Confection Trends: Not your mother's bonbon

Joe Sofia
Confections specialist,
Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

The busiest time of the year for confectioners is upon us, where the results of their innovation and product development show up in holiday party spreads and gifts. This year, expect to see a lot of novel ingredients paired in adventurous flavor combinations; ultra-dark, premium chocolate; cake and truffle pops; and products made with sustainably-sourced cocoa.

Take the new Dreams® hybrid truffle-cream made with fresh, all-natural fruit centers. These handcrafted confections, made by Cargill customer Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate, have on-trend, real fruit fillings such as pomegranate, key lime, pineapple and mango. The St. Louis, Mo.-based gourmet chocolatier then enrobes each one in Cargill's premium Peter's® Chocolate and marks it with a one-of-a-kind signature stripe.

Ultra-premium dark chocolate continues its double-digit rise in popularity as consumers reach for a simple way to indulge rather than simply consume. The high cocoa content offers a rich taste experience and an association with the health benefits of antioxidants. Add an exotic or ethnically inspired umami or health-boosting inclusions, and you've got a highly marketable product.

New, wild flavors, textures and forms are driving new product offerings as consumers search for new taste experiences. Recently, we created a double-chocolate, pumpkin, caramel brownie. This unexpected combination of semi-sweet chocolate and a layer of caramel topped with a luscious layer of pumpkin ganache was chewy and decadent—everything a brownie should be.

Another fun creation of late was a bananas Foster truffle pop, with bananas Foster filling and a layer of caramel, dipped in white chocolate. Of course, these self-serve desserts can't be called pops without some sprinkles, fondant or candy. Cargill's Wilbur® inclusions make the plainest pops into head-turners with playful textures and fun colors.

On trend again this year, look for sweet/savory flavor fusions, caramel clusters made with roasted, salted toffee-coated pecans, or parmesan stuffed dates enrobed with 72% bittersweet chocolate. While product stability is a concern when introducing ingredients such as cheese to chocolate, Cargill has the expertise to prolong the shelf life of such fragile combinations.

Although appealing looks and bold, smooth taste are important, they aren't enough. Consumers want to know that their cocoa was sustainably grown with fair labor practices. As a co-founder of UTZ, Cargill works with cocoa farmers to standardize farming practices and harvesting methods to increase yields in a sustainably way.

There is more novelty in confections than ever before, and Cargill has the experience and expertise to help our customers continue branching out with new, inspired flavor and texture experiences. With a partner like Cargill, what once might have seemed a crazy idea (parmesan cheese with chocolate?)   might just be the next new flavor sensation. Happy holidays!

Joe Sofia is a confections specialist with Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. He has been with Cargill for 8 of his 26