Lesya Melechyn, ingredient development & innovation category manager, chocolate & confectionery, ofi, recently outlined six trends the ingredients supplier is seeing in chocolate, confectionery and spreads. They include:
1. Hazelnut crunches in as king of chocolate spreads
The popular hazelnut blend reigns above all in the chocolate spread category. The nut and cocoa combination was included in 58 percent of all new product launches in 2019 in this category, a 10 percent increase from 2017, Innova reports.
Hazelnut remains a clear go-to choice for chocolatiers and confectioners, as the texture and flavor combine in a smooth and delicious way, creating an enticing product for consumers. However, for those delving into more adventurous and unique flavor profiles, nougat, coconut, caramel and orange are the rising stars to watch in the chocolate spread sphere.
2. Plant-based personalization
From plant-based to keto to flexitarian, we’re seeing more consumers opting for products that complement their lifestyle and health choices. This means that brands increasingly need to tailor their products to offer the benefits individual consumers are looking for.
ofi recently conducted a trial to test which plant-based ingredients could work as dairy alternatives in chocolate. It compared key qualities of the various plant-based chocolate contenders – including hardness, sweetness and melting time – with what we’d expect to see in dairy chocolate. In the end, it was chocolate made with almond protein powder that displayed the most similar qualities to dairy chocolate – outdoing rice powder, oat powder, coconut powder and almond paste.
3. Spotlight on pistachio
Classic nut flavors in chocolate and confectionery are growing in popularity. Once again, hazelnut remains a firm favorite, with almond and peanut still popular among consumers and widely available in chocolate boxes and bars. However, the up-and-coming nut of the moment is pistachio. The pistachio is experiencing growth and taking center stage as an inclusion in many new confectionery products. Whether it’s whole kernels, pieces, powders or pastes, the pistachio is piquing people’s interest.
Tapping into this trend, chocolatier Lindt recently revealed its new Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffles with Pistachio filling, a creamy and nutty combination aimed to excite and delight customers.
4. A refocus on natural and free-from ingredients
Demand for natural and “free-from” offerings, including plant-based and palm oil-free chocolate and confectionery, continues to rise. 20 percent of U.S. customers say naturally made products with real ingredients are a top factor to them when making purchasing decisions, while 18 percent say it’s no artificial flavors or colors that sway them (Innova).
Clean labels, including GMO-free, palm oil-free, and natural have all increased over the last five years as consumers are more closely aligning their views around environmental sustainability to their lifestyle and consumption choices. So, as competition heats up, it’s more important than ever for confectioners and brands to adopt this into new and existing product ranges. For example, Tony’s Chocolonely is a brand that has successfully positioned itself as an ethical, sustainable and palm-oil free choice for customers.
5. All that glitters is gold – caramel remains classic
Caramel has been a favorite among consumers in the sweet category for a long time, with the launch of salted caramel only propelling its popularity and growth. The sweet and salted blend hits the perfect spot in terms of taste and mouthfeel. For this reason, caramel and salted caramel rank No. 3 and No. 6 on the 2021 list of most loved ingredients, according to Innova Insights.
Also jumping on this trend, chocolate maker Guylian recently released a salted caramel spin-off version of its classic chocolate shells in Germany last year to entice both existing and new customers.
6. Functional ingredients going beyond taste
Health-related claims such as gluten-free, high sources of fiber and no added sugar are becoming common place in the chocolate and confectionery market as health-conscious consumers seek healthier formulations. By incorporating functional ingredients such as nuts, seeds and berries that promote pre- and probiotic properties, gut health and immunity, brands can satisfy consumers aiming to adopt a healthier lifestyle, whilst still looking for some indulgence.
Prebiotic chicory fiber is an example of a natural sweetness that can be effectively used as a sugar replacement in products, allowing consumers to make alternative confectionery selections and manage their health. Meanwhile, brands such as Body and Mind Botanicals are experimenting with the development of hemp-infused chocolate bars, as a familiar and delicious way for consumers to experience the benefits of CBD.