Natural, and sugar-reduced claims have made their way into the jelly and gummy category, Kiran Grewal explores how this sector has responded to consumer behaviour and adapted its technology.

Consumers’ changed attitude towards healthier food has created new and exciting opportunities for the food industry to make products that meet the current standards and expectations in food and beverage. In the jelly and gummies sector, the rise of healthy eating has led to increased opportunity in functional confectionery, active ingredients and vegan sweets. With consumers placing more demand and emphasis on production and processes as well as ingredients, new methods also are being developed to improve health, safety and hygiene systems.  

Keith Graham, Business Development Manager at Baker Perkins says: “There is a clear trend towards starch-free depositing as the preferred production process for jellies and gummies, rather than the traditional starch mogul – this was emphasised by visitors to the recent ProSweets exhibition.

“New companies seeking to enter the market, particularly in the functional sector, seem to be focusing on starch-free; current users of moguls would consider the process for new, niche products – but not yet as replacements for high-output mogul plants. Functional jellies and gummies are used to deliver a variety of ingredients including vitamins, minerals, CBD, fibre, protein, Omega-3, probiotics and energy supplements for sectors including nutraceutical, sports nutrition and pharmaceuticals,” he explains. 

Because of the negative connotations associated with pills and capsules, consumers prefer using gummy formats as a delivery mechanism for functional ingredients like vitamins and minerals.

Graham adds: “They are increasingly aware of the relationship between diet and wellbeing: functional confectionery appeals to people looking to boost their intake of essential nutrients. Confectionery is also particularly effective in the children’s supplement market because of its palatability. There is no doubt that the functional confectionery market will continue to expand in current markets and penetrate new ones.”     

Holger Brack, Head of Product Technology, Lab and Applications at Winkler und Dünnebier Süßwarenmaschinen GmbH (WDS) comments: “The use of natural and partly organic raw materials is also making its way into gums and jellies. In addition, the share of vegan products is growing immensely. Sugar-reduced products, OTC products and products with important nutritional supplements have partly double-digit growth rates. Thus, we see interesting trends in the area of ingredients and formulation of gum and jelly.” 

Starch-free processes

Any product that claims a functional benefit must have the active ingredients present in the quantities claimed. This requires the active ingredient to suffer minimal heat or mechanical degradation; that it is accurately dosed; and that the finished portions are precisely controlled.   

  1. Heat degradation. Active ingredients must be incorporated into the syrup after cooking and cooling, where considerable degradation would occur. Baker Perkins colour/flavour addition systems incorporate active ingredients into the syrup immediately before it enters the depositor, minimising losses. 
  1. Accurate dosing. For cost, quality and validation reasons Baker Perkins systems use a peristaltic pump for high precision dispensing of an exact amount of expensive ingredients. 
  1.  Control – There is high accuracy throughout the mixing, cooking and starch-free depositing process. In the medicated and functional fields, exactly the right proportion of active ingredients is added to ensure that the therapeutic dose is correct. Every deposited piece is precisely the same weight, and the process is reproducible. The consistency achieved by starch-free depositing ensures products have a high-quality appearance, taste and mouthfeel.     

Graham says: “The starch-free market has had considerable growth, focused on the functional/nutraceutical sectors. Depositing is at final solids, so although the products need time to set before being demoulded no drying is required. Setting time varies according to composition, from a few minutes for some pectin recipes up to a maximum of four hours for gelatin. This significantly reduces the time, energy and space required for post-depositing operations.”

The hygienic nature of starch-free cooking and depositing systems makes it ideal for production to validation standards for healthcare products. A big problem for producers of healthcare jellies and gummies is that the starch mogul process brings with it the risk of cross-contamination of the active ingredients. Starch-free depositing, on the other hand, is a simpler process with hygienic characteristics – solid moulds, non-contact ejection system, fully automatic wash-through function and no recycling of starch. 

“Starch-free depositing will quickly become the industry standard process for jellies and gummies for mid-range outputs. Even at the highest outputs it is possible to envisage starch-free becoming a viable alternative to starch moguls: as the technology develops two or three starch-free lines could easily match mogul output while the absence of drying and starch handling will reduce capital and running costs, particularly energy and cleaning,” Graham concludes.

Looking at the other side of the coin, although starch-free is beneficial for OTC products and nutritional supplements, Brack at WDS believes it is not yet competitive enough for the entire market. He explains: “Jelly and gummy production in moulding starch is still very important due to flexible moulding technology and by changing the stamps, new product shapes can be implemented very quickly and cost-effectively.

“Many products require post-drying in the moulding starch to produce a desired hard texture. This includes those products that crystallise specifically due to moisture removal in the moulding starch, such as toffees (fudge) or liqueur pralines. Starch-free moulding technology is therefore not competitive for consumer products.” 

