Experts at Cargill recently took some time to answer questions about functional ingredients. Below they offer insights into health-conscious consumers, the impact of COVID-19 on shopping behavior and how to incorporate functional ingredients without sacrificing taste.

Attributions follow each answer.

What trends are you seeing in functional ingredients? Any specific flavors or ingredients that stand out?

Confectionery is not exempt from the shopping behaviors of the rising health-conscious consumer.

When it comes to more label-friendly confectionery, the first trends we saw were around the removal of partially hydrogenated oils and sugar reduction.

However, in the second wave of better-for-you confections comes a growing appetite for sweets that offer functional enhancements. This can come in the form of protein, fibers and vitamins, resonating with consumers by combining indulgence with health benefits.

– Gretchen Hadden, Marketing Manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

How has COVID-19 impacted how consumers’ desire for functional ingredients? What changes do you see remaining long-term?

More than anything, COVID-19 amplifies existing consumer trends – especially as it relates to health and wellness.

Consumers are taking a more proactive, personal and holistic approach to health. Choosing products enhanced with protein, fiber or other nutrients is one reflection of this macro trend.

– Gretchen Hadden, Marketing Manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

What advice would you give to companies looking to include more functional ingredients without sacrificing taste?

Compound coatings mimic chocolate from a sensory perspective, but they aren’t required to meet the Standard of Identity – making them the perfect carrier of functional ingredients such as protein and fiber when creating chocolatey confections. There are a variety of technical factors to consider when formulating compounds with added protein or fiber, including flavor and texture. Consumers have specific sensory expectations when it comes to their chocolatey treats, so it’s important not to overlook these factors.

From a flavor perspective, adding functional ingredients to compound coatings reduces the sugar, so the sweetness needs to be balanced. If needed, high intensity sweeteners such as Cargill’s ViaTech stevia leaf extract can be used to add sweetness back.

Additionally, some protein sources can impact the final product’s texture in a negative way, if not handled appropriately. Ingredient suppliers like Cargill can help brands navigate these textural challenges, identifying solutions to help mask undesired textures and minimize any changes in mouthfeel.

– Katy Cole, Technical Service Manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

How can Cargill help companies looking to incorporate more functional ingredients? What are some of the solutions offered?

We’ve devoted a lot of time and resources to research and develop chocolate confectionery offerings that meet consumer’s desires for functional benefits such as increased protein or fiber intake, without compromising on taste.

Confectionery brands can leverage these capabilities to maximize great-tasting products, while also creating opportunities for high-impact packaging claims around protein that resonate with consumers.

– Katy Cole, Technical Service Manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate