy Innovation

A little less sugar, a few more healthy ingredients can make confections respectable snacks.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Corn Products offers a variety of ingredients designed for use in the confectionery industry. These products, which aid in the production process, include thin boiling starches for use in starch jellies, such as jellybean centers. "The starch has a very low hot viscosity so the cooked candy can be deposited cleanly and quickly into molds," according to Eric Shinsato, technical sales support manager at Corn Products. "These molds, which are starch-based, contain the desired level of mineral oil that allows for clean, crisp impressions that form the shape of the candy."

Corn Products also offers a special grade of dextrose to manufacturers of tableted candies to ensure proper tablet characteristics, including hardness (for both texture and durability) and compressibility (to make the desired shape or design.) Although corn syrup is a primary, and sometimes overlooked, ingredient in candy making, high-maltose corn syrups are available and improve the quality and stability of hard candies, provide excellent color and shelf life stability and may improve deposited candy production through lower viscosity, he says.

Balance taste and texture
"One of the biggest challenges in creating confectionery products is getting the right texture, desired chewiness or mouthfeel while allowing for a clean flavor release," says Joshua Brooks, vice president of sales at Gum Technology Corp. (www.gumtech.com), Tucson, Ariz. "Since confectionery products are treats, the organoleptic balance between taste and texture needs to be just right."

Brooks points out that certain hydrocolloids do better than others in allowing for clean flavor releases in candies. "Gelatin, for example provides a firm, elastic gel with a high breaking strength in gummy candies without masking flavor," he says. "It is also used for marshmallow products along with starch, but over-use of the starch may interfere with the flavor release. Typically the gelatin and starch interact and create a synergy in providing elasticity, and the gelatin also allows for air entrapment.

"Pectins, used in jelly confections, create a less elastic gel than gelatin and will also allow for a clean flavor release. Gum arabic is not typically used as a texturant, but is used in coatings and as a film former to prevent fat migration to the outer shell of a chocolate covered peanut, and gum arabic does not impact flavor," he explains.

"As we see the functional food industry grow, we are presented with more challenges to develop confectionery delivery systems and products that are oriented toward health and wellness," says Brooks. "Gummy candy delivery systems for nutritional products are not just for kids anymore. Gum Technology has many requests to create a gelatin substitute for use in vegan marshmallow and gummy candy confections. A blend of gum arabic and iota carrageenan can provide the aeration, structure and texture of the replaced gelatin in marshmallow. In gummy candy, blends of agar, carrageenan and locust bean gum can be substituted at a much lower concentration than gelatin."

Healthy additions
Research shows almonds are the No. 1 ingredient nut in new chocolate confectionery products around the globe, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database. Launches of almond-containing confectionery products have increased almost 50 percent since 2006. This is a major advantage for multinational confectionery manufacturers seeking to grow through geographic expansion of product lines.

"Fundamentally, chocolate is based around fulfilling the need for sweetness and indulgence, and almonds are the perfect way to add even more value to such a rich, experiential category," says Harbinder Maan, manager of North America ingredient and category marketing for the Almond Board of California (www.almondboard.com), Modesto, Calif. "Think real satisfaction, new flavor dimensions, and delightful crunchy texture."

When it comes to demand, almonds and chocolate are both rising stars. It's been reported that the global retail sales of chocolate confectionery increased 20 percent from 2003 to 2008, according to Euromonitor. During the same time, global almond shipments increased 28.3 percent. And even with such extraordinary current demand, 99.8 percent of North American target audience consumers still said they wished they could find more almond product options, according to a Sterling-Rice Group study.

"Just as consumer demand for almonds is on the rise, so is the craving for more premium chocolate pleasures," says Maan. "This means there is a giant growth opportunity when almonds are added to the mix. While almonds fit well in the world of premium chocolate due to their high-end image, they are also ideal in mass-produced CPG [consumer packaged goods] candy products."

Many almond products are ideal for the confectionery industry. "Almonds can be processed into more forms that almost any other nut, a versatile value that has been greatly appreciated by the confectionery industry," explains Maan. "For small molded or bar products, many confectioners purchase large sizes of almond kernels and then cut the almonds into pieces to be embedded in the chocolate. As ‘versatility' of almond forms also refers to different sizes of whole kernels, some small sizes of whole kernels or varieties with a short, plump shape may be directly used in small molded or bar products without further cutting (thus improving the confectionery process by eliminating a step)," she adds.

"In addition to bringing a premium image to confectionary products, almonds deliver on distinctive taste, antioxidants and crunch that perfectly balance the smooth, creamy nature of chocolate," says Maan. "In fact, the synergy of antioxidants in both almonds and chocolate is ideal for the ‘guiltless indulgence' consumers crave."

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