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Good-For-You CandyGood-For-You Candy

November 1, 1996

16 Min Read
Good-For-You Candy

 Good-For-You Candy
November 1996 -- Applications

By: Paula S. Bahr
Contributing Editor

  Throughout history, people have created and consumed candy purely for the pleasure it brings. But today's consumers often expect better nutritional profiles from all the foods they eat, including candy.  "Candy typically isn't designed for its nutritive value; it's designed to be a treat or an impulse purchase," says Paul Richards, president of Knechtel Laboratories, Skokie, IL. Still, he admits, "We have a lot to learn about the benefits of the ingredients currently used in confections."Health watch  Research credits chocolate with a variety of positive attributes. Despite a high saturated fat content, it doesn't appear to raise cholesterol levels because it contains high levels of stearic acid. The position of stearic acid on the fat molecule may also contribute to this effect, especially in cocoa butter.  According to Ed Minson, technology and legal information manager for Grace Cocoa/Ambrosia Chocolate Co., Milwaukee, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association/American Cocoa Research Institute has filed a petition with the FDA to differentiate stearic acid from the other saturated long-chain fatty acids. He notes that research has shown that stearic acid does not have the blood cholesterol-raising properties attributed to the other saturates.  Additionally, researchers have found some of the same polyphenols in cocoa powder that are in red wine. These may reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Other studies show that eating chocolate results in fewer dental caries than eating foods with the same sugar content, so chocolate is being linked to the inhibition of tooth decay. Chocolate also has been found to contain chemical compounds that positively affect the same receptor in the brain as marijuana.  "To get an impact from the 'feel good' component of chocolate, however, about 25 pounds would need to be eaten at one sitting," says Minson.  The benefits aren't limited to chocolate. Phytochemicals contained in licorice may prevent cancer. Xylitol reduces the occurrence of cavities, possibly by re-mineralizing the teeth. One study conducted in Central America showed that children who chewed xylitol-sweetened gum experienced half as many cavities as those who chewed gums sweetened by sorbitol or sorbitol blends.Got to be good  Many in the candy industry agree that calorie reduction and perceived healthfulness should be the emphasis for the products we traditionally view as confections. "The future market for traditional confections will be in the areas of sugar-free and calorie reduction, especially with ingredients that do not have a laxative effect," says Richards.  The high sugar content of candy has long been a concern for a number of reasons, most prominently dental caries and a suspected link to hyperactivity in children. Sugar is no longer linked strongly to hyperactivity. One highly publicized study that appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, February 1994, found no significant difference in the behavior in a group of children who consumed a diet high in sugar (with no artificial sweeteners) versus the groups that used aspartame or saccharin. The study group contained preschoolers and children believed to be sensitive to sugar. Researcher Marcel Kinsbourne, Ph.D., of Tufts University, points out that the study doesn't eliminate sugar as an influence in "an existing behavior disorder" but that its consumption does not induce problems.  Still, many consumers choose sugar-free gums and candies because of their anti-cariogenic benefit. Others look for sugar-free candies to address health problems such as diabetes. And, depending on the formulation, some sugar-free products may be lower in calories than their sucrose counterparts.  "Sugar-free candies were originally introduced for diabetic use, and up until about two years ago many people assumed no sugar meant no calories," says Richards. "Now they understand that sugar free and fat free do not necessarily mean there are fewer calories, so they are interested in calorie reduction, as well."  "We are putting emphasis on developing products that contain less sugar to reduce calories and also on using more ingredients that have a healthful image," says John Flanyak, vice president of quality assurance and research and development for Brach & Brock Confections Inc., Chicago.  The company is highlighting ingredients with a healthful connotation -- for example, real milk in Milk Maid™ caramels and using more honey as a natural sweetener in its formulas. Brach also has teamed up with Smuckers, Orville, OH, in a joint venture to produce a new jelly bean that contains pectin and real fruit.  "Intended use defines whether or not a product is a confection," says Philip Katz, president of Shuster Laboratories Inc., Boston. He sees activity in the area of enriching confections with vitamins and minerals, fiber or protein, but he cautions that confections are "very market-specific."  