Willy Wonka was really onto something with his candy factory.
Not only did he realise that making confectionary will bring a smile to the faces of those who eat it – hell, it will get a bedridden man dancing around like he’s Patrick Swayze at the mere idea of it – but he was also an innovator.
Yes, you read that right, this article is singing the praises of Willy Wonka (“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it…wanta change the world? There's nothing toooo it”) because confectionary is a beautiful thing.
It is one of the most innovative, creative and interesting industries, filled with people just like Willy Wonka, who unfortunately don’t have his chocolate factory, but on the upside do have his imagination and passion for invention.
“Australia has a very good confectionary industry, we have great products and some really good marketing and there are some fantastic smaller brands bubbling away which is a great thing,” Anne Barrington, Product Manager at Keith Harris Flavours & Colours, Bronson & Jacobs told Food Magazine.
“There are some really great gourmet items coming up through the really boutique brands.”
Three dimensional confectionary
The confectionary industry is always expanding, becoming more creative and experimenting with different flavours.
“The main trends we’re seeing are in the chocolate and gummy lolly markets at the moment, which are both pretty dynamic,” she told Food Magazine.
“We’re seeing a lot of sensory things coming through that give you multi dimensional textures and flavours, like the tingling cooling effect and fruit pieces coming through.
“Things that are giving the consumer almost a three dimensional experience with a products are certainly being seen in the chocolate market, which is really tapping into that gourmet part of the market and very much capitalising on very good media on antioxidants with the dark chocolate.
Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations, which combines a number of different textures, flavours and experiences in one mouthful, launched this month, bringing home Barrington’s point about the increase in sensory experiences in the confectionary market.
“Marvellous Creations was developed in response to Australians telling us they want a chocolate experience to share as part of the family occasion, which is fun, magically exciting and unexpected,” Ben Wicks, General Manager Chocolate, Kraft Foods, told Food Magazine.
“We identified a real opportunity to create a product that is ideal for family sharing and brings everyone together at the end of the day.
“We know that families love the occasional surprise and delight in the unexpected. Marvellous Creations is the ideal way to bring a moment of unexpected joy in the everyday.”
The Marvellous Creations range offers consumers three variations, which may seem like strange combinations at first, but have been met with intrigue in the consumer market.
There’s the peanut, toffee and cookie combination, the jelly and Crunchie bits blend and the jelly, popping candy and beanies offering, all covered in famous Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.
“We tested a number of different flavour combinations with consumers, and had overwhelming positive response to these,” Wicks explained.
“All three variants are performing extremely well, however Jelly Popping Candy Beanies is proving to be particularly popular after just four weeks on shelves,” Wicks told Food Magazine.
The strangest of combinations
Barrington explained that often, combinations of flavours that might sound odd or a little off-putting, in fact turn out to be very popular.
“Certainly the celebrity chef’s and the food shows are bringing a lot of interest into flavours and how they can work together, which means a lot of consumers are more willing to try new things,” she said.
“What we’re also seeing is a lot of different flavour trends coming through, we’re seeing savoury flavours coming into chocolate, thinks like bacon and lime and salt, salted caramel.
“We’re talking about pretty gourmet boutique brands here, but often what we see is that these things bubble away in the boutique market for a while and then it hits the mainstream once it has been accepted and received by consumers.
“It’s how the consumer accepts those new flavours, and often the gourmet boutique brands are the testing ground for new flavours.
“We’re seeing spices coming into chocolate and even into the gum lolly market, as well as some cinnamon and herbs even!
“Herbs and spices are pretty new, but people are familiar with new things coming into chocolate, we’ve seen some floral flavours, like rose. as well.
And while the confectionary industry often seems to stand on its own and march to the beat of its own drum, Barrington explained to Food Magazine that it is not actually as isolated you may think.
“There confectionary industry also often looks to the beverage markets to see some of the flavour trends going on there, because there is quite a lot of alignment,” she said.
“You might see a lot of berry flavours making their way into the beverage market and being very popular and them confectionary makers might try them in their products.
“One of the biggest trends is the expansion of berries of all types, cherry, blackberry, blueberry.
Food scientists and confectionary experts are always hard at work trying to perfect the flavours available to consumers, ensuring they are as realistic as possible.
“There will always be the favourite flavours, which are the basic flavours in confectionary; raspberry, vanilla, lime, but a lot of those flavours have gotten a lot more sophisticated in their profiles and particular in the flavour experience, they are much truer to type nowadays,” Barrington said.
“Twenty years ago, mango flavour was what they determined mango to be, which was actually nothing like what a mango tasted like.
