Sugar Replacement in Bakery

Written by Kaye Harris and Mahshid Farahani

Reduced sugar is the talk of the town. While we all know consumers don’t want to give up their favourite indulgences, there is an increasing demand for less sugary versions. In other words, consumers are looking for permissible indulgences. In fact, research firm Mintel estimates that up to 1 in 3 consumers are interested in reduced-sugar baked goods. While there has been significant interest in ‘better for you’ baking for some time, this article will focus solely on the question of sugar replacement in bakery applications. Because although sugar-reduced bakery items are a great opportunity for the industry, they also present a significant challenge.

 

Replacing Sweetness

Unfortunately, sugar cannot be replaced by simply adding a sweetener, since it has so many other functional properties. This is a significant issue and one which offers many choices. First and foremost, you will need to consider whether you want to use a natural sweetener or an artificial sweetener. Generally speaking, consumers view natural sweeteners much more favourably. There is a common perception that artificial sweeteners are unhealthy, and as such, some consumers will avoid these ingredients. Even with natural sweeteners, there is sometimes a lack of trust, so you will need to educate your consumers on the sweeteners that you’re using. Mintel has suggested that linking natural sweeteners back to their plant-based origins may be helpful in reinforcing their safety to consumers.

Another consideration when replacing sweetness is the question of how well sweeteners will ‘carry’ the flavours in your product? And of course, how will you counter the bitter notes that both natural and artificial sweeteners can confer when used above certain thresholds? While these are ultimately dependent on your individual product, simple additions like vanilla flavouring can help to bring out the existing sweetness and mask any unpleasant bitter notes.

In general, these are the best options that we’ve found when replacing sweetness in bakery applications:

  • Steviol Glycosides (SG) and Glucosylated Steviol Glycosides (GSG): Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. It creates sweetness late in the mouth. However, it can produce a bitter taste so is best used in combination.
  • Monk Fruit: Also a natural sweetener, monk fruit comes from a gourd found in Southeast Asia. It is around 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Thaumatin: A natural sweetener sourced from the katemfe fruit found in West Africa. It is considered a protein rather than a carbohydrate, unlike many other natural sweeteners, and is around 2000 times sweeter than sugar. It has a very ‘sugar-like’ profile, and the sweetness also comes through early. Because of this, it can work well paired with stevia. It can also work as a masking agent.
Sweetness Curve Over Time
Graph courtesy of Daepyung, 2021.

 

Taste Profile
Graph courtesy of Daepyung, 2021.

 

 

Texture Considerations

While replacing sweetness may seem like the most important aspect of replacing sugar, texture considerations are equally significant. Mouthfeel is critical to giving a good eating experience, and this cannot be achieved in sugar-reduced bakery products by removing sugar and simply adding sweeteners. Similarly, removing sugar from your product will also affect its moisture retention and crumb texture. Reducing sugar in baked goods will in most cases make the product drier, denser and result in a tighter crumb structure making it harder to swallow. This is because water binds to sugar, which helps to retain moisture during the baking process. Consequently, when you remove sugar, you are no longer retaining moisture. Of course, a dry and crumbly product isn’t something that consumers want, so it is crucial to find ways to improve this. As well as this, sugar is a bulking agent, which adds further complexity.

In our experience, the best options for improving texture in sugar-reduced bakery applications are as follows:

  • Starch: Starch helps to improve moisture retention and batter viscosity. Starch derivatives such as maltodextrin or sugar polyols such as erythritol can be used as bulking agents in combination with other starches to help to achieve a desirable texture and mouthfeel.
  • Soluble and insoluble fibres: Both soluble and insoluble fibres can assist in moisture retention and batter viscosity, with the added benefit of being clean label. There is also the possibility of prebiotic claims with these ingredients.
  • Hydrocolloids: Using hydrocolloids can provide better flavour release. Due to their concentrated nature, they can be used in lower dosages while achieving similar textual results.
Noshu Birthday Cake Donut Via Insta
Noshu, 95% Sugar-Free Birthday Cake Donut (2021). Image via @noshufoods on Instagram.

 

 

Appearance and Shelf-Life Considerations

The other considerations we recommend focusing on are end appearance and shelf-life – both of which are important to get right. In regular bakery products, the sugar content helps to extend shelf-life and control spoilage. So, you will need to come up with a strategy to handle this when you remove sugar from your product. In terms of appearance, the colour, shape, yield (either height or spread) can all be affected by removing sugar from the product. This is very unique to the product, so we recommend working closely with technical experts to determine the best solution to these issues.

When you’re thinking about mitigating any shelf-life risks, keeping a very close eye on the water activity (aW) and following the HACCP plan for each product is a good place to start. Using sugar alcohols will help to control the water activity (aW) and adding maltodextrins and fibres can help to bulk out the product.

 

Shelby's Lemon And Coconut Cookies Via Website
Shelby’s Healthy Hedonism, Lemon Coconut Cookie (2021). No refined sugar and no artificial sweeteners. Image via https://shelbyshh.com/.

 

How Can We Help?

As this overview has shown, sugar replacement in bakery applications is no simple matter! There are many complexities you need to navigate in order to successfully reduce sugar in your baked goods. Ultimately, this will all depend on your exact product and the unique difficulties you’re facing.

We have a range of blended products specifically designed to meet the challenges of sugar reduction. Our SwitcH range offers simple sugar replacement solutions that tick all the boxes – taste, texture, appearance and shelf-life. As well as this, our highly experienced technical team are available to work directly on your project with you in our on-site labs.

So, if you’re working on sugar reduction in baked goods at the moment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Email: kaye@hawkinswatts.com.au

Call: 03 6165 0329

 

 

 

References

Mintel – A Year of Innovation in Cakes, Pastries and Sweet Goods 2021.

Mintel – Patent Insights: sugar reduction 2020.

https://www.happyway.com.au/blogs/news/what-exactly-is-thaumatin