While bakery consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a sweet treat, there’s one flavour that seems to be fighting off the competition at the moment: caramel.
This tasty confection is highly versatile, there’s not much else that can outdo caramel. From the colour, through to the taste and texture or the way you can use it – the possibilities are endless.
Caramel’s popularity really took off in the 19th century when the price of refined sugar dropped making it more accessible. In the US, the mid 1800s saw caramel boom thanks to Hershey’s (today better known for its chocolate), which was involved in the large-scale production of caramel under the name Lancaster Caramel Company. In more recent years and closer to home we’ve seen an explosion in the use of caramel flavours. Between 2015 and 2019 the number of products launched in sweet categories with caramel flavour doubled across Europe (Innova Market Insights 2020), the Middle East and Africa.
Everyone loves caramel
You only have to think of the word caramel and you can practically taste the indulgent, smooth, rich flavour of this ingredient. UK consumers already have a fondness for this taste. Adding it to your products makes sense in order to attract new customers and introduce them to some new caramel-enhanced products. Commercially it makes sense too – according to Innova caramel came third as the most desired flavour in chocolate confectionery within Western Europe, only beaten by hazelnut and almonds.
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Caramel: the trend setting ingredient
It seems that not only is its flavour helping boost its popularity but also the fact that it falls so neatly into some of the key trends we’re seeing for this year and beyond.
Two key trends for this year are nostalgia and comfort foods – and caramel fits in nicely to both. As we emerge tentatively from lockdown consumers are seeking a new kind of comfort, in the way of small indulgences to look forward to. Nostalgia harnesses tastes from childhood and which have the power to transport them to happy memories. Whether it’s Granny baking a caramel apple betty to enjoy warm from the oven or sharing a big bag of caramels with friends and gleefully unwrapping them, there are few ingredients that can so powerfully move you.
Caramel also has the ability to elevate any sweet treat– a third trend to keep an eye on, as customers demand more premium products. The beauty of using caramel in this way is that they already know and love the taste of caramel. Bakeries can add caramel to everyday favourites – such as doughnuts, brownies and blondies – to give them a more indulgent taste and feel. They can also harness the popularity of caramel to create new, tempting products that feel decadent such as teaming it with chocolate, pear or honeycomb in pies, tarts and muffins.
Addicted to caramel
We first started to see the power of caramel to elevate a bake with salted caramel – which has seen its popularity soar and is showing no signs of slowing. It’s hard to believe that caramel could be improved upon, but its salted cousin achieved just that, and now scientists say it’s the perfect combination of ingredients to leave people wanting more.
A team at the University of Florida found that when we eat something sweet, salty or fatty, our brain releases endogenous opioids, chemicals that produce a calming effect. When we eat salted caramel we get a hit of all three taste sensations triggering a phenomenon known as ‘hedonic escalation’. This is the opposite of ‘hedonic adaptation’, which tends to occur with most other foods and refers to when you reach the point of knowing you’ve had enough. When it comes to salted caramel it seems our brains instinctively crave more – which makes it a clever addition to muffins, cookies and other sweet treats.
Every bakery worth their salt will be selling a Millionaire’s shortbread, where caramel is used to great effect when thickly sandwiched between crisp shortbread and rich chocolate. But why stop there? Over on Instagram, there are currently 6.1million posts using #caramel, the sticky ingredient making mouths water from behind the screen.
Let’s face it you can’t reinvent the wheel and the world of bakery is no different. Coming up with new and innovative flavours is tough, but many bakers are focusing on delivering new twists to traditional flavours. Salted caramel and other caramel varieties continue to dominate bakeries in the UK but we think the UK’s bakers are going to dream up ever-more inventive flavours to tempt customers through their doors.
The future of caramel
For bakers keen to mix things up further, there’s also room for experimentation with the flavour of caramel you use too. Salted caramel has been something of a flavour sensation for several years now, but why stop there. At Bakels, our caramel manufacturing facilities allow us to play tunes with a number of caramel varieties according to season and customer taste.
What’s new in caramel?
The demand for caramel creations continues and it’s our duty to respond to this and provide innovative caramel varieties to delight consumer taste buds.
Chocolate Millionaires Caramel PF
Raspberry Millionaires Caramel PF
Introduced in 2020, Raspberry Millionaires Caramel PF provides a punchy caramel variety for perfectly suited to Valentine’s Day and the spring/summer months. Free from palm oil and containing a natural flavour, its versatile qualities allows bakers to create a whole host of brighty and fruity creations.
Caramel to match your needs
The beauty of our manufacturing facility means we can tailor caramels to align with your taste, consistency, colour and application requirements. From RTU Caramel Sauce, ideal for drizzling over premium sweet patisserie products or ice cream, to Low-AW Caramel, perfect for long shelf life on-the-go bars, Low Sugar Caramel for health-focussed customer requirements and even Vegan Caramel PF for an increasing demand for vegan indulgence, Bakels can be your one stop shop for caramel ingredients.