'Some ingredients can help reduce sugar, but all have benefits and drawbacks'

Philippa Knight, senior product manager at Puratos UK, looks at the challenge of – and some of the possible solutions to – sugar reduction in baked goods.

"2020 is fast approaching and, with it, the deadline for Public Health England’s target to reduce sugar in nine food categories by 20%. Morning goods, cakes and biscuits are all under the spotlight.

There are three key ways to implement this: reduce the amount of sugar per 100g; reduce portion size; or shift purchasing patterns. These present wider challenges for the industry in terms of cost and consumer expectation, as sugar plays a pivotal role in taste, texture and shelf life. It is also the number one ingredient consumers look for when checking a nutritional label.

To deliver the best quality, the impact sugar reduction has on a product needs to be addressed. It’s not just sweetness that sugar brings where cakes are concerned. It has eight other important roles: flavour; colour; increased batter viscosity; slowing down protein coagulation; raising the starch gelatinisation temperature; enhancing moisture retention; controlling water activity; and helping to incorporate air.

All of these need to be taken into account when planning sugar reduction, and new combinations of ingredients can help. For instance, polydextrose and fructose are used in lower-calorie cake recipes to reduce the sugar.

Polydextrose is a soluble fibre with a little sweetness, and fructose is a ‘fruit sugar’ that is 1.73 times sweeter than sucrose. When the two are used together, they enable a sugar reduction while providing the equivalent sweetness delivered by sucrose.

There are various ingredients that can assist with reduction, but all have benefits and drawbacks and often add to the cost. Research has been conducted into new combinations of ingredients to facilitate reduction without loss of sweetness to the consumer.

Combining wheat dextrin and natural flavour, or polydextrose and natural flavour can achieve up to 25% sugar reduction in a recipe, while chicory root fibre and natural flavour can achieve up to 30% reduction. None of these combinations has an effect on fat or sat fat levels, but wheat dextrin has the largest calorie reduction.

At Puratos, we have golden rules when working on sugar reduction. We never compromise on taste or texture. We’ve been looking at natural fibres to replace sugars, allowing labels to be kept as clean as possible and adding the benefit of increased fibre. Reducing sugar while offering consumers the same taste at the same price is a challenge for the whole industry, but there are many solutions to be explored."

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