A recent report from Research and Markets indicates that the global confectionery market will reach more than $145 billion dollars by 2010, an increase of more than 16% since 2006.

By Robert Sabdo, business development leader - food and beverage packaging
Multisorb Technologies, Buffalo, N.Y.

Confectionery Market Landscape
A recent report from Research and Markets, a market research firm, indicates that the global confectionery market will reach more than $145 billion dollars by 2010, an increase of more than 16% since 2006. Significant expansion in gum, chocolate, cereal bars and sugar confectionery is expected in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific regions. In Europe, the chocolate market alone is predicted to grow to $35.4 billion, out of a total market value of $61.2 billion by 2010.

The market is characterized by strong anticipated growth combined with key emerging trends.  Important market drivers in the confectionery industry include increasing health-consciousness among consumers and rising demand from the affluent in developing economies. Manufacturers are responding to these trends by expanding product offerings and building their brands.

Growing health-consciousness among consumers is sparking a higher demand for natural products. According to a Research and Markets report, 12 of the top 15 flavors used in confectionery products currently under development are natural. Fruits and fruit-based ingredients, for example, provide an attractive health-conscious option. Also, European health and nutrition claims regulation that went into effect in 2007 will likely force confectionery producers to account for increasingly label-conscious choices made by consumers. 

Another important trend points to the recent growth within the confectionery market in developing regions, supported by the spread of multinational companies and their brands. These companies are looking to take advantage of the increasing demand of affluent consumers in countries like Russia, China and India.

Preservation Challenges
While both trends present tremendous opportunity to confectionery manufacturers, they also raise concerns about product preservation during transport and while on the shelf. Natural products cannot incorporate many of the synthetic additives and preservatives that would traditionally be used in confectionery products. And with global demand rising, confectionery producers will need to ship their products over longer distances and for extended periods of time. 

To maintain the integrity of confectionery products, manufacturers must proactively avert the threats of oxygen- and moisture-mediated damage. Oxidation is a critical degradation pathway for many products and can lead to rancidity of nuts and nut oils as well as rancidity of natural vegetable oils, now frequently used to replace trans fats. Oxidation also results in the loss of flavor or changes in flavor over time. Additionally, moisture is a concern, leading to hydrolytic rancidity of saturated fats like cocoa butter and adversely affecting texture and mouthfeel. These threats become more acute when confectionery products need to be packaged for a longer duration of time because of extended distribution chains. Natural confectionery products that must avoid the use of synthetic preservatives also are particularly vulnerable to these threats.

Active Packaging
Active packaging technology, and especially sorbent technology, plays a role by serving as the method of preservation, allowing manufacturers to bring in-demand products to market.
Two sorbent technology formats are uniquely suited to serve the needs of the confectionery market: oxygen-absorption and moisture regulation technology. Oxygen-absorbing technology can lower oxygen levels to protect products from rancidity and flavor loss while moisture regulation technology reduces moisture content within a package to levels that inhibit hydrolysis of fats and oils that degrades texture and eating qualities.

By addressing oxygen- and moisture-related problems, sorbent technology enables confectionery manufacturers to preserve flavor and color, maintain an appropriate texture and extend the overall shelf life of their products. 

The Benefits of Active Packaging Solutions

Flavor Retention
Flavor begins to degrade immediately after the manufacturing process and continues throughout the shelf life of every product. Because flavor degradation is expected, processors add extra flavor additives. Many of these oxidize easily, thereby reducing the desired effect. Rapid removal of oxygen immediately after processing will maintain the original flavor without the use of harmful additives or preservatives.

Product Appearance
Colors, particularly fruit colors are subject to oxidation. To the extent that fruit-flavored confections depend on natural color, they may be affected by color loss through oxidation and will become pale and faded during storage and distribution. The colors of many products are especially affected by bright display-case lighting, which can initiate oxidation of colors and other oxidation reactions. Rapid removal of oxygen from the packaging immediately after manufacturing greatly retards the loss of color, thus enhancing the visual appeal of the product.

In addition, fat-based confections, particularly enrobed products, are vulnerable to moisture and temperature variations. This can lead to migration of sugar and occasionally other compounds to the surface resulting in “sugar bloom” frequently observed on chocolate after extended storage.  Moisture regulation within the package can hold moisture at a low level to effectively prevent this from happening.

Maintaining Texture
Mouthfeel, texture and eating qualities are adversely affected by loss of moisture. As all packaging materials are permeable to moisture to some extent, active packaging can balance moisture and compensate for moisture loss. Furthermore, moisture regulation can be combined with oxygen removal so that it is now possible to rapidly remove oxygen from a package while maintaining an optimal relative humidity within the package. This approach allows the confectioner to optimize or minimize the use of emulsifiers, surfactants and other such additives. 

Inhibiting Rancidity
Oxidative rancidity of unsaturated shortenings and oils leads to highly undesirable off-flavors.  Removal of oxygen from the package inhibits oxidative rancidity and avoids the need to add antioxidants (BHA, BHT, TBHQ and the like) directly to the food itself and permits broader use of natural, unmodified, unsaturated oils. 

Natural oils have cis-unsaturation and are healthier, but unfortunately they are more prone to oxidation. Rapid removal of oxygen from the package is required to prevent these healthier oils from becoming rancid.

In addition, confectionery products containing saturated fats, such as chocolate, hard toffees, brittles and nuts, will benefit from moisture absorption in the packaged headspace to counteract hydrolytic rancidity. Chocolate, along with many other confections, contains cocoa butter, which can hydrolyze during distribution and storage and develop a “soapy” taste. Moisture regulation technology will inhibit this process.

Mold Inhibition
Molds are sometimes associated with spoilage of confectionery products. As a class, molds are obligate aerobes; that is, they absolutely require oxygen to emerge from the spore form to the vegetative form and to grow. Fortunately, with rapid removal of oxygen, it is possible to completely prevent the growth of mold and fungi.

Also, as most confectionery is too low in moisture for mold to grow, permeability of the packaging and temperature variations that may be experienced during distribution become important concerns. Moisture regulation can serve to protect against condensation and subsequent mold growth within the package where storage and distribution are less than ideal.

About the Author
Robert J. Sabdo, Jr. serves as business development leader, food and beverage packaging at Multisorb Technologies. In this position, Sabdo is responsible for sales and market development of active packaging solutions for the food and beverage industry.

Sabdo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in packaging science from Michigan State University in 1972. He is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals and is an AmeriStar Judge for the IOPP.

About Multisorb Technologies
Multisorb Technologies has been an innovator in sorbent technology for more than 45 years. Founded in 1961 by John S. Cullen to protect products against the damaging effects of moisture, today Multisorb is the world leader in the development and production of active packaging components.

For more information, contact 1-888-SORBENT (767-2368), visit www.multisorb.com or e-mail at info@multisorb.com.