Sugar Reduction Approaches

Posted on:September 7, 2018

Many questions are raised before innovation begins in a process such as sugar reduction, including: How do you grow in emerging markets? How do you get smart from the beginning? What features should you include? What products will let you compete? How can we lean on local partners but assure quality? Susan Mayer, MSc, CFS, Innovation Advisor with RTI International, discussed these questions as she began her presentation titled “An Innovative Approach to Sugar Reduction.”

Anchoring her presentation on an approach by RTI International, she explained that the non-profit research institute uses a Desirability Feasibility Viability (DFV) Framework to identify intersections at which innovation is found, as it provides solutions across the supply chain and frames the challenge throughout the innovation process.

Susan Mayer, MS, CFS, Innovation Advisor with RTI International, Research Triangle, NC, in her 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference Presentation

During the Desirability phase, the needs of the end-user and customer are understood. The product may be sold to a customer, who may not be the ultimate consumer, thus leading to the following: What are the perceived real benefits for the customer and the user? What drives purchase decisions for products?

In looking at Feasibility, what are physical, biological, contextual and environmental requirements? In early development stages, you’re looking a little more broadly than simply whether you can make the product in your plant. How can you learn from others who have made something similar? Also, how might products, partners and expertise be leveraged? Viability involves identification of the market opportunity and business model to grow and scale an innovation. That is, ask yourself who the consumer is and what do they want? What is the consumer willing to pay? Can you make it? Should you make it? Will the new product give you a unique advantage over the competitor, or is the new product going to cannibalize an existing product?

In looking specifically at sugar reduction, understanding the Desirability challenges requires understanding what aspects or definitions of “sugar reduction” are important to consumers. Consumers may associate certain brands with higher sugar, which may open the pathway for a new brand, perhaps with emerging ingredients. Those wanting lower grams of sugar might be satisfied with smaller serving or package sizes.

Consumers wanting “no added sugar” may give rise to products made with fruit flavors, which often provide by sweet flavor and sweet-related taste. Products made with ingredients providing perceived-to-be-healthy benefits along with sweetness may include the addition of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) that can be labeled as probiotics, or those containing fiber, such as inulin. Consumers may simply want reduced sugar—requiring bulk replacement, plus other formula adjustments to maintain taste and texture.

In considering Feasibility, the product developer must determine whether the product is manufacturable and where it can be made. If the equipment isn’t available, can more equipment be leased, or can the product be co-packed elsewhere? Food safety and stability are also critical and must be addressed.

At the Viability stage, the question becomes: Should we make this? Can ingredients, packaging and the process be adjusted so the product’s viable cost meets the price point? In addition, can the product get from production to distribution to the consumer at the desired shelflife?

For example, in assessing the DFV Framework of a product such as Wella Chilled Organic Protein Bars (see sidebar “Eight Sweeteners, One Anti-Sweetener”), there are challenges in all aspects, including the target market, product texture and market competition. Is the product meeting consumer needs? Can the product be placed where they want or expect to find it? The refrigerated protein bars claim of “wild flower honey” listed on the front of the package may appeal to consumers who prefer high-end honey products.

Applying Framework balance is key. Take smart, early steps; “fail fast,” then adjust, suggests Mayer. Leverage partners to fill skill or resource gaps. The DFV Framework allows the product developer to look at things more objectively. Are the pieces balanced or is more emphasis placed in one direction more than another?

Ultimately, consumers will decide what is desirable, but the product has to be feasible and the business must be viable to achieve success.

“An Innovative Approach to Sugar Reduction,” Susan Mayer, MS, CFS, Innovation Advisor with RTI International, Research Triangle, NC

Polyols: Properties, Trends & Labeling

Posted on:September 5, 2018

Peter Jamieson, MSc, Principal and Food Scientist, Atlas Point Technical Services in his 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference Presentation
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“Sugars can be classified as monosaccharides, disaccharides or mixtures, such as corn syrup. The key to using polyols for sugar reduction is to select a polyol with similar structure and functional properties as the sugar that you are replacing,” said Peter Jamieson, MSc, Principal and Food Scientist, Atlas Point Technical Services, in his presentation “On Trend Ingredients: Polyols Properties, Labeling & Emerging Areas of Interest.”

Sucrose is the gold standard, because it is the sweetener to which other sugars are most often compared. Sucrose has unique properties, including its sweetness profile, solubility, melting point characteristics and crystallization characteristics. “Trying to replace sucrose is challenging, but polyols or sugar alcohols work well,” said Jamieson.

Polyols are metabolized differently than traditional sugars and carbohydrates. They have a lower glycemic response, lower calories and are also non-cariogenic. Polyols also provide excellent bulk, whereas high-potency sweeteners do not, so polyols can typically be used as a one-for-one replacement for other sweeteners in traditional foods.

Glucose has a reactive aldehyde group. The polyol sorbitol is similar in structure, but the aldehyde has been replaced by a hydroxyl group. This change makes sorbitol no longer recognized as a sugar for nutrition labeling. Replacing traditional sweeteners with polyols can enable products to make nutritional claims, including “no sugar added,” “reduced sugar” or “sugar free.”

Monomers with a single carbohydrate unit (e.g., glucose and fructose) include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and erythritol. Dimers with two carbohydrate units (e.g., sucrose and maltose) include maltitol, lactitols and isomalt. Mixtures include maltitol syrup and polyglycitol syrups. Polyols with more than 50% maltitol are called “polyglycitol syrups” and function more like high-DE corn syrups.

Polyols are caloric sweeteners. For example, maltitol has 2.1 calories per gram. They are “carbohydrates,” but they are not recognized as “sugars” or “added sugars” on the nutrition panel. You must call them out in the nutritional panel as “sugar alcohols” when making a sugar claim.

Jamieson explained some of the physical characteristics of polyols. Polyols are non-reactive and very stable at high temperatures. Polyols do not react with colors, flavors or actives. They do not participate in Maillard browning, which can be either a positive or negative attribute, depending on the application.

Generally, polyols have a negative heat of solution, so energy is being absorbed, resulting in a cooling sensation. Erythritol has a heat of solution of -42, compared to sucrose with a -4. When replacing sugar in chocolates, too much erythritol can make milk chocolate taste like mint chocolate.

Solubility in water is a key attribute that affects performance in baked goods, confectionery, beverages and variegates. Polyols have a wide range of solubility. Sorbitol is very soluble and is often used as a humectant. In contrast, mannitol is not very soluble.

Molecular weight of polyols affects viscosity in confections; freeze point depression in ice creams; and starch gelatinization point in baked goods. When replacing sucrose with a molecular weight of 342, good choices would be maltitol or isomalt, which both have a similar molecular weight.

Relative sweetness is important, especially as companies are tending to minimize use of high-potency sweeteners. Note that xylitol has the same sweetness as sucrose, while lactitol is only 40% as sweet.

Polyols are part of the family of low-digestible carbohydrates (LDC) that also includes polysaccharides, resistant starches and rare sugars. Rare or low digestible sugars include allulose, tagatose and isomaltulose. All LDCs have some degree of impact on the digestive tract. Some have an effect on osmotic laxation, while others impact fermentation by microflora in the GI. Individuals have different responses to LDCs and can adapt to increased levels of LDC in the diet.

A current trend is to focus on sugar reduction, rather than total sugar replacement. The goal should be to deliver a good eating experience.

“On Trend Ingredients: Polyols Properties, Labeling & Emerging Areas of Interest,” Peter Jamieson, MSc, Principal and Food Scientist, Atlas Point Technical Services

Natural Sweetener Characteristics and Uses

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Mary Mulry, Ph.D., CFS, Managing Director, Foodwise One LLC, from her 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation.

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Sweeteners have a variety of functional properties, including taste, texture and crystal control, among others. Yet, with diabetes on the rise and an increased focus on nutrition and well-being, consumers are demanding more healthful products, including those with reduced sugar, low-glycemic indices, and low-carb and all-natural ingredients. Thus, product developers must not only understand taste, texture and functionality, but the nutritive value of the products they create.

The increased focus on nutrition puts the emphasis squarely on glycemic index, which has a lot to do with not raising blood sugar, said Mary Mulry, Ph.D., Managing Director, FoodWise One, LLC in her presentation “Functional Properties and Applications of Natural Sweeteners.”

Fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar like glucose (dextrose), but there are concerns about its use. HFCS is a very functional and inexpensive sweetener, but over-consumption can lead to obesity and other health issues, as well. And, in today’s market, there’s more focus on organic and non-GMO. Corn is a highly modified crop and has a poor reputation in the natural foods market. These demands are slowly moving into the conventional market.

Blending sweeteners is important, whether nutritive or non-nutritive are used. Satiety and satiation are important in choosing ingredients. Sweeteners neither bring satiety nor satiation, unless they are blended with other macronutrients, such as fiber or protein. Alternative natural sweeteners have become increasingly important. Consumers desire natural-sounding ingredients and those that are non-GMO and organic. Additionally, their diet, such as Paleo, may dictate the sweeteners used. Another consideration is that food formulators might want to make a health declaration on the ingredient statement.

These natural alternative sweeteners include honey, which is versatile and has a distinctive flavor and high humectancy but can be costly and is non-vegan. Another natural alternative is maple syrup, which is vegan; has a range of flavor profiles; meets the Paleo diet restrictions (as does honey)—but is more costly than other alternatives. Agave has a clean taste and a low glycemic index, because it is high in fructose. It is available raw (i.e., not heated above 118°F). However, agave’s high fructose level can also be a negative with some consumers. Brown rice syrups are available in multiple Dextrose Equivalents (DE) that have different sweetener profiles with different functionalities. And, lastly, molasses is used frequently in pet foods.

Other syrups include: tapioca syrup, which has a clean flavor and can be used by
itself or blended with other sweeteners; and yacon syrup, a relatively new sweetener, which is less sweet because it contains 50% fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and 35% fructose. A prebiotic claim can be made when used, but presently reliability of supply is questionable.

Inulin syrups are less sweet and have a lower DE, but contain more FOS and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) that can reduce sweetness and have a binding property that makes them suitable for bars, for example. Other syrups include date, sweet potato, balsamic, sorghum and pomegranate.

Sweeteners are designed to make foods more palatable and have other functional characteristics, but they shouldn’t be a large part of the daily nutritional profile. Sweeteners are an additive, not a food, and should be used in moderation. As a product developer, it’s important to know what the consumer wants. Consumers rely on the internet for information and believe what they read. These factors should be considered when choosing a sweetener system, but overall, moderation is key.

“Functional Properties and Applications of Natural Sweeteners,” Mary C. Mulry, Ph.D., CFS, Managing Director, Foodwise One LLC, Longmont, CO,

Reducing Sugar in Baked Products

Posted on:September 4, 2018

David Busken, Principal, Bakery Development Ltd., chart from his 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation
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“I am just a simple baker,” began David Busken, Principal and Consultant with Bakery Development Ltd. Well, that’s understating it a bit: He’s a master commercial baker and the descendant of a long line of professional bakers.

Busken presented a list of sweeteners typically utilized in bakery goods development. Whereas American bakers traditionally worked with sucrose, honey, glucose (dextrose) or a range of hydrolyzed corn syrups, the field of sweetener ingredients has expanded considerably as consumer preferences have changed and enzyme technology has advanced.

Highest in sugar content on Busken’s list were the simple sugars and disaccharides, dried fructose and sucrose, each with 100% sugar content. Lower on the list were: molasses (67%); 42 Dextrose Equivalent (DE) corn syrup solids (27.5%), which consist primarily of dextrins and maltodextrins; and inulin (9.5%), a fructo-oligosaccharide. DE, a measure of reducing-sugar content, designates the degree of enzymatic hydrolysis to which a starch material has been subjected.

Fructo-oligosaccharides, which are relatively new as food ingredients, may contain moderate or high levels of fructose sugar, depending upon their degree of hydrolysis. Suppliers of inulin (a fructo-oligosaccharide) typically offer a range of hydrolysates, varying in sweetness and sugar content. Polyols, or sugar alcohols, contribute sweetness, low-caloric contents and texture control, without having to be labeled as sugars.

Newer entrants to the baker’s portfolio include low-calorie sugars, such as allulose. Allulose poses a conundrum, however: Though negligible in calories, it must still be labeled as a sugar.

Clean label considerations can also be a factor. For example, while a corn hydrolysate, such as 42 DE corn syrup, might be frowned upon by the clean label community, a 42 DE tapioca hydrolysate might be quite acceptable, despite having virtually identical sugar contents.

“So, how does one reduce sugar in a cookie (or biscuit from 28 to 22%, for example?” asked Busken. To make a soft cookie, one can use non-crystallizing reducing sugars, polyols and inulins. “To make a crisp cookie, I suggest a 42 DE corn syrup…once we bake out the moisture, it then becomes very hard.” He noted that this ingredient is used to make cookie inclusions for frozen ice creams or yogurt: Increasing 42 DE corn syrup levels to 8% allows them to remain crisp in frozen storage.

To take sugar out of a cookie requires that it be replaced with other ingredients. “For a high-quality cookie, you want to add more fat than flour, because it keeps it richer… ‘rich’ implying higher levels of fat, sugar or egg.” The richer the product formulation, the longer its shelflife! A heat-stable, high-intensity potency sweetener can be used to compensate for the reduction in sweetness, said Busken.

If “richness” is not a goal, Busken recommends replacing the sugar with flour and adding slightly more water to compensate for the added flour. This also increases protein content which, in turn, hardens a cookie’s texture. “To improve a cookie’s texture, or ‘bite,’ you will want to create a more open grain structure to compensate for hardness contributed by the added flour,” said Busken. Add more egg and more leavening. Or, find a pastry flour with lower protein content, but higher quality protein.

Cookie hardness is also managed by controlling water absorption and length of bake. This is especially important for soft cookies. Choice of sweeteners helps to control texture. Replacing sugar with a blend of HFCS and regular (42 DE) corn syrup works and contributes to a chewy texture. “An 80:20 blend of corn syrup and HFCS will also reduce or slow down fructose crystallization.” Low-calorie polyols and some inulins can also impair sugar crystallization and soften cookie textures.

For softer, rather than crisp cookies, whole grains work well as sugar replacers—while enhancing the Nutrition Facts panel appeal. They absorb water and break up the dough structure, while also contributing valuable nutrients. Busken recommended using whole oat flakes, rye flakes, buckwheat groats (“they add nice flavor and a whole-grain texture that people expect”), pulse flours (e.g., lentil flour) and flax meal, which contributes a nice flavor along with healthy omega-3 oils. However, “if using pulse flours, make sure that they have been heat-treated, in order to avoid beany aromas and flavors.”

“Reducing Sugar in Baked Goods: Practical Considerations & Possible Solutions,” David F. Busken, Principal, Bakery Development Ltd.,

Does Sugar Cause Obesity?

Posted on:August 12, 2018

“So, when you see someone who is obese…do you ask, ‘Is it too much sugar; is it too much carbohydrate; or is it just too [insert colorful adjective] much?” Professor Julie Miller Jones, of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, characteristically likes to get straight to the point, and she did so in her 2017 Sweetener Systems Conference presentation titled “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Is This Truth in Labeling?”

Rightly or wrongly, sugar has been identified with obesity and other disease states. To this, Jones (also characteristically) proffered correctives.

“Obesity is endemic around the world: People are terrified because, while we (Americans) may be [some of] the fattest people on the planet, other people are catching up really fast,” said Jones. The Internet hasn’t helped. “Internet media is filled with misrepresentations and accusations,” says Jones.

She pointed to an Internet link [] listing 146 reasons (and counting) why sugar allegedly ruins people