Americans love chocolate. So, why don’t more snack cakes and other baked foods feature chocolate fillings, especially the soft, pudding-like ones that have such great kid appeal?

The reason: Typical chocolate fillings dry out the crumb significantly over time when used in small-sized snack cakes and similar items. “Chocolate represents only 4% of the ready-to-use fillings market in the US,” said Jo Libens, senior product manager, fillings, Puratos NV/SA, Groot-Bijgaarden, Belgium.

Blame water activity. In foods, water naturally moves from wetter areas to drier ones, from the moister crumb into the drier fillings. Fat-based fillings are particularly troublesome because they contain so little water anyway.

Puratos introduced the Cremfil Ultim line of white and dark chocolate fillings to solve such problems. The water-based fillings contain 25% real chocolate yet hold their moisture to allow preparation of baked snacks with injected soft centers. “The ability to maintain an ideal crumb structure and filling properties throughout the whole value chain until consumption is a real breakthrough,” Mr. Libens said.

By controlling the water activity of the fillings, the freshness of soft bakery and pastry items improves markedly. For example, soft chocolate-filled buns — a familiar snack in Europe — harden 40% less with Cremfil Ultim fillings than those with fat-based fillings when measured after one month. The texture of the filling stays soft and creamy throughout the finished product’s shelf life.

In the US, sweet goods such as muffins, cupcakes and snack bars are the main targets for soft chocolate fillings. These categories already account for about 25% of the US market for ready-to-use fillings and are well-positioned for growth. “These types of products are in line with the ‘meal mobility’ and ‘snacking on the go’ trends identified in our recent Taste Tomorrow Consumer Forecast,” Mr. Libens observed.

Softness is the key benefit to the new chocolate line. Soft chocolate centers are an emerging trend for many types of cakes, muffins, croissants and cookies, according to Mr. Libens. Fillings, particularly chocolate ones, reinforce the indulgent perception of bakery snacks.

But there are also calorie savings to be earned. These water-based fillings contain less than 10% fat. “A typical ‘white and fluffy’ filling has approximately 20% fat and 460 Cal per 100 g,” Mr. Libens said. “The Cremfil Ultim Chocolate, with only 9% fat and 300 Cal per 100 g, reduces the fat and calorie content of the filling by 55% and 35%, respectively.”

Because water-based fillings have fewer calories than the crumb on an equal weight basis, the finished filled product carries lower calorie counts than unfilled items.

Cremfil Ultim fillings are already being produced at the company’s US manufacturing facility in Pennsauken, NJ. Puratos is about to install a state-of-the-art line to increase capacity and allow preparation of additional flavors and those made without artificial preservatives.

Fillings are no small matter for Puratos, a worldwide bakery ingredients supplier with US offices at Cherry Hill, NJ. It produces nearly half of its fillings as custom-tailored solutions, shipped in bulk totes and containers. Mr. Libens said that more commercial bakers are moving away from in-house prep in favor of prepared fillings. For more information, visit