By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO Asia Pacific
Consumers in Asia Pacific love theirconfectioneries, chocolates and sweet baked goods. Chocolate sales in this regionhave already outpaced that of Europe and North America (by about 2 percent) . Asia Pacific is also the fastest growing bakery products market with an expected growth of 6.7 percent CAGR from 2015 to2020 . At the same time, Asia Pacific consumers want to meet their needs for a healthier nutrition.According to Nielsen’s report on global health and wellness , 49 percent of global respondents consider themselves overweight and a similar percentage (50%) are actively trying to lose weight. Sales of health foods have also grown by 15 percent in the Asia Pacific region between 2012 and 2014. It is evident thatconsumers want the best of both worlds. They are increasingly looking for products with better nutritional profilesincludingless sugar, less fat and lower calories. Concurrently, they want to enjoythe sweetindulgent experience that we have all come to associate with confectionery and bakery.
The sweet sensation
One of the greatest challenges today in the food industry is how to answer the conflicting demands of new generation consumers: tasty food without the fat, sugar, carbs, calories. Sweet confectionery products, like chocolates and sweets,tend to contain high levels of sugar.Eating too much of these snacks may lead to obesity, overweight problems and diabetes. Also, they may not be efficient in providing the energy that we need to cope with everyday activities. Snacking itself is not a problem, and if consumed in moderation, snacking can even be part of a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to sweet confectionery products, consumers are not necessarily willing to forgo a sweet taste. Innovative food manufacturers can play a positive role in improving consumers’ healthby offering confectioneries and sweet bakeryproducts that are more nutritionally balanced, while retaining the original taste of traditional recipes.This is possible by using functional ingredients such as BENEO’s isomalt. It is the only sugar replacer derived from sugar beet and therefore has a sugar-like taste and sweetening profile.As a bulk sweetener it can replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio, is low glycaemic in nature, toothfriendly and low in calorie (2 kcal/g). Confectionery manufacturers around the world appreciate it technical benefits such as low hygroscopicity, easy processing, high stability, transparent crystallization, etc. These make it the number one sugar replacer in hard candies worldwide. Also, isomalt provides the same taste, body, colour, pore size distribution and fluff consistency as if sugar were used, when used in baked goods.
With the increased demand of consumers wanting health and wellbeing products, there are new opportunities for food manufacturers to tap on.Isomalt allows for claims such as “sugar-free”, “less sugar”, “no added sugar” or “reduced calories.” As consumers look to combine their taste for treats with an increasing focus on healthy living, confectionery and bakery products with isomalt give manufacturers the chance to distinguish themselves from the competition.
Also, chicory root fibre oligofructose and inulin are well suited for the use in sweet treats. Their sensory profile is very similar to that of sucrose with a mild sweetness. In baked goods for example, combining oligofructose and sweeteners reduces the sugar content while maintaining the same sweetening power. At the same time, oligofructose can mask the aftertaste of many sweeteners, allowing a well-balanced sweetening profile to be obtained. Comparable in form to sucrose, it ensures sweetness as well as bulk and texture. Additionally, the chicory root fibre does not crystallise and has a higher solubility than sucrose.
There are even more options to follow a diet that helps them to maintain a healthy weight for consumers with a sweet tooth. Some manufacturers areoffering low fat, creamy desserts by tapping into innovative ingredients such as rice starch. BENEO’s rice starch allows manufacturers to reduce fat in food products while still maintaininga creamy texture and mouthfeel in their offerings. Having the smallest granule size (2-8 µm) in the starch family, rice starch perfectly imitates the perception of fat globules. Its unique molecular structure creates smooth soft gels with high creaminess and transparency, enabling it to improve a product’s structure.
Furthermore, rice starch has great versatility when it comes to application. It can be used for ‘short texture’, such as in mousses, or for products with ‘longer texture’ like in yoghurts and creamier desserts. Rice starch is also suitable for fat reduction in fat-based (confectionery and bakery fillings) systems next to water-based systems. In fat-based systems, such as pralines or baked goods, the rice starch granule’s size is decisive as well. Contrary to water based systems the granule itself doesn’t swell, but with its granular size comparable to fat globules and the ability to bind liquid fat, it mimics the mouthfeel, structure and texture of a full-fat filling. Rice starch also offers manufacturers the opportunity to replace part of the solid fat that is present when using vegetable oil. This means that rice starch can be used to reduce the saturated fatty acid content in food products without causing them to lose structure or texture.
Having the cake and eating it too
Today’s consumers have much more discernible palettes. In Asia Pacific, consumers are no doubt choosing to eat healthier. Yet when it comes to confectionery and sweet bakery, they want to continue to indulge. This is where food manufacturers can be creative and innovative in their product offerings. They can tap into today’s wide variety of functional ingredientsto offer consumers the best of both worlds. Functional ingredients such as isomalt, chicory root fibres and rice starch allow manufacturers to formulate food products that are more nutritionally balanced without having to compromise on taste or texture.