The learnings that inspired exquisite chocolates created by confectionery experts at a recent Australian Industry Group workshop will be used to develop sweet treats on supermarket shelves in the future. 

The hands-on workshop, which followed Ai Group’s ConTech2024 confectionery industry event in Melbourne in May, brought together leading manufacturers including Nestlé, Chocolatier, Darrell Lea, Ferndale Foods Australia, Corvina Foods, Carroll Partners and Fresh Food Industries.   

Co-facilitator Andy Van den Broeck, of chocolate and cocoa product manufacturer Barry Callebaut, said the two-day event at the William Angliss Institute school of confectionery allowed participants (pictured above) to explore the technical characteristics of a range of confectionery filling fats and their suitability in different processes and applications.   

The group was encouraged to consider innovations for product stability, shelf life, texture, alternative ingredients and milk fat replacers. 

“I do believe we will see some of their creations come to market, not necessarily exactly as they were done during the workshop, but something similar, for sure,” Mr Van den Broeck said. 

Some of the treats created at the post-ConTech 2024 chocolate workshop.

Fellow co-facilitator Lulu Allorde Pedrajeta, of plant-based oils and fats specialist AAK, said: “A few of the participants already do a little bit of work with some of these types of fillings, but we wanted to broaden their horizons to show them what else is possible. 

Fillings are a key ingredient to making confectionery creations indulgent, to extend the sensorial experience and enjoyment.” 

The workshop comprised a little bit of theory and a lot of experimenting with core filling fats, coloured cocoa butters and other ingredients such as fruit, syrups and cookie pieces to create a multi-sensorial experience of taste and texture. 

The group was split into teams of three and had the freedom to let their imaginations roam.  

“They could do what they wanted,” Mr Van den Broeck said. 

“Each group created a minimum of three products, and one had up to five. 

“There were certainly some ‘wow’ moments, mostly to do with unlikely combinations that were surprisingly pleasant. 

“Coming together like this, thanks to Ai Group, is a unique opportunity. There was a lot of interaction, questions asked and chocolate sampled.” 

The creativity of the previous post-ConTech chocolate workshop in 2022 has already achieved impressive results. 

At that workshop, themed Life is like a box of chocolates, participants were encouraged to challenge new product development boundaries while exploring international trends such as plant-based and low-sugar treats.   

“We told them how you could add ingredients to chocolate to create certain benefits such as energy or relaxation,” Mr Van den Broeck said. 

“Whittaker’s, one of the participants in 2022, embraced this challenge and has since brought to market its limited-edition mood blocks — the ‘relax’ block featuring passionfruit and chamomile and the ‘refresh’ block infused with Yakima peppermint oil and lavender extract.” 

It’s this kind of innovation that makes facilitating the post-ConTech workshop so exciting for Mr Van den Broeck. 

“It’s about sharing knowledge and seeing participants take what they learn and give it their own spin as they create something new,” he said. 

“Everyone needs fresh inspiration: the participants may be experts within their respective companies, but there is always more to learn. 

“We all benefit from these incredible Ai Group workshops.” 

Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is Communications Manager at the Australian Industry Group. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, the News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.