Katz cites Shuster's research on one sweet fat-free snack product with fiber as an example. Initially panelists said they would buy the product. However, further probing revealed that people who were active and wanted a snack for energy were the ones who would purchase the product, rather than "couch potatoes" who were more likely to reach for a regular chocolate bar.  Both Knechtel and Shuster report high activity in the snack and power bar area. These tend to use natural ingredients that exhibit some confection characteristics without high or "empty" calories. Many are grain-based. Often their nutrients are derived from the ingredients that contain those nutrients, or they are considered to be "naturally" sourced.  Katz notes that the "healthy" consumer avoids traditional candy and gravitates toward grain-based products. Most of the bars formulated for those who exercise contain more vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates, and less emphasis is placed on calories and natural ingredients.  Many confectioners produce cough drops, which are sold as over-the-counter drugs. These often contain vitamin C, and some manufacturers fortify them with herbs and other nutraceutical ingredients for the potential health benefits they provide. Soluble fiber is also of interest in some confectionery products.  Delivering meaningful or significant quantities of nutrients is difficult in the typically small serving size of confections. Flavor problems can arise due to high flavor levels of ingredients used for fortification such as B vitamins and many botanical ingredients. This may limit the use of confections as nutraceuticals.  "One of the reasons foods are moving toward the nutraceutical area is that eating them is a lot more satisfying than taking a vitamin," says Katz. "However, the more ingredients added to the formula for fortification, the more it increases the chances of ingredient interaction, and the more shelf life becomes an issue, especially with oxidation and color change. If the ingredient statement becomes too long, consumers lose interest -- and there may not be enough room on the package to support the content claims made."Candy categories  Candies may be generally categorized by their finished structure as crystalline and noncrystalline, or amorphous. Crystalline candies include fondants and cremes, fudge, nougats, marshmallows, pralines, pressed candy (tablets), and panned candies. Noncrystalline candies include hard (or high boiled) candy, brittle, caramel, toffee, licorice, jellies and gums.  The candies in each category basically differ by their individual moisture and fat content and by the processing technique used. The ingredients used also have a significant effect on the method and the result. An overview of the process differences helps provide a base from which to start formulating "healthier" versions.  Hard candies are formed by boiling a sugar solution (typically a blend of corn syrups and sucrose) until it is concentrated enough to form a plastic mass that contains 2% or less moisture. After cooling this mass slightly, colors and flavors are worked in. It is then shaped into individual pieces of candy and cooled. Cooling supersaturates the sugar solution, so the candies have no apparent evidence of crystalline form. This hard transparent form is commonly called a glass.  The high-boiled sugar solutions are unstable, and measures such as adding invert sugar are used to control or prevent crystallization. Partial crystallization gives the candy a short, spongy texture like that of candy canes.  Brittles are initially prepared the same way, with nuts included in the cook-up. Sodium bicarbonate added after the cook aerates the mass. Toffee uses a similar process, but it includes butter and no soda. Adding milk and fat to the sweetener blend and cooking it to a final moisture of 10% to 12% yields a plastic texture that results in a caramel. Nougats have a consistency similar to caramel, but they don't usually contain milk. A solution of egg albumen or similar protein is whipped, and the boiled syrup is added slowly.  Soft, well-aerated nougats, often used as centers for chocolate-covered bars, are actually crystalline candies. They contain sucrose at about twice the level of the corn syrup. A 50/50 blend is typically used for a chewy nougat. A short nougat is cooked to a lower temperature, resulting in a finished moisture of 9% to 11%. The chewy nougat finished moisture is 5% to 7%. Powdered sucrose may be added to short nougat at the last stage to induce the formation of tiny crystals.  Gum drops, orange slices, gummy bears, jelly beans and fruit snacks are classified as noncrystalline candies. Starch, gelatin, gums or combinations of these are added to the sugar solution and cooked to the required solids content. Each gelling agent requires a specific method of incorporation. The ratio of corn syrup to sucrose influences the texture.  Fondants and cremes -- crystalline candies -- are typically used as centers for chocolate-covered candies. Sucrose crystals (the solid phase) are held in a saturated solution of sucrose and other sugars. To prepare fondants, sugar, water and corn syrup are boiled to the desired consistency and cooled, without agitation, to create a supersaturated state. Then agitation helps to form tiny crystals. The finished fondant contains 12% to 13% moisture. Butter cremes are fondant-based and typically contain from 5% to nearly 20% butter. Real cream may be incorporated before boiling to impart a distinct flavor and slightly different textured creme.  