"For instance there are new compound coatings that provide additional protein," he says. "We are seeing a lot of yogurt flavors now. Yogurt has really worked its way into confections."
In addition, masking flavors give confectioners room to add nutritional ingredients, knowing that they can adjust if there are negative impacts on flavor.
Cargill, Minneapolis, also is giving the candy formulator more tools to work with in the form of a broader range of certified, sustainable cocoa and chocolate products that were introduced just last month.
The company says growing consumer demand regarding the origin of chocolate products led to the introduction of products available with certification options. Gerkens cocoa powders and Cargill's Peter's, Wilbur and Veliche chocolate brands are available with certifications from UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade.
"It means manufacturers will be able to offer products to their consumers with greater reassurance they have been produced sustainably and that they are making a positive difference to small-holder cocoa farmers," said Bryan Wurscher, president of Cargill's cocoa and chocolate business in North America.
Colors go natural
Bright colors can be a warning or an attractant in nature, and they certainly make candies more attractive, especially to the youngest consumers. Today's confectioners have a broad menu of colors to choose from, but the kinds of colors used in candies are changing.
"Every day we see our natural color science quickly closing the gap with synthetic color technology, creating easy, compatible, turn-key color solutions to advance the natural colors market," says Gale Myers, technical manager with Sensient Colors LLC, St. Louis. "For customers who want to switch from certified lakes to natural colors, Sensient has developed an aluminum-free, plating grade natural color line called Microfine. Developed as a natural replacement for aluminum lakes, it is available in both powder and dispersion forms and can be used in applications such as compressed sweets, confectioneries and fat-coating systems."
Those Microfine shades include lemon yellow to burnt orange and strawberry red to berry purple, blue and brown. Colors of this type allow candy makers to avoid the Southampton Six colors, which have been linked in a UK study to increased hyperactivity in children. As a result, the European Union requires special warning labels on products that use those six colors.
The result has been a quickening of the shift toward natural colors. But not all natural colors are alike, says Doug Lynch, vice president at LycoRed, Orange, N.J. "There is very little that is indulgent or comforting about eating confections colored with carmine, once consumers actually find out that it is made from beetles," Lynch says. "That is why lycopene from tomatoes is a better proposition.
"But it's a very good point that confections can be more natural and better for you, provided that the manufacturers don't sacrifice what makes confections a pleasing experience. If the products taste poorly, consumers likely will choose not to eat them twice, and the visual appeal of a product directly impacts the way we taste our foods," he says.
Stefan Hake, CEO of GNT USA Inc. Tarrytown, N.Y., agrees that natural colors can help make candies attractive to children and parents alike.
"Bright colors will attract the child, but the ingredients will often determine if the parent feels good enough about the product to make the purchase," Hanke says. "Seeing 'fruit and vegetable juice, for color' on a candy label is pretty appealing to any parent facing this dilemma."
While inexpensive simple sugars are still the primary sweetener for most confections, high-intensity sweeteners are coming into play, particularly for chewing gums and mints.
Chewy and gooey
Confections offer very concentrated flavors, but textures are no less important. "As a company that does work on gums and gum systems, we see more appreciation for the role of texture as a key sensory factor in confections and other foods," says Michael Flemmens, R&D applications manager for TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md.
"Though the importance of texture is more recognized now than it was even two years ago, research is limited due in part to the technical challenges associated with it," he continues. "There is also a debate about what to measure and how to better define all the attributes that comprise texture. The perception of texture varies from person to person. Texture is a multi-sensory set of experiences that starts with vision through handling, chewing, swallowing and even after swallowing."
In many confections other than chocolates and caramels, hydrocolloids, gelatins and gum arabic are used to provide structure and texture., says Ana Maria Garavito, a food chemist with Gum Technology Corp., Tucson, Ariz.
"Gum arabic has excellent adhesion and film-forming properties," Garavito says. "These attributes have made it a key component of coating systems for panned candies and tablets. It also has been a predominant ingredient in the manufacturing of chewy type confections such as gummy candy or gumdrops, as it confers to these products their characteristic hard and rubbery texture."
Gelatin has been considered the gelling agent of preference for many years. It has been the primary ingredient of jelly candy; and has been used in combination with starch in chewy type confections. Gelatin imparts these confections with an elastic texture and clarity that not many other ingredients can provide on their own.
Moreover the unique whipping and foaming properties of gelatin make it an essential ingredient in the manufacturing of aerated confections such as marshmallows. While these structure-function characteristics are crucial, use of these ingredients still requires careful consideration, Garavito says.
"Health-conscious consumers are looking for products that are sugar-reduced, kosher or do not contain any animal source. Price increases in ingredients like gelatin are also pushing formulators to find alternatives," she says. "These consumer preferences and market trends have posed and continue posing big challenges to confection manufacturing."
While some texturant usage and applications are tried and true, there are ongoing innovations in both the ingredients and their applications.
"Hydrocolloids such as karaya gum or tragacanth gum and low-viscosity CMCs [carboxymethyl cellulose] are good alternatives to gelatin," Garavito notes. "These ingredients have proven to provide the right elastic texture and firmness. Moreover, these gums bind and organize water, helping to prevent cracking and producing less sticky products."
Nutraceutical products manufacturers are replacing conventional delivery systems (capsules and pills) by innovative delivery systems, which include soft chew candy, gummy candy, patches, lollipops and fast-dissolving strips. Hydrocolloids and gums are being put to use in those new delivery systems.
Hydrocolloid blends containing xanthan gum, tara gum and gum arabic produce suitable edible films that are flexible and dissolve uniformly in the mouth. Other hydrocolloids that are often used in these applications are hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) and citrus fiber, which have film-forming and adhesion properties.
Flavor, texture, color and even place of origin can impact the popularity of candy, as long as the confectioner doesn't forget to have fun with all that technology.
This article originally appeared in our July issue of Food Processing magazine.