Fruits are high in essential nutrients, and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults eat at least 1½ to 2 cups per day. According to the CDC, though, only 12 percent of adults meet those guidelines. But snack and bakery product developers have a wide range of options to bolster their wares with more wholesome fruit ingredients.


Fruitful benefits

U.S. grown Montmorency tart cherries provide a sweet-sour flavor profile, bright-red color, texture and many potential health benefits. They’re available in dried, frozen, canned, juice and concentrate formats.

“Functionally, dried, canned and frozen Montmorency tart cherries are a natural way to help bind dry ingredients, increase moisture and create texture. They also have low water activity for use in low-moisture snacks and confections,” says Mollie Woods, executive director, Cherry Industry Administrative Board, Dewitt, MI.

“Montmorency tart cherries deliver on the sour flavor notes that consumers are gravitating toward in snack and bakery products,” says Woods. “We are seeing some really innovative pairings that mix spicy with the sweet-sour profile of Montmorency tart cherries.” She has seen dried tart cherries combined with tanjín, habanero and other chiles to create interesting flavor profiles, including spicy nuts and trail mixes. Montmorency tart cherries are also suited to use in protein bars, popcorn, energy and snack bites, muffins, cookies and other baked goods.

According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsom, CA, blueberries provide multiple benefits, including flavor, color, texture, natural sweetness, nutritional value, product authenticity and a health halo. Blueberries work well in flavor combination with spices, botanicals, floral, citrus and herbaceous ingredients.

“High-tech blueberry powders and other products work well in rice cakes and bar cookies,” says Thomas J. Payne, industry specialist, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “Blueberry fillings are easy to incorporate in toaster pastries and filled breakfast pastries.” Formats such as IQF and case frozen work well in muffins and other formulations where whole fruit identity is important. “IQF blueberries are free-flowing, do not need to be thawed prior to use, can be poured into batters, quickly incorporated into mixes or used as a topping,” he continues. “Blueberry juice and blueberry purée give formulators a range of consistencies to work with.”

Welch’s Global Ingredients Group, Concord, MA, notes products that contain ingredients as close to the natural fruit continue to increase in appeal with consumers. Concord grape purées are made from whole, de-seeded grapes and can deliver color and balanced flavor across a range of snack and bakery applications, including those with fillings and glazes.

“Fruit flavors continue to be popular options for a broad range of products as they deliver the sweetness that consumers want with the health halo that is attributable to fruit,” says Matt Maroney, business development manager, purées and juice ingredients, Welch’s Global Ingredient Group. “The more intense and bold that those flavors are, the better.” He notes that with Concord grape ingredients, a smaller amount can go a longer way, helping to avoid introducing too much sugar to products to obtain desired flavor. (For some grape-fueled R&D inspiration, see "Market Trends Product Spotlight: Concord Grape Pesto Pizza."

Oregon Fruit Products, Salem, OR, recently added four new trending tropical flavors to their aseptic purée line: tangerine, blood orange, pink guava and pomegranate. The products are 100 percent fruit purées, minimally processed and non-GMO and work well in fruit fillings for bakery items, including snack bars, as well as icings and frostings. The company also launched new line of clean label fruit compotes for bakery applications in mixed berry, cherry, blueberry and peach flavors, notes Becky Westby, director of sales. They work well in galettes, cakes, tarts, pastry toppings and frozen dessert applications.

“Some exciting pairings we’ve seen recently are blueberry with lemongrass, apple with bacon, cherry with chipotle, and mango with kumquat,” says Mary Duffy-Kelly, director of foodservice and ingredient sales, Oregon Fruit Products. “We see continued interest, acceptance and appeal in incorporating exotic fruits like mangosteen, dragonfruit and kumquat.” She also notes fig continues to grow in popularity.

This past year Taiyo International, Minneapolis, introduced SunCran Naturelle, organic cranberry juice to be combined with Sunfiber soluble guar fiber. In addition to characteristic red color, it provides a clean cranberry flavor, notes Derek Timm, technical sales director. As a powder, it can be mixed into any baked product, including breads and bars, as well as in fillings.


Flavor experiences

Inclusions are an excellent vehicle for adding pleasing textures, interesting flavors, visual appeal and functionality. Figs and apricots provide a distinctively sweet and rich flavor profile and when dried add a pleasing textural chew. “Citrus flavors, such as lemon, lime and grapefruit, add refreshing acidity that oftentimes complements and balances a dessert’s sweetness. Raspberries, blackberries and cherries contribute bursts of tart sensation that can be unexpected and incredibly delightful,” says Jamie Wilson, director business development, marketing, culinary, research & development, Parker Products, Fort Worth, TX.

“Snack and bakery brands have started pairing fruits—whether in their true form, or as flavors, sprinkles, fillings, etc.—with floral notes to create sophisticated combinations,” says Wilson. “A traditional sugar cookie receives a lively transformation when it becomes a Meyer lemon sugar cookie drizzled with rose water icing and lemon sprinkles. Brown butter tea cakes are infused with floral notes of lavender and mixed with sweet and smooth apricots for pleasing texture and tang. A fried and buttery doughnut is filled with raspberry and hibiscus pastry cream and then dusted with hibiscus sugar coating. The tart raspberry and hibiscus complement one another to create a striking flavor combination with a delightful floral aroma and stunning visual appeal—a decadent treat for the eye, taste buds and nose, and that multi-sensory appeal is always on trend.”

This past year Parker Products added baked inclusions to its portfolio, including brownie, cake, cookie and pie crust pieces in various varieties and textures. For example, crunchy sugar cookie pieces, chewy pie crust pieces and dense brownie bites can be used to elevate a variety of snack and bakery products.

Kerry, Beloit, WI, offers inclusions like its nuggets and krunches to deliver natural color and flavor in baked goods, notes Alex Riesche, RD&A manager, confections. Another area Kerry focused on was fruit fillings for soft-baked bars, in flavors like blueberry açaí and tart cherry, using a combination Fruit Crystals and natural organic flavors. “Crystals are premium fruit, vegetable and specialty powders that provide authentic taste, color and nutrition from the named source with superior quality and shelf stability. Crystals are an excellent alternative to the challenges with handling liquid juices or the performance limitations of spray-dried juices,” she notes.

According to Kristie Hung, marketing specialist, Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, CA, Hatch chile has been gaining traction. The company’s new Red Hatch Chile flakes and granules offer a sweet, earthy flavor and mellow front-end heat. The company has also introduced organic ancho and jalapeño. “We have seen chile peppers incorporated in bakery items like organic jalapeño chocolate brownies, organic ancho lemon cake pops, pineapple jalapeño turnovers and goat cheese tart with mango habanero jam.”

Such interesting flavors can quickly elevate products from simply a snack to an experience.