With consumers increasingly seeking personalized, creative and healthy foods, there is a growing demand for authentic and traditional recipes with a twist. Jo Libens (photo), business category manager in charge of the strategy of the Fruit Fillings at Puratos, tells us how trends in fillings vary in Europe and how new formulations are developed and incorporated.
There is a growing demand for authentic and traditional recipes (such as grandma’s apple pie) and this reflects on the fillings, says Libens; fruit fillings depend on the perception of their authenticity and origin, from Belgian apples, wild blueberries from Latvia, to Italian apricot, etc.
The second trend he mentions is naturalness. More naturalness translates in a demand for fruit fillings with bigger pieces and higher fruit content, such as Puratos’ Topfil which contains up to 90% of fruit pieces. To deal with this trend, sourcing expertise is key, to select the best fruits and process innovation to preserve the naturalness of the fruits from the field to the fork, the specialist says. Many natural ingredients are also used in cream fillings, such as milk, cream cheese and eggs. But naturalness is also translated in a higher demand for cleaner label filling, NAFNAC and free from artificial preservatives.
Another request especially for Millennials is versatility. “Millennials are always looking for new flavors. In cream fillings, flavors from around the world are very popular, such as dulce the leche from Argentina or Belgian speculoos, tarte tatin and tarte citron from France,” the expert from Puratos adds.
An essential criterion to help customers is to understand exactly what their needs, requirements and expectation from the product are. “This helps make the best choices in terms of product development,” Libens says.
Two years ago, after observing the trends of a Taste Tomorrow survey, Puratos presented fruit fillings without artificial colors and free of artificial flavors, and solutions without artificial preservatives and without modified starch. Libens adds that it is important to capitalize on the positive and healthy perception consumers have of fruit fillings. New flavor combinations are trending, such as apple combined with chia seeds, caramelized apple, strawberry with honey, cherry with star anise etc.
Research shows that customers are looking for more bake-stable fillings in bakery applications, Linens points out It’s a challenge to combine the naturalness of the fruits with regular bake stability, and this particularly applies to fruit fillings. Bake stability can give differentiated quality, allow to create new concepts, such as a fruit-filled croffle, and bring peace of mind in the production process.
Next to this, there is the trend for cleaner label. NAFNAC (Non-artificial colors and flavors) is nowadays a must have, as certain industries and retailers require products without artificial preservatives.Process innovation plays an important role to develop products in line with those trends. “For our customers, the challenge is to implement those solutions in their current logistics and shelf-life,” he explains.
Bake-stable fillings Puratos has developed allow adding more of them in the end product, from 30 up to 50% of dough weight; “As the filling usually contains less fat compared to a cake or pastry base, this allows improving the overall nutritional profile of the end product, in line with the trend for more naturalness and health.
“In formulating fillings, we start with the end-product in mind. In which finished good is the filling used? What is the needed shelf-life of the end product? Is the product frozen before bake off?” Libens says. All those elements play a role in the selection of the gelling agents and sugar content.
The end application and target shelf-life have a big impact on the ingredient selection of our fillings. For longer shelf- life end applications, it’s important to have a filling with a water activity close to the cake or soft bread, to preserve the freshness over time and assure organoleptic and microbiological shelf-life.
“Water content, sugar content and sugar selection are key to reach the optimal water activity. E.g., the drying out of the crumb over time is a specific challenge when using chocolate fillings. This is why we developed Cremfil Ultim, a range of chocolate and nut filling, preserving freshness and reducing fat, allowing our customers to launch packed cakes with a shelf-life of several months,” Puratos specialist says.
On the other hand, consumers want to know where the ingredients in finished goods are coming from. In fruit fillings, this means that consumers want to see that there is fruit in the pastry item they eat. The field-to-fork journey becomes of greater importance; there is a focus on authentic flavors in fruit fillings.
“Specific to biscuits, we see a trend coming from UK and USA for soft centered filled cookies. Usually those cookies are co-extruded and shipped frozen for bake-off at point of sale, as fresh baked cookies. In terms of flavors, we see appearing the more classical ones, such as whole grain cookies combined with raspberry or strawberry, triple chocolate cookies or cream cheese filled cookies,” the expert concludes.