Move aside traditional
flavors, trends favor new
twists on old stand-bys.
Look for twists on traditional flavors in the bakery aisle this fall. Bakers are fusing tried and true flavors with spices to give products a special kick. Instead of vanilla, it's vanilla-cardamom, and cocoa-chili flavor replaces ordinary chocolate. And in place of a traditional pretzel, pretzel-flavored breads and crackers are appearing in supermarkets.
“Cheese isn't just cheddar anymore, it's asiago and feta,” says Mariano Gascon, vice president, R&D, Wixon, St. Francis, Wis. In addition, Mexican-themed flavors now include specialized chiles, such as ancho and chipolte, he adds.
Additional trends include emphasis on health and wellness flavors, such as hibiscus tea varieties; superfruit flavors, including mangosteen, acerola, yumberry, goji and açai; and antioxidant-rich nuts. “While some superfruit flavors are simply delicious, others are a bit less palatable. For those that are less tasty, and due to the fact that many are still so unfamiliar to consumers, we recommend blending with complementary flavors, such as strawberry, cranberry, blueberry and so on,” says Erin Kate O'Donnell, marketing manager David Michael & Co., Philadelphia.
Trends also favor indulgent flavors, such as caramels, toffees and liqueurs; and natural flavors. “We are being asked for natural flavors in products that typically would contain natural and artificial. This trend has necessitated an increase in the quality of flavor types available as natural,” says Michelle Huber, flavor creation manager, sweet and beverage flavors, Kerry Ingredients and Flavours, Americas Region, Hoffman Estates, Ill. Bakery items also are taking cues from popular flavors in the beverage industry.
Flavor technology is advancing as flavor demands change. “One of the biggest advancements in flavor technology across the baking industry during the past few years is the process and improvement of micro-encapsulation,” says Mindy Edwards, senior flavor chemist, Wixon. Micro-encapsulation is a process where tiny particles are encased by a coating, which allows for the controlled release of the flavor, protection against oxidation and improvement in the release of volatile compounds. “The most effective method to retain the flavor in a baked good is micro-encapsulation,” Edwards adds.
“Encapsulated powders deliver the flavor better than liquid flavors because they are not as volatile as liquid flavors and hold up better through the baking stress,” agrees Arthur Redondo, Symrise, Teterboro, N.J. However, oil soluble flavors do offer a cost-effective way to include flavor, especially in applications such as icings. Water soluble flavors also can be a cost-effective choice for glazes. However, encapsulates or powders, offer a much longer shelf life than oil soluble flavors, which can become rancid, he adds.
Rather than only adding flavor to products, more bakers are opting to add flavors via inclusions, such as bits, fruit preps and coatings, a trend commonly seen in ice cream. “We are seeing an increase in multiple inclusions in one product, such as you see in ice creams where you have the use of ice cream bases, variegates and multiple inclusions,” Huber says.
Spray drying is the most popular flavor delivery method. It controls the release of the flavor and is resistant to the heating process, but still results in some loss of volatile flavor during the baking process.
To create a well-balanced baked product, Gascon suggests using liquid flavoring with a high water-vapor volatility in addition to an encapsulated or spray dried flavor. When heating a bakery item, “the evaporated water can cause ‘steam distillation’ of the flavor components,” Gascon says. “The lower the molecular weight and the more water soluble the individual ingredients are that make the flavor, the more losses you will have in the flavor due to heating.” Still, the compounds with low molecular weight are more volatile and therefore create an ideal strong aroma during baking. “If the flavor contains a high amount of highly water soluble ingredients, for example fruit and sweet flavors, they will flash off during baking, creating an intense aroma, but it will have very little contribution to the product itself,” he adds.
When incorporating a new flavor, bakers must decide how to balance the flavor to make it compatible with the formula by adding or reducing sweetness, saltiness or acidity in the product, Huber says.
Communicating formula needs to a supplier can help the process go smoothly. Edwards uses a cookie to explain how to begin the process of rebalancing. “If you were to add a bacon flavor to a sugar cookie, you would be facing an intense sweetness in the sugar cookie that may or may not go well with the bacon flavor.” If lowering the sugar content does not balance the flavor, bakers can turn to taste modifiers to mask the sweetness, so the bacon flavor comes through.
Flavors also can help build back sweetness in reduced-sugar formulas that do not use artificial sweeteners. “Sugar is a functional ingredient as well, so when reducing sugar by 25 percent in pound cakes and sugar cookies, we've been adding back polydextrose for the functionality and add sweetness through flavor technology. We have been successful in sugar reduction up to 25 percent in some baked products,” Redondo says.
Bakers also can face challenges if a flavor has a reverse effect on the rheology or flowability of the dough, especially as it endures a variety of temperature and humidity changes on the production line. Garlic, for example has an adverse effect on dough consistency, but when the garlic is encapsulated, the rheology of the dough is unharmed, Redondo adds. Encapsulation also protects products during extrusion.
Flavor suppliers can assist bakers in navigating the challenges of rebalancing a formula to maintain dough rheology, functionality and achieve the desired flavor profile, when adding new and trendy flavors. Suppliers also can help you find the best method of adding a spicy flavor for your product and budget.
Flavoring with extracts adds high-end appeal
Extracts provide another flavor option. Because natural extracts are expensive, they are ideal for use in high-end baked products where they are more likely to yield a return on investment. In addition to adding premium appeal, natural extracts can help achieve a natural label claim.
If using natural extracts in bakery products, the first step is to find one that is heat stable. Bakers can determine if an extract is heat stable by looking at what solvent was used to make the extract. To make vanilla extract, the most popular extract flavor, vanilla beans are ground to a fine powder, the flavor is extracted with an alcohol solvent and the resulting liquid is diluted to the desired strength, resulting in an ideal flavor profile, but not a heat stable product, notes Pietro Re, Ph.D., technical sales manager, North America, Prova Inc., Danvers, Mass. “The most common solvent used is a water-ethanol blend,” he adds.
Prova created an oil soluble, heat-stable natural vanilla extract by using an alternative solvent instead of an alcohol solvent. Oil soluble extracts can be mixed in with the shortening, or added in powder form with other dry ingredients. The strength of extracts are measured in “fold” i.e., 1 fold, 2 fold, etc.
Different elements of the flavor are extracted depending on the solvent used, Re notes. “Alcohol is the best solvent for vanilla. If you use a blend of alcohol and water, you get a different profile where the yield is not as high, but you get a good vanilla extract excellent for ice cream. For bakery, that's not suitable because it's not heat stable, so you use a different solvent that extracts a portion of the vanilla that is heat stable. Vanillin, an artificial vanilla, is the most widely used flavor substitute.” Prova's cocoa extract uses a water-alcohol blend as a solvent and also is heat stable in its liquid or powder form for baking.
“The only solvent you can use for coffee is water,” Re says. “Coffee is not heat stable, so normally you would use a flavor rather than a natural extract.”
Artificial flavors offer a different flavor profile, but are more heat stable and less expensive than their natural counterparts. Expense is the reason many companies opt for artificial flavors, although vanillin prices currently are high.
“Most bakery products cannot justify a natural extract flavor because natural extract flavors are not as strong as artificial ones. So when you use a natural flavor, you use much more to get the same intensity, which is expensive,” Re says. Another option is to combine a natural extract for the superior flavor profile with an artificial flavor in order to lower the cost. In addition to vanilla, popular flavors include strawberry and chocolate.