“Now that mangoes are so readily available and so popular here, the flavour is more true to the fruit, because it has to be.”
How flavours are changing
Beyond the creativity of the industry, and the seemingly endless combinations thought up by confectionary producers, Barrington told Food Magazine the biggest change has not been about adding things, but rather removing.
She’s talking about artificial colours and flavours, which have almost ceased to exist in not only the confectionary industry, but throughout much of the food sector.
“The biggest change across all sectors has been the natural flavours in products aimed at children,” she said.
“Twenty years ago I would say the bulk of flavours were artificial, or synthetic.
“So absolutely, the natural flavours have expanded.
“Back then, the availability to raw flavours was poor but over the last eight to 10 years, the situation has reversed and the major developments in the industry are focused on natural flavours.”
Barrington said greater understanding of the impacts of additives on health has led to widespread developments and improvements to how the flavours are colours are made.
“Now we have a lot more access to natural flavouring materials, whereas before it was very difficult.
“There is a code for how it is determined and there are very strict laws around natural flavouring and labelling your product as such.
“FSANZ [Food Standards Australia New Zealand]has changed the terminology so it is now referred to as a ‘synthetic’ flavour, rather than artificial.
The Australian confectionary industry follows the International Organisation of the Flavour Industry (IOFI) Code of Practice to ensure the health, quality and ingredients of products.
The health factor
While the enjoyment of confectionary cannot be understated, the industry is, understandably, scrutinised as the rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases rise.
In a move sure to upset chocoholics everywhere – but perhaps please their doctors – Mars announced plans in February to stop shipping chocolate bars that exceed 250 calories per portion.
It will mean the king sized chocolate bars made by the confectionary giant, including Snickers, M&M’s, Mars, Milky Way and Dove will effectively be unavailable by the end of 2013.
Even a regular sized Snickers contains 280 calories, but the company advises that it includes three serving sizes.
A king-sized Snickers contains 510 calories.
The family sized blocks of chocolate produced by the company will still be available, as they are intended to be shared.
Some critics came out swinging, accusing Mars of reducing chocolate size to save money on expensive cocoa, but the company said in a statement that it is another move by the company to create healthier products for its consumers.
The company has previously announced aims to reduce sodium levels in all Mars products by 25 per cent from 2007 levels, stop marketing chocolate products directly to children under 12 and it also started displaying calorie counts on the front of packages, eliminating trans fat and reducing saturated fat.
"Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition, and this includes a number of global initiatives," the company said in a statement.
Initiatives like Mars’ are increasing fast, but not as fast as people’s waistlines.
Of the most pressing concern is the rapidly increasing occurrences of childhood obesity, and as such, there have been calls from medical associations and parenting groups to have all advertising of junk food to children stopped.
A report in May found that children are seeing 60 per cent less junk food advertising during their television programs, following suggestions from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) that the practise should be stopped, and calls from health groups to ban ads aimed at those under 12.
In 2009 the AFGC suggested that high sugar, fat and salt (HFSS) foods should not be advertised during television programs aimed at children.
Following the suggestion, however, HFSS advertisements aimed at children did not decrease, but rather in some instances actually increased.
The AFGC maintains this rise was the result of scheduling error, but health groups including the Cancer Council, Parents Jury, Australian Medical Association and the Australian Greens called on the government to step in and ban the practise.
The AFGC then released figures in May to support its suggestions, which found the advertising of HFSS foods during children’s programs has fallen to 0.7 per cent between March and May 2011, down 60 per cent from the previous year.
The independent research by the Australian advertising information service Media Monitors was revealed in the RCMI Activity Report 2011, monitored free-to-air television – including digital channels – across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney 24/7 for 92 days.
The figures prove that the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), which was started in 2009, is working, according to AFGC Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison.
Under the RCMI, 17 leading food manufacturers have committed to no advertise to children under 12, unless the ads are promoting healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.
“The latest advertising figures confirm that adverts are not running during TV programs aimed at children,” Annison said.
Annison said the AFGC is pleased the food industry has made decisions to protect children with industry codes.
“Industry looks forward to continuing discussions with Government and public health advocates to ensure the RCMI is aligned with community expectations, remains practical for industry to implement and is successful in supporting better diets and health outcomes for all Australians.”
Barrington said that while the health and nutrition, particularly of children, is always of concern, confectionary should always be seen and marketed as a ‘sometimes’ food, and should be enjoyed at those times.
“Confectionary is a hard one because if people want chocolate, they want chocolate!
Certainly in that category, consumers won’t compromise on that.”
Well then, back to the factory for the Oompa Loompas!