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Finding the Sweetspot with Sugar Alternatives


Piece of cake

Sugar does much more than just improve the taste of baked goods and make them too good to resist.  They are an important part of the chemical process that goes to making sure that cakes, breads and other baked treats have the desired texture, bulk, mouthfeel, aroma and colour.


The challenge for food producers is finding sugar alternatives that does not compromise the taste experience.

 

It also helps to brown goods quickly and evenly because it caramelises when heated; is hygroscopic and thus helps to baked goods hold onto moisture keeping them moist and tender and prevents them from going stale as quickly as baked goods made without sugar.


Its moisture-grabbing character also helps to delay gluten development; helps with leavening of baked goods by providing a structure for gas expansion in the oven thus promoting lift and rise in baked goods.

 

Although there are several different sweetening options available, none taste or more importantly behave exactly like sugar.

 

Other issues to consider when looking at sugar alternatives including sweeteners, for example is whether they are nutritive or non-nutritive; how sweet they are compared to sugar; their ease of use; heat stability; how the product reacts with other ingredients; after taste and compatibility with other sweeteners and laxative effect.

 

Furthermore, because sugar does more than one thing, it is impossible to replace it with just one thing.  Multiple ingredients are needed to fulfil all the other roles it performs.  This is not only because of the chemistry involved but also due to physical quantities.  Many of the sugar alternatives – be they artificial or natural – are significantly sweeter than sugar, and are therefore required in much lower quantities, which affects the bulk of products.

 

Solving the bulk problem with sugar alternatives

Bulking agents like maltodextrin can be used, however if reducing calories is what manufacturers are after then this is not ideal as maltodextrin actually has a similar number of calories to sugar.


A combination of sweetening options and thickeners may therefore be needed to guarantee a palatable outcome.  This is easier in sweet baked goods and has been achieved in some instances but has not been as successful in breads.

 

Sweet(er) alternative

Sucralose has become a popular replacement for sugar. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar and has zero calories, is easy-to-use although it performs best in dairy products as well as in beverages and candies.


Saccharine, Sodium Cyclamate, Aspartame and Acesulfame K are also popular alternatives to sugar and are used in many food products.

 

Smart consumers

Consumers are also becoming smarter and savvier and are more specific about what goes into their food – and whilst most sugar alternatives are recognised as being safe, there remains some resistance to synthetic sugar alternatives with a growing demand for ‘clean, sustainable’ ingredients.

 

This is driving the demand for natural sweeteners such as monk fruit, stevia, agave nectar, date syrup and coconut palm sugar.


Chemgrit Food is a supplier of sugar and sugar alternatives to the food and beverage industry. For information contact Chemgrit Food.

 

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