The base ingredients for fudge are sucrose, corn syrup, milk and fat. A variety of flavoring ingredients may be added, and the texture (crystal structure) may be adjusted by varying the processing.  Pressed candies (crystalline) are made by blending dry sweeteners with color, flavor, and a small amount of release agent such as magnesium stearate. This mix is pressed together and shaped in high-pressure punches and dies.  Panning also forms crystalline candies. Centers are placed into a revolving open-mouthed pan. As the pan revolves, syrup is poured over the centers to make them sticky. Powdered sucrose is added; it adheres to the centers and dries the surface. The process is repeated until the shell reaches the desired thickness. A finishing syrup that contains color and flavor is added for the final layers. Then the candy is dried, polished and packaged. Jelly beans are made by this process, termed soft panning. For hard panning, dry air is blown over the wet surface to dry it, rather than adding powdered sugar. This results in many thin layers of fine sucrose crystals.  Chocolate is manufactured by combining chocolate liquor with sugar and other ingredients such as milk, lecithin and flavorings. To address specific melting-property requirements or to reduce cost, the cocoa butter can be replaced with another vegetable fat. When another fat is used, the product cannot be called chocolate because it no longer meets the standard of identity. The resulting product is commonly known as confectioner's or compound coating. Pastel coatings contain just cocoa butter (no cocoa) or other vegetable fats.Sweet things  In traditional candies, sugar is typically the main ingredient. Besides sweetness, it provides many physical functions: texture, body or bulk, lower water activity, and Maillard browning. If sugar is removed, its functional properties must be replaced. Food Product Design looked at the flavor issues connected to sugar replacement in "Achieving Flavor Parity with Alternative Sweeteners," August 1995.  High-intensity sweeteners replace the sweetness of sugar, but not its physical properties. Polyols and/or polymeric bulking agents can provide these functions. Some of these ingredients provide enough sweetness alone, but others must be combined with a high-intensity sweetener for the desired level of sweetness. High-intensity sweeteners approved for confections in this country include acesulfame-K, aspartame and saccharin. Sucralose can be used for candy in Canada.  Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols, include hydrogenated monosaccharides (mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol) and hydrogenated disaccharides (isomalt, maltitol and lactitol). Polymeric sucrose replacers include maltodextrins, polydextrose and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate (HSH). These ingredients have their own characteristics and should be chosen to match the application. Attributes that can impact the process or the finished confection include solubility, heat of solution, sweetness, caloric content, hygroscopicity, crystallization properties, humectancy, regulatory status, cariogenicity, and laxative threshold.  Using polyols can reduce calories as well as sugar. Recently, polyol manufacturers obtained agreement from the FDA that these sweeteners contribute less than 4 kcal/gram.  "By switching to isomalt from HSH, we are now able to make a 50% calorie reduction claim rather than the 25% reduction we were claiming," says Flanyak.  Mannitol is non-hygroscopic, which makes it useful as a dusting powder for panned products. However, this characteristic also makes mannitol difficult to use in hard candy. It can easily be incorporated into sucrose-free confectionery coatings, since fat is the continuous phase.  Sorbitol's dendritic crystals make it a good choice for tableting, and it is a popular ingredient in breath mints.  Xylitol is the only polyol that is equivalent to sucrose in sweetness. It produces the most pronounced cooling effect of the polyols. Xylitol works well for breath mints and chewing gums since it is non-cariogenic and has demonstrated cariostatic properties. Because of its cost, it is often used in combination with other sweeteners.  Isomalt produces hard candies that do not become sticky. Its low solubility sometimes reduces flavor release, making an additional sweetener and more flavoring ingredients necessary.  Maltitol has many functions similar to sucrose and is often used as a direct sucrose replacer in high quality sucrose-free chocolate products.  Lactitol is well suited for low-calorie, no-sugar-added panned products because it is non-hygroscopic, non-cariogenic and low calorie.  HSH is a 75% solids syrup that is non-crystallizing and non-reducing. It is relatively inexpensive and can be used easily with conventional equipment, so it is often used in hard candies. Hard candies that contain HSH are susceptible to cold flow, and it is best to use HSH with another bulking agent such as polydextrose to stabilize it. HSH and polydextrose can produce chewy candies that are not possible with many of the polyols.  Maltodextrin can provide texture, but it contributes little or no sweetness.  