Inclusions such as fruits, vegetables, and chocolate can add another dimension of visual appeal, flavor, and texture to snacks and baked goods. Jaina Wald, vice president marketing, Puratos USA, Pennsauken, NJ, notes seeing strong interest in inclusions that add a unique element to traditional snacks and bakery products. “Consumers are gravitating towards surprising textures, like a cocoa nib in a soft brownie, or a filling that crackles inside a traditional truffle, as a way of driving excitement. Grains and seeds are also generating a lot of interest as it creates a more complex taste experience, especially if those grains include an on-trend flavor like sourdough. We also see growing interest in sustainable inclusions, especially plant-based, as consumers increasingly align their food with their values.”

Puratos Taste Tomorrow is the company’s proprietary research program, which conducts in-depth consumer research globally to understand consumers’ habits and preferences in bakery, patisserie, and chocolate. This research helps derive valuable insights and identifies current and future trending topics. Wald shares some highlights from recent research:

  • Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow research shows that 67% of U.S. consumers say they like to try food with new and interesting textures. Inclusions are a critical way to deliver this texture.
  • When consumers were asked about their perception of the tastiness and healthiness of ingredients in bread, sweet goods and chocolate, the following emerged as “power ingredients,” perceived as both tasty and healthy:
  1. Bread Ingredients: Grains and seeds
  2. Sweet Goods: Fresh fruits, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, vegetables
  3. Chocolate: Superfruits (acai berries, chia, goji), nuts, seeds, fruit fillings


Fruit and vegetable inclusions

Fruit and vegetable inclusions can meet at the intersection of wellness and indulgence. Catherine Hogan, category marketing lead, bakery and bars, cereal & confectionary, IFF Nourish, South Brunswick, NJ, notes uniting the consumer desire for health and wellness with indulgence is a key trend in the sweet snacking space. IFF has conducted consumer research exploring the Future of Indulgence and Global Snacking; Hogan shares a few relevant insights from the survey:

  • Globally, consumers agree they’d be more likely to try a snack with real fruit, vegetables, or nut inclusions
  • Fruit inclusions provide added sensorial impact through color, texture, and flavor that increases consumer perception of craveability, freshness, comfort, satisfaction, naturalness, and memorability

TAURA by IFF and is a global manufacturer of high value-added fruit pieces, flakes, and pastes. “Our fruit ingredients are made using a unique process and are designed to deliver stability, low water activity, great flavor, texture, and color. These inclusions can help support benefits to consumers, and help food manufacturers provide appealing labels, supporting claims such as made from 100% fruit or vegetable derived ingredients, no added sugar, and free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. TAURA by IFF inclusions also provide food manufacturers with great functionality, process stability, ease of use, and a safe and secure supply,” shares Sarah Cauley, principal designer, IFF Nourish, South Brunswick, NJ, USA. TAURA by IFF fruit and vegetable inclusions can be customized to meet any size, format or flavor and are applicable in cereals, granola, trail mix, bars, chocolate, confections, muffins, and breads.

In June, the company launched TAURA Upcycled Cacao Fruit Inclusions. “TAURA’s technology enables lovers of cacao fruit to experience its unique, refreshingly zesty, fruity flavor, and natural sweetness in a range of healthy snacking options and indulgent chocolate products,” explains Cauley.

A sub-brand under the TAURA by IFF umbrella is Bakefruit. The Bakefruit range (pastes) are designed for baking, are free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, and offer a delicious taste and aroma, with a shelf life up to 12 months. These ingredients can be used in a broad array of bakery products including: cakes, biscuits, cookies, muffins, breads, and brioches and are Halal, Kosher certified, and 100% vegetarian.

Puratos has an exciting new innovative product the company will be launching in 2023, Smoobees, a range of plant-based, soft filling pearls made with real fruit. Jessica Blondeel, product director, patisserie, Puratos USA describes this new product, “Smoobees allow bakers to reinvent cakes and other desserts without the need for special injection equipment. Smoobees hold their pearl shape and soft jammy texture during mixing, baking and freezing, resulting in an attractive and tasty creation. Their low water activity makes them suited for fresh or packaged treats, so bakers don’t have to worry about, for example, a blueberry muffin getting moldy, any fruit inclusions ‘bleeding,’ or the muffin getting soggy due to water migration. The benefit to the consumer is having a filling pearl in every bite. These new products will be available in strawberry, lemon and caramel flavors.” 

