Fruit filling manufacturers
with trendy superfruits,
as well as those that
help bakers achieve
Unique flavors continue to infiltrate the fruit filling market. During the last seven years, traditional flavors, such as apple, cherry, blueberry and strawberry, started receiving competition from tropical flavors, such as pineapple. Then as pineapple became familiar, guava entered the market. Now the next generation of exotic fruits, or superfruits, such as goji berry and açai, are appearing more frequently.
“The demand isn't only there from a flavor standpoint. The interest in these fruits is because of the antioxidant properties and perceived health benefits,” says Dave Miller, vice president sales, EFCO Products Inc., New York. “People feel like they are experiencing something new with these fruits, which are becoming more popular and appearing in mainstream menus.”
“We are seeing more interest in the use of superfruits — pomegranate and açai in particular — blended with traditional fruits, such as blueberries,” agrees Bob Holz, vice president industrial sales division, Lyons Magnus, Fresno, Calif.
Blueberries, both a traditional fruit and a superfruit, commonly are used in fillings for pies, cakes, pastries and tarts. “Formulating with blueberries is also attractive because of their year-round availability in many forms and the ease with which they can be incorporated in existing formulas and systems,” says Thomas Payne, market development, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, San Mateo, Calif.
“Consumer demand for products containing blueberries is rapidly increasing, in part because consumers see blueberries as a value-added ingredient linked to heart-health, anti-aging properties, cancer prevention, improved eye sight and better memory.” Compared with nearly 40 other fruits and vegetables, blueberries rank at the top in antioxidant content. “One hundred grams of fresh blueberries can deliver the equivalent antioxidant capacity of five servings of some fruits and vegetables,” Payne notes.
In addition to superfruit flavors, and healthful, antioxidant-packed fillings, consumers also are demanding fillings made with more natural ingredients. Using IQF fruits can be a profitable way to gain fruit identity in a filling year round.
Bakers must overcome a variety of stability challenges when working with fruit fillings. Two of the most challenging issues include bakeout, where the filling weeps out the sides of the crust; and soggy crust, caused from too much water in the filling, Holz says. To overcome such challenges, bakers can have fruit fillings custom designed to meet their needs.
One bakery may process a product or handle a filling differently than another bakery, Miller notes. Filling manufacturers take into account the way the filling is deposited, the type of packaging the finished product will use, and the shelf life requirements. “Two customers can be using an apple filling but have two totally different needs for an apple filling,” he adds.
When deciding what type of filling formulation to use, filling manufacturers examine many factors, including the interplay between the amount of moisture in the fruit and the type of surrounding material or slurry the customer wants, the amount of water in the slurry and how to best control the water. “We might control the water content with sugar solids or the type or quantity of starches or gums. It all depends on what the customer is looking for,” says Jack Parker, technical consultant, EFCO Products Inc, Newton, N.J.
“It is important to make sure the moisture is bound correctly between the sugar, the stabilizers and the fruit in the product,” Parker adds. Because fruit contains a high degree of moisture, bakers making fillings without the proper controls could find the fruit in their fillings shriveling and drying up, and liquid running into the product, forming a loose and runny dessert. Starches, gums or a combination of the two can be used to stabilize the moisture content. The secret to finished product with a stable, delicious filling is maintaining a balance between moisture and stabilizers to allow for good fruit identity without a starchy or gummy flavor.
To manage water in fillings, EFCO uses calibrated meters to ensure consistency from batch to batch. “We'll perform certain measurements — everything from hot viscosity to ambient viscosity — and look at the yield of the batch to make sure it is the same,” Parker adds.
Cooking fillings to a certain pH also helps manage free water in fillings. “Without following the pH requirements, you could see a poor consistency in the body of the filling. The pH is important for maintaining proper viscosity and the keeping quality of the filling,” says Bill Parr, mix sales manager, ADM Milling Co., Spokane, Wash.
The type of filling used also depends on the bakery product. When adding a fruit filling to a cake, bakers must be concerned about the interface between the cake layer and the filling and formulate the filling properly so it does not add too much moisture to the cake, causing it to soften. Fillings for an ovenproof-type product, such as a thumbprint cookie, require heavier fillings with less fruit identity.
“We formulate our cookie fruit fillings differently than our regular fruit fillings in order to keep the filling stable. Cookies often need a longer shelf life,” Parr notes.
Donut fillings require a cream-style consistency or a starch-based jelly that does not contain fruit identity but is high on flavor. “While whole fruit varieties are not an option for donut fillings, it is still possible to incorporate small particulates of fruit to add flavor and texture,” Miller says.
As fruit fillings continue to incorporate the trends of the baking industry, and as more bakers turn to filling manufacturers for custom formulations, the view that all pie fillings are the same is long gone, Parker says. “There is so much background and technology that goes into [making the perfect filling].”