Caramel – salted and otherwise – is top of the flavours, but many new toppings and fillings are set to tickle the taste buds, finds Ashley Williams

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Not so many years ago, salted caramel would be found only in high-end confectionery and patisserie. Now firmly in the mainstream, it seems Brits still can’t get enough of the stuff.

In the past few months alone, Sainsbury’s has rolled out a salted caramel profiterole stack as part of a desserts range revamp; Just Desserts bakery has included a salted caramel cake in its first branded line-up; and United Biscuits unveiled Galaxy-branded salted caramel cake bars as part of its festive launches.

Decorations and ingredients company Orchard Valley Foods says salted caramel has been driving product development in the cakes market. “Paired with praline, chocolate or simply on its own, salted caramel was the trendiest flavour of 2016, and Christmas was no exception,” Orchard Valley Foods marketing manager Gill Bullock tells British Baker. “Salted caramel has seen launches in most sectors, and this enforces that it is here to stay.”

But it’s not only the salted stuff that is in demand, according to Bakels, which points out that the UK accounts for a 24% share of the European caramel ingredients market, and that both caramel fillings and toppings are forecast to grow by over 7% to 2021.

“We believe this represents a significant opportunity within the confectionery category and have invested in a new production line designed to produce an expanded range of caramels to tap into this indulgent trend,” Bakels marketing manager Michael Schofield tells British Baker.

“The range will incorporate traditional ingredients to produce flavours such as salted caramel, dulce de leche, bakeable caramel filling and a neutral caramel base, which presents opportunities for bakers to create their own unique confectionery lines. 

“These new products join the already very successful Millionaires Caramel, which Bakels has produced for many years. Bakels’ new range of caramels – branded as True Caramel – will not only satisfy consumers’ demand for indulgent caramel products but will fit with bakers’ application processes and present opportunities to showcase a variety of caramel-themed products.”

Caramel also features in a range of Delicreams – freeze-thaw stable, ready-to-use cream fillings launched by Dawn Foods last year. They are described as ideal for layering, filling or topping patisserie, desserts, doughnuts, cakes and muffins.

In addition to a Pikfein Caramel – which Dawn says would make an indulgent centre for tarts and pastries – is a lemon flavour and a San Felipe Chocolate with 40% real chocolate. Dawn Delicreams can be heated to 32°C to increase fluidity or, for a lighter filling for cream horns or layering gateaux, can be combined with around 25% vegetable fat.

Macphie’s luxury fillings range already includes a salted caramel flavour, and was expanded last year with a Belgian chocolate filling.

Seasonal occasions are a big opportunity for suppliers to boost sales of different toppings and inclusions, and Bakels suggests seasonal inclusions and flavours can be combined with its Neutral Caramel Base.

“For Easter, bakers can add spice and dried fruit to the Neutral Caramel Base to create Easter treats such as cupcakes or muffins in combination with Bakels Multimix Cake Base – the possibilities are truly endless,” says Schofield.

Supermarkets won’t let a seasonal opportunity pass them by and, this month, Waitrose unveiled two Easter creations: a Hot Cross Bun Panettone featuring a traditional Panettone bread with a cross stencil and a sachet of spiced icing sugar; and Bramley Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns.

But it’s not just the big occasions that offer opportunities for new flavours and toppings. Sporting occasions, royal celebrations or even movie releases, for example, offer the chance to sell themed cakes and biscuits.

Ignace van Goethem, category market leader for icings, glazes and toppings at CSM Bakery Solutions, tells British Baker consumers look to celebrate events such as the Queen’s birthday with social gatherings and many schools host parties for World Book Day.

“Bakers should tailor their offering to suit smaller events, tweaking toppings on cakes and biscuits to attract customers looking for something a bit different, he says. “This doesn’t have to be a different recipe, ingredient or flavour, but simply a stand-out decoration on a basic cake or biscuit. Bakers should ensure they have a quality range of toppings and inclusions to enable them to produce this variety throughout the year.”

As for what flavours those toppings and inclusions may be this year, a report by Macphie offers predictions of upcoming flavour trends.

“Our bakers visited London to check out some of the city’s hottest bakeries, coffee shops and patisseries in search of this year’s sought-after trends and flavours,” said Macphie applications head Alan Leith when the report was published in November. Flavours highlighted by Macphie were:

Passion fruit: Exotic flavours have grown in popularity since last year’s Rio Olympics, and passion fruit is the perfect addition for cheesecakes, jellies and other desserts, says Macphie;

Matcha: In bakery goods ranging from doughnuts to macarons;

Peanut butter: Demand for peanut butter shows no sign of waning, and peanut butter and jam offers an inseparable pairing with its moreish sweet and savoury combination, reckons Macphie;

Pistachio: Can add texture and colour to cakes, brownies, doughnuts and sandwiches;

Coconut: Remains a popular ingredient that provides a smooth, sweet taste when combined with the right flavours, including passion fruit and pineapple.