With consumers being more mindful of their health and well-being and making healthier food choices, fruits are an ideal ingredient because they can provide natural goodness, have nutritional value, and are label-friendly.  

Jeannie Swedberg, director of customer development and marketing, Tree Top Ingredients, Selah, WA, points out that people tend to think about pumpkin as a seasonal item, but it's truly versatile and can be beneficial as an ingredient year-round. Pumpkin ingredients can add a nutritional component, fiber, natural sweetness and even color. The company recently launched its newest fruit ingredient Pumpkin Flake Powder. 

“Pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse packed with an impressive list of macronutrients, micronutrients, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, including dietary fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin A, iron, and potassium. As it’s low calorie and low fat, it can be used as a healthy alternative to some flour and sugar in applications to increase nutrient density and improve the overall nutritionals in a product. It easily mixes into bakery dough matrices and fillings,” shares Swedberg. This new ingredient can be used in in a range of products including bars, muffins, cookies, crackers, and snacks.

“Consumers are looking for foods that can support their pursuit of health, wellness and taking a preventative approach to meeting these goals. Protein is top of mind for delivering a healthier diet, both by building a more resilient body and satiating hunger with fewer and more nutritious calories,” explains Niki Kennedy, director of insights at Glanbia Nutritionals, Chicago. To address these needs the company launched dairy-based extruded protein crisps and bites for use in snack and bakery applications. The inclusions provide 74% protein from milk or whey while delivering a crunchy texture. Additional attributes of these new products include:

  • Clean flavor requiring no masking
  • An enjoyable crunch
  • Visual appeal with consistent shape, size and light color
  • High levels of protein

These new products are available in multiple sizes and can be used in baked granola, cereal bars or baked cookies.

Chocolate inclusions

According to Gretchen Hadden, marketing manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate – North America, success in today’s snack and bakery marketplace is all about striking the right balance between indulgence and better-for-you; and chocolate can deliver the best of both worlds. An extensive consumer survey the company conducted showed the adage “everyone loves chocolate” really rings true. “Chocolate can delight the senses and transform ordinary baked goods into something quite extraordinary. From classic chocolate chip morsels, with their nostalgic appeal of home-baked goodness, to the artisan-vibe associated with irregular-cut chunks, chocolate inclusions play a big role in how consumers perceive baked goods. At the same time, chocolate inclusions can also help brands appease consumers’ desire for better-for-you options.” For example, Cargill offers both protein and fiber fortified compound inclusions. Another more subtle healthy halo option, is inclusions with a higher cacao content, something the company research suggests is perceived as more healthful, more premium, and more indulgent. The company’s semisweet chocolate inclusions offer a cacao content that ranges from 40% to 52% and their bittersweet inclusions offer a cacao content of 60% or more.

Another new product that Puratos will be introducing in 2023 is a No Sugar Added 4M Chocolate Chip, under its Chocolante brand. “The delicious chocolate chip is made with 100% sustainable cocoa through the Cacao-Trace program, which ensures better flavor and taste through expert fermentation and gives back $0.05 per pound to the Cacao-Trace cocoa farmers. As a no-sugar added chip, the chip offers a delicious better for you alternative to full sugar chips and makes the perfect addition to cookies, muffins, cakes, and brownies. Benefits include better taste, sustainability claims, and lower sugar,” explains Wald.

Icon Foods offers no-sugar-added sugar dark chocolate chips, dark chocolate baking chips, white chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles and multi-colored sprinkles. The products are labeled as no added sugar chocolate flavored drops.  All the products have no added sugar, are keto-friendly and can be used in cookies, frozen desserts, bake mixes, cakes, breads, bars, and trail mix.

Thom King, CEO of Icon Foods, Portland, OR, shared the release of the company’s newest product, ShellBe. ShellBe is a no-added sugar, keto-friendly, candy-coated chocolate flavored lentil; like an M&M except with a clean label and no added sugar. The product is labeled as a no added sugar, candy coated, chocolate-flavored lentil. ShellBe’s are available in dark chocolate, white chocolate and peanut. The product can be used in bars, cookies, nut butters, frozen desserts, and trail mixes. New flavors will be launching in Q4 of this year.

Inclusions can create interesting taste, texture, and appearance and also deliver the right balance between better-for-you and the indulgence for which consumers are looking.