by Erin Rigik, assistant editor
Toppings and inclusions, such as coconut, give bakery products value-added appeal.
Toppings and inclusions can bring new life to traditional baked products. Colorful sprinkles attract customers to packages of cupcakes, while fruit inclusions simulate real fruit flavor and maintain texture during production processes. Inclusions and toppings also help bakery manufacturers keep up with consumer trends. Bakers are adding nutritional additives to attract health-conscious buyers, combining particulates to form bolder flavors and relying on tried-and-true candy bits consumers recognize.
Adding inclusions is "a flexible way to add a new twist to products," says Dennis Reid, vice president, marketing and technology, Diehl Food Ingredients Inc. and SensoryEffects (SE). SE’s fat-based inclusions act as delivery systems for carrying, protecting and delivering attributes, such as flavor, aroma, color, texture and nutrition. The flavor or attribute is released into the baked product as the fat melts during baking, rather than in the mixing stage. Adding fiber to bread in this process, for example, does not affect the consistency of the dough, Reid says. Using inclusions also can help surmount flavor challenges, such as creating a non-allergenic nut flavor that still tastes like nuts, or developing unusual flavors.
"The trend we see growing is flavor combinations, such as apple-caramel-cinnamon, to give both a unique visual and flavor impact. Some bakers have combined cinnamon, banana and caramel for a banana’s foster-type impact," Reid says.
Fruit particulates attempt to mirror the attributes of actual fruit and offer the advantages of flexible size, lower cost, flavor consistency and easy cleanup. Particulates are often used in bagels, muffins, cakes and sweetgoods. Blueberry, raspberry, peach, strawberry, banana, orange and apple are among the most popular fruit flavors, manufacturers say. Cinnamon, which recently has been getting press for its heart-health benefits, is SE’s most popular flavor. Cinnamon-flavored particulates work well in specialty breads and cinnamon rolls in place of cinnamon because they withstand the baking process. "If cinnamon isn’t added in protected form, it actually kills the yeast," Reid says.
Generating seasonal sales
In the toppings category, sprinkles touting a holiday theme can entice buyers. Mike Schrauth, vice president, sales and marketing, QA Products, says his company commissioned a study that shows an increase in purchase intent for cookies finished with decorative toppings. QA Products offers a variety of toppings, including sprinkles, colored sugars, nonpareils and shapes. "We have tree and wreath shapes for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s, and stars and stripes for the Fourth of July," Schrauth says. "We can’t loose sight of the fact that there’s the attitude of a kid in all of us and those bright colors and shapes have nostalgic value." He added that the visual appearance of baked products drives buyers to make the purchase.
Using the toppings and inclusions of an established brand also can help baking companies boost sales. To add brand-name recognition to baked products, Nestlé Branded Ingredients, for example, offers Nestlé and Nestlé Toll House® products in bulk form, including retail candy bars in ingredient form; Nerds®, which make a colorful topping or inclusion; Raisinets®, which can be baked into sweetgoods; and a line of confectionery products. Using branded inclusions gives consumers an immediate brand name connection to a product, says Bob Chapdelaine, director of Nestlé Branded Ingredients. He added that if the product is manufactured and consumer packaged, the product and its manufacturing facility must pass Nestlé quality control before using Nestlé or Nestlé brands on the packaging.
Inclusions also can quickly introduce colors and flavors into baked products simultaneously. "We offer Butterfinger® pieces and grinds. Some use the grinds to get an orange coloring and a Butterfinger flavor. Some use the grinds for a homogeneous flavor and add the pieces to highlight the fact that, ‘wow, there are real pieces of Butterfinger in [the product]," Chapdelaine adds.
Bakery manufacturers’ R&D teams are challenged to incorporate the right types of inclusions in the best format and at the appropriate time in the baking process to achieve desired results. A particulate’s size and when it is added to the product determines how much of the inclusion is recognizable at the end of production, Reid says. To achieve a homogeneous appearance, such as when using an omega 3 additive that shouldn’t be seen in the finished product, a small-sized particulate should be added earlier in the process. He suggests adding inclusions, such as fruit and cinnamon, near the end of production before the product enters the depositing machine, in order to minimize the breakup of the particulate.
Fruit inclusions add quick variety and are less expensive, easier to handle and offer longer shelf-life than real fruit, Reid says. "You could eat a blueberry SE muffin and you wouldn’t know it’s not real fruit."
Most fruit-inclusion manufacturers agree that fruit-flavored particulates withstand production better than the real fruit they replicate. QA Products offers cereal, sugar-based Krunches in fruit flavors. "If it’s blueberry Krunch, it’s designed to go into a dough system that would otherwise tear up a blueberry," QA’s Schrauth says. "It gives you the flavor and the color you’re looking for, and you can control the amount it bleeds. Some [bakers] use it in addition to real fruit and some use it in exchange."
The durability of toppings and inclusions in production depends on how bakers convey and recycle them. "A colored sugar or nonpareil is going to be pretty durable. You do need to be more careful recycling shapes and sprinkles," Schrauth says.
The shelf-life for inclusions and toppings themselves can vary between six months and two years, as long as they are stored in appropriate conditions. Chocolate and fat-based inclusions, for example, should not be stored in high temperatures.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of inclusions is that they continue to provide a way for bakers to add unique flavors, aromas, textures, health benefits or other attributes to products. As topping and inclusion developers continue to customize their products for baking companies, the possibilities are seemingly endless. "We are working with customers to figure out what health claims they want to make," Reid says. "Particulates can be specifically designed depending on what the customer is looking [to achieve]. The sky is the limit when it comes to inclusion technology."
Topping systems go custom
"There is no such thing as a standard topper anymore," says Jim Tiefenthaler of Tiefenthaler Machinery. "The off-the-shelf topper is almost extinct."
For the last 35 years, Tiefenthaler has manufactured topping systems for nearly every bakery food category, from breads to sweetgoods. To this day, Tiefenthaler says the company still runs tests on three to four new toppings and applications a week.
"Product development by bakers is ongoing, and as they develop new ideas, we have to react to them," Tiefenthaler adds.
Manufacturers are reacting to trends in product development with custom-built topping systems that are more accurate and consistent, despite new challenges. One such challenge is bakeries’ continued desires to increase yields while making production lines more versatile. These seemingly divergent trends have posed significant problems to topping manufacturers.
Cookie and cracker lines, for example, have expanded from 60 ins. to 72 ins. to 84 ins. wide. Unfortunately, ensuring left to right accuracy and consistency is one of the most difficult tasks topper manufacturers face. That is why a premium has been placed on customization and turnkey solutions. Tiefenthaler states that his business has expanded from manufacturing toppers to manufacturing entire topping systems, including recycling systems and conveyors. By using a turnkey manufacturer, bakers ensure that their unique topping needs will be met.
Versatile topping machines allow bakers to scale back on equipment purchases and increase the variety of products they run on one line. To ensure flexibility, bakers can either purchase multiple topping systems or install toppers with quick changeover times. When purchasing a topper, bakers should ensure shafts are easily changeable, preferably without tools, and easily cleanable. Sanitation also has come to the forefront in the baking industry and toppers represent a critical control point, especially for allergens.