Polydextrose does not crystallize, so it can prevent graining (crystal development) in noncrystalline candies. It is highly soluble and is viscous in solution, so it can provide body. Polydextrose contains only 1 kcal/gram.  Replacing sugar with polyols, polymeric bulking agents, and high-intensity sweeteners in confections is a complex task. Suppliers can assist designers in choosing sugar-free ingredients for specific applications.  "Be sure to watch the particle size and shape of the bulking agents when formulating chocolate-type products. If they are wrong, they will require more fat to get the required flow characteristics, negating the benefit they were to provide," warns Minson.  The polyols do not participate in browning reactions. For candies like chocolate, toffee and caramel, where the browning action provides the characteristic flavor, polydextrose would be an appropriate choice.  "If price is not an objective," says Robert F. Boutin, Knechtel's executive vice president, "sugarless candy can be made that is as good as or better than its counterpart containing sugar. There are very good sugarless ingredients available today, but they can be expensive."Fat chances  Some candies do not contain fat, but when present it usually provides functional attributes. Fat can provide proper melting temperature, flavor, lubricity and texture, and it functions as a processing aid.  "We suggest for fat reduction to initially remove all of the fat except 1% to 2%. Then make sure that it is homogenized or spread out very well in the finished product. Often much of a formula's fat is not functionally used," says Boutin. "If the desired attributes aren't met with 1% to 2% fat, it can be added back, incrementally, to an acceptable level."  Replacing fat in low-moisture confections is more difficult than in high-moisture foods where water can replace many of the functions of fat. Depending on the product requirements, there are several options currently available.  Mariani Ingredient Products, Fremont, CA, has a group of multi-functional, dried fruit-based fat replacer systems. These products have low moisture and water activity; contribute fiber and nutrition; and provide sweetness, humectancy and texture improvement. They also are considered label friendly. The center of an Irish cream truffle has been formulated with 42% dried plum puree. Martin Silge, agent for Mariani, recommends leaving about 25% of the original fat in the formula for the best flavor.  "These fat-replacer systems work well in fondant centers because they are high in solids and cocoa may be used instead of chocolate to flavor them," says Silge. "They have been able to reduce the fat in a European-style soft truffle by 34%."  Chocolate is difficult to fat-reduce. Moisture is not compatible with chocolate, so water-based fat replacers are not an option. According to current chocolate standards, if a fat substitute is used, the product can no longer be called chocolate.  Fat makes up 30% to 35% of the chocolate formula. It suspends the cocoa and sucrose particles. The size of these particles influences how much fat is needed to suspend them, so the fat content may be reduced slightly by adjusting the particle size. However, unless the fat content falls within the specified range, the product cannot be called chocolate.  Benefat™ (salatrim), the reduced-calorie fat from Cultor Food Science Inc., Groton, CT, was designed for use in chocolate-flavored coatings and confections. It combines inherently low-calorie short-chain fatty acids and long-chain fatty acids, which the body doesn't fully digest, reducing the calories per gram from 9 to 5.  Salatrim functions the same as regular fat in a confectionery application. The melt point of the commercial confectionery product ranges between 93° and 98°F, depending on the exact system. As with many other fats, combining salatrim with cocoa butter or other fats usually creates a eutectic effect and lowers the melting point, softening the finished product. A Cultor spokesperson recommends that the maximum level of other fats used in combination with salatrim -- including that contained in the cocoa powder -- be no higher than 10% or instability and softening could result.Good taste  Flavorings usually require adjustments when sucrose and fat are reduced or replaced since they impact flavor delivery. "The aromatics may need to be adjusted to allow the flavor to come through balanced at the end," says Bob Barrera, manager of flavor application and development for Bell Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Northbrook, IL.  This adjustment is necessary on a case-by-case basis, and Barrera advises that the more information the flavorist has about how the confection is processed, where the flavor is added, the ingredients used and what has changed, the quicker and more accurately the flavor can be adjusted or a new one developed. Katz also notes the need for balancing sweetness and acid levels with the enrichments for optimum flavor.  Adding fruit to confections is a much easier task than replacing sucrose and fat. Fruit juice may be used as a sweetener or fat replacer, or it may add value in the form of pieces or small fruits. We will look at formulating with fruit in the December (1996) issue of Food Product Design.Back to top

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