These trends are having an impact on product development, with Dawn Foods set to launch a range of coconut-flavoured products later in 2017. Last year the business introduced a pistachio flavour to its range of fonds – cream stabilisers for a variety of dessert applications. The new Pistachio Fond, made with all-natural flavours, can be used to colour and flavour lightly whipped dairy or non-dairy cream to create a set mousse in minutes.

Meanwhile, inclusions company Pecan Deluxe Candy last year launched a peanut-free, peanut butter-flavoured milk chocolate mini cup for use as a topping or filling in desserts and cakes. The sauce in the cups uses a traditional caramel base and features butter and condensed milk.

Among other ingredients tipped for growth in the coming year is liquorice, according to Orchard Valley Foods.

“We have supplied development samples of liquorice in the form of flavoured sugar shapes, flakes, fudges, soft pieces and single confectionery items,” says marketing manager Gill Bullock.

She adds that interest is also growing in “colourful versions of normally drab products”, such as South African spices and ethnic flavours.

Meanwhile, Cronut creator Dominique Ansel is among bakers to have flagged up herbs and botanicals as the next big thing. “It’s a way of adding in aromatics that are brighter and lighter than traditional spices,” Ansel told British Baker last month. “People will be more and more excited by exotic desserts – not necessarily from the French classics, but from countries in south-east Asia or the Middle East.”

Provenance can also offer a point of difference to a topping or filling, suggests Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager at Dawn Foods, which produces the Delifruit range of fruit fillings, suitable for muffins and donuts or filling sweet pastries and Danish pastries. “There are more than 20 flavours, many with origin fruit to appeal to today’s provenance-savvy purchaser, such as Belgian Jonagold apples, Senga Sengana strawberries, Canadian blueberries and Montmorency red cherries,” she says.

Dawn is also responding to growing consumer demand for clean-label goods and is in the process of changing its products to ‘all natural flavours’, in addition to other initiatives to reformulate to cleaner-label ingredients.

“Real fruit is popular across all types of toppings, icing and fillings,” she says. “Our Pomegranate Compound, for example, is an all-natural fruit paste that uses real pomegranate juice and can be added to frostings and filling creams to give an attractive hue and subtle pomegranate taste.”

Zeelandia, meanwhile, ramped up its presence in the fruit fillings market in November with the acquisition of UK business James Fleming & Co, producer of mincemeat, jams, jellies and caramel. Commenting at the time of the acquisition, Zeelandia said the manufacturer’s expertise and strong market position would enable it to expand its UK bakery ingredients offer and grow its customer base. “Demand for fruit products and fillings continues to grow,” said Zeelandia MD David Amos.

Clearly, while salted caramel is on everyone’s lips today, there are plenty of other flavours that will be topping and filling baked goods in the coming year.

Are doughnuts the new cupcakes?

Macphie believes doughnuts are the ideal blank canvas for toppings and fillings – and reckons they have the potential to be the “new cupcake”.

“With toppings like icing infused with matcha green tea, edible flowers and gold leaf, doughnuts have become an ‘instagram-able’ favourite and are taking over social media,” says Macphie corporate brand executive Michael McDonald. “All you need is creativity, popular ingredients and over-the-top toppings to draw in the digital diners,” he adds.

Krispy Kreme is also taking advantage of seasonal occasions through doughnuts – last year rolling out a Halloween-themed pack of doughnuts topped with zombies and spooky sprinkles.

Baker Perkins’ cookie machine

Demand for seeded breads is growing strongly, according to Baker Perkins, which has created two innovations for its Multitex4 bread moulder, enabling it to enrobe standard loaves with seeds or grains and create swirled loaves.

The equipment manufacturer’s technique involves rolling the coiled dough piece in seeds and grains before panning to achieve good coverage and avoid waste.

Metered quantities of seeds and grains are deposited on the moulding conveyor, which are then picked up and lightly pressed into the surface of the dough piece as it rotates under the moulding board.

The company claims this method avoids damage to delicate toppings and inclusions such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips.

In addition, the equipment supplier has developed a system that brings cookie dough and filling together in one machine for the first time. The development of the machine took around 15 months. Keith Graham, marketing manager for Baker Perkins, says: “There is a growing market for filled cookies and part of a developing niche for more luxury and indulgence in this category.”

Post-Brexit pricing

The Brexit referendum result has seen bakery ingredients soar in price as a weak sterling has contributed to sharp increases for UK buyers in commodities traded in other currencies. This means that even in some cases where commodity prices have fallen in native currencies, prices in sterling have risen.

Such fluctuations have impacted businesses, including Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods, which this month announced it was preparing to raise the price retailers pay for its products. Premier said it would be increasing cost prices across its product range by, on average, “around the mid-single-digit mark”.

The business is yet to reveal specific details, but added the pricing situation varied between categories and brands, and that it was currently discussing potential increases with individual retail consumers.

Some businesses are less exposed to increases than others, and snacks brand Graze tells British Baker it is not worried by the uncertainty of Brexit in terms of ingredients. “We’re obviously exposed to foreign exchange movements and approximately half of the business’ revenue is in the US; some things go up and some things go down,” says Anthony Fletcher, CEO of Graze.

“However, because of Graze’s diversified product base and sources of revenue it is less of an issue for us than for some people.”