Plant-based offerings 

Consumers are becoming more interested in plant-based foods, and this has opened new avenues for confectionery categories. In 2021 alone The Vegan Society registered an impressive 16,439 products with The Vegan Trademark, with over 82% of product registrations having come in the last five years. Veganuary, a month-long pledge to follow a Vegan diet and lifestyle in January, racked up over 600,000 sign-ups for 2022. When asked whether this trend is set to continue, both Graham and Brack agree and say: “The vegan trend will continue to gain ground. The selection of raw materials for gums and jellies is also becoming more and more elaborate. Snacking, albeit now by very modest means, must have healthy claims,” Brack says.
Graham adds: “There is some interest in developing gummies and jellies that do not contain gelatin, particularly from the nutraceutical sector, as vegan products would extend the target market.”

Quality assurance in gummy confectionery

The fruit and gum market constantly innovates, introducing new products and imaginative mixtures. The challenge is that these complex end products must meet ever-increasing quality demands. Quality has to be maintained continuously, to retain regular customers and avoid losing them to competing products. This means the trends are for quality assurance and differentiation in the market, through the fulfilment of quality requirements. Brand reputation is so important, yet in the confectionery business all it takes is one momentary slip in standards for this to be damaged and devalued. If just one batch of defective products should reach the end of the production line – or worse still, a foreign material potentially harmful to health – the commercial repercussions can be catastrophic. Which means that installing optical sorting machines on confectionery lines is crucial not only for product quality, but also for food safety.

Christian Hofsommer, Area Sales Manager at TOMRA says: “Quality requirements for jelly and gums are diverse and sometimes very market-specific. In all markets, of course, it is essential for production lines to detect and remove all types of foreign materials, such as metal, wood, plastic, and even particles of glass.”

In addition to taking care of food safety, there’s also the need to achieve consistently high product quality. This means guarding against cross contamination, deformed or clumped products, and starch clumps, which can get into the product stream after the jelly preparation is dried and removed from the mould. “Fortunately, there is an effective solution to this problem, because TOMRA’s sorting technology can distinguish the white starch on the back of certain jelly products,” Hofsommer says.

Another challenge arises from the fact that sorting machines can be located on the line before or after the product is oiled, depending on the factory layout, but oiling can make the product sticky and sorting trickier. This demands a very particular type of product handling. Giving his insight, Hofsommer adds: “We resolve this by using specialised feeding and discharge systems. These ensure the smooth product flow essential to achieving the best sorting performance.” 

“In the confectionery business all it takes is one momentary slip in standards to be damaged and devalued”

Christian hofsommer, tomra

Confectionery ingredients can be costly, and this means sorters must remove unwanted materials and imperfect products without also throwing away good products. That’s why sorters are designed, developed, and fine-tuned on-site to eject unwanted materials with minimal product loss. “To minimise food waste and maximise yield, any good product ejected from the line can be recuperated when rejected materials are double-checked by running them through a sorter for a second time,” he explains.

A sustainable future through increased automation

Today’s confectionery market, like others in food, is being changed by the need for sustainability. More people are now aware that it is crucial to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and take better care of our planet’s limited resources. Retailers and consumers want to see food manufacturers addressing these concerns by implementing sustainable business practices and taking active measures to minimise food waste.   

Sorting technologies achieve an accuracy that manual sorting simply cannot. And at the same time as looking over the production line like guardian angels, automated sorters also enhance product hygiene, solve labour-related challenges, increase throughput, maximise yield, and gather data that can unlock further improvements in line efficiency.   

In addition to taking care of food safety and product quality, sorting machines also help solve the challenges traditionally associated with employing manual sorters – an effective pill for headaches caused by labour scarcity, cost, variable effectiveness, and absenteeism. And whereas manual sorting is unavoidably subjective, imperfect, and more vulnerable to error when labourers are tired or bored, automated sorters can work for hour after hour with superior accuracy, consistent standards, and unflagging efficiency.

Changing consumer attitudes has shaped more prominence in sustainable systems, food safety, natural ingredients and added health benefits, as well as the need for innovation and creating new experiences in gummies and jelly. Although this may seem a tall order, the confectionery industry has responded with enthusiasm and demonstrates its ability to adapt its technology, whether it be sorting or moulding, to meet the needs of the market.  

3D Confectionery 

Holger Brack, Head of Product Technology, Lab and Applications at Winkler und Dünnebier Süßwarenmaschinen GmbH (WDS) explains how the company has used moulding technology to achieve a new style of gummy confectionery. He says: “All deposited fruit gums (depending on type of plant and product) are two-dimensional and thus have a flat and non-shaped back. Accordingly, 3D products manufactured with the book-mould technology enable a completely new shaping. 3D products are given realistic shapes and thus clearly stand out from all others.”  
WDS uses chocolate moulding technology that has been perfected for many years. The products are deposited into two half moulds which are then precisely folded together. This process allows a wide variety of masses such as gum, jelly, toffee, candy and fondant masses to be moulded in three dimensions. This flexibility would not be possible at all with the method of depositing through a bunghole into previously folded moulds. This new process can also be used to add fillings and solid ingredients without problems.   
In addition to the new 3D moulding, projects with starchless and clean moulding have recently been increasingly implemented in the OTC product sector. Here, too, WDS is guided by its own chocolate moulding technology, which has been thoroughly developed in all sub-steps, with regimented moulding. 

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal