Although the old standards of apple and cherry fillings certainly are not on the way out, many fruit filling suppliers are seeing a demand for more high end and exotic fruit blends for cakes, pies and pastries. A movement for all-natural products and a smaller, yet present specter of an organic trend also is present in the industry.
From the baker’s perspective, meeting consumer desire always is the goal, but watching costs also remains important. This opens the market for niche bakers who specialize in all-natural, sugar-free and no-sugar added fruit-filled products, as well as those who produce more exotic fruits and fruit blends.
Bear Stewart Co., Chicago, has been supplying bakers with fruit fillings since 1899. Michael Hoffman, co-partner, sales and marketing, says the company is seeing a rise in requests for all-natural products and products without preservatives, colors or added sugar.
“We sell a lot to Whole Foods-type of bakers. Because we are a mid-size company, we are very flexible and can swing with the trends very easily. We do a lot of natural, all-natural and no- sugar-added products,” Hoffman says.
Dawn Food Products Inc., Jackson, Mich., is one of the largest players in the fruit filling supply industry. Even with its extensive global scope, the company remains as dedicated to the hands-on family tradition of customer service and great flavor as when it was established nearly a century ago, says Jennifer Wurzer, product manager. Dawn’s most popular fillings include apple, cherry and Bavarian cream, with pineapple and strawberry close behind.
| Margie’s Brands offers a variety of all-natural, no-suagr-added fillings in exotic flavors, such as mango and pasion fruit. |
Demand for Latin-inspired flavors has increased, but according to suppliers, overall global influence is a huge motivator for new fruit blends. As globalization continues, U.S. manufacturers understand that while apples and cherries are the traditional fillings in the United States, the most popular fruits on a global scale are mango and guava.
This is good news for companies like Margie’s Brands, Chicago. “We focus only on mango, guava, papaya, banana, passion fruit and our own special fruit blends,” says Wilbur Reneau, president and chief executive officer. The fillings are “all-natural with no added sugar; we use grape juice as a sweetener. Our latest is a blend of pineapple, banana and passion fruit, and it is a big favorite for Danish rolls. We are getting a lot of requests for these fillings for cakes and pastries and even cookies,” he adds.
Bear Stewart also is seeing a growing demand for guava and mango. It has developed some unique fillings, such as a lemon curd and mixed tropical fruit, which have been big sellers.
New flavors in Dawn’s product line include guava, tangerine, kiwi and papaya, with some unique caramel fillings, also known as dulce de leche or cajeta. “Caramel apple is another interesting combination that Dawn has developed as a custom product,” Wurzer says. She believes the ethnic and exotic flavors and blends will continue to grow, as will the demand for more all-natural fillings.
Catering to consumers
Suppliers also are seeing a demand for custom blended fillings. “If a customer wants a specific type of cherry filling or a different lemon profile or fruit blend, we do that for them, “ says Jerry Standing, sales manager, Brechet and Richter division, Gregory’s Foods Inc., Mendota Heights, Minn. “Our latest is a very nice lemon drop filling that tastes like lemon drop candy. Wild cherry is another. It is a unique type of flavor profile. We try to offer new and exciting flavors,” Standing adds.
Another rising trend is to add more solid fruit fillings into bar and cookie products. Fruit topped and filled cookies are popular in Europe, according to Marlene Smothers, lab supervisor, sweet applications, Wild Flavors, Erlanger, Ky.
“Our home office is in Germany, and they’ve been making all-natural fruit fillings for a long time,” Smothers says. “In Europe, you see wide variety of fruit fillings in cookies, or biscuits, as they are called. Recently, with the FDA recommending consumption of more fruit and vegetables for health, consumers are looking for natural fruit in cookies and snack cakes in the United States,” she adds.
In this niche, fruit is often combined with other fillings, such as custom products created for this market by Dawn Food Products, including key lime cream cheese, pumpkin cream cheese, or raspberry cream cheese for cookies.
Margie’s Brands currently is negotiating with a major commercial bakery to develop a brand of cereal bars with its all-natural tropical fruit fillings. “The tropical slant is a wonderful option for new products,” he says.
In addition to enticing flavors, appearance and usability are important. “Bakers and anyone in the culinary field must have a fruit product that will hold its shine, visual appearance, product workability, [be] easily spreadable, [and offer] texture and flavor retention, as well as low moisture content for shelf life; all of which Rain Sweet fruit products have,” says Chef Wayne D. Philen, national food service sales manager, Rain Sweet Fruits and Vegetables Inc., Salem, Ore.
Regional flavors flourish
Both the regional and organic markets also are slowly growing in demand and will play a larger roll in the future, according to both bakers and suppliers. The market for regional, fruit-based fillings has been seen mostly in local bakeries rather than in the large commercial companies, and that goes for the fruit filling providers as well.
Achatz Pies, Armada, Mich., uses mostly regionally processed fruit. “About 80 percent of all we use is from Michigan; that includes the flour and fruit. Even the sugar is Michigan beet sugar,” says Wendy Achatz, co-founder/owner.
“Consumers want to support local growers, but we find it’s more to do with freshness. We do surveys with our customers pretty regularly, and one of the questions we ask is ‘what do you like best about our pies?’ Ninety percent say freshness. Our Michigan four-berry is the most popular flavor. It’s our signature pie and unique to us. It has cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries–all Michigan grown,” she adds.
The organic movement is steady, but slower than the all-natural movement, mainly because of the cost involved. Demand will continue to grow, although many feel the organic push is still more focused on mixes and bases. “It’s a natural progression,” Standing says. “The mixes and bases will come first, then the toppings and glazes, and fillings will follow. I think that’s where it’s going to move.”
Still, organic is definitely here. Standing notes Gregory’s recently had a customer who wanted a grape filling for an all organic peanut butter and jelly cookie. “Those specialty niches are popping up more and more,” he says. “Gregory’s is geared to be able to work closely on projects. We make proprietary items just for them.”
Mango may never push apple from the top 10 flavors, but more exotic fruit fillings is a steady trend. Whether standard formulations, all-natural or organic, and regardless of how the fruit is grown, picked or processed, new fruit blends and flavors are opening up new opportunities for all bakers, and suppliers are ready to fill virtually any need. •