“If the customer looks at the ingredients declaration and it reads like War and Peace, then it’s a worry,” warns Simon Solway, sales and marketing director at Unifine Food and Bake Ingredients. Speaking at the company’s Ingredients in Action workshop last month, he adds that this has prompted surging demand for clean-label products, from independents to large bakeries to supermarkets.
“Wherever possible we try to use pure, natural ingredients and we have full traceability on every product,” Mr Solway told guests at the hands-on event. “Our chocolate decorations are couverture chocolate – there’s nothing else in there. People want to be able to understand what they’re eating.”
The company supplies a range of ingredients, including flour-based mixes, mousse-based products, flavoured compounds, bake-stable flavours, fruit fillings, couverture, marzipan and chocolate decorations. Alongside its natural flavours, the firm offers ‘nature-identical’ as well as artificial ingredients.
Exotic and traceable
“If it’s a product that doesn’t require natural vanilla from Mauritius we have alternatives as well,” adds Mr Solway. But he says that it is natural ingredients that are in the ascendancy. Food manufacturers and retailers are getting wise to the marketing value of trumpeting the exoticism and integrity of their ingredients.
“Is a Mercedes-Benz any better than a Skoda? Both have four wheels and a steering wheel,” he says. “A lot of it is about marketing. But there are certain products that are clearly better than others. Whether it’s a small baker, a restaurant or a supermarket you will see Madagascan vanilla or Belgian chocolate.
“The story behind things is very important. If you take our blueberry Delifruit (a 70%
fruit filling for pies and decorating pastries), for instance, we use the finest blueberries because it gives the best taste. There are certain strawberry grades and vanillas that are much better than others.”
He cites Unifine’s Jonagold apples (a blend of Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples with a tangy-sweet flavour), which are peeled mechanically rather than stripped with chemicals. “You get the whole flavour and nothing else,” says Mr Solway. He adds that flavourings can be used to extend artisanal dough bases to create original products, such as orange brioche, white chocolate petit pain, and custard crème-filled croissants.
The company also showcased its new Plusfil ingredient at the event, which is suitable for croissants or Danish pastries. The product is a powder that can be added to the filling mix, such as nut, chocolate, custard, fruit or maple and pecan. It expands to fill the gap typically created by the steam during baking.
Unifine also says it offers a flavours ‘library’, via its businesses in Hungary and Holland, that customers can call upon for bespoke flavours. It regularly sends out samples for craft bakers to try out on request, says Mr Solway.
“It’s only when you’ve worked in Europe and globally that you realise how demanding the UK market is. If customers want a product, we can get it to them quickly, they can trial it with their customers and hopefully launch it on the market,” he says.
But the main message of the day is that bakers should be emphasising the provenance of the ingredients. As Lisa Wilks, sales and marketing co-ordinator at Unifine, says: “The cleaner that our customers can get their product, the better.”
Unifine’s Tarte Citron
100g Tarte Citron Powder
Lemon peel (optional)
Blend ingredients together and leave to stand for one minute. Pour mixture into 10 X 34g 95mm fluted tartlets and bake at 180ºC for 15 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and add lemon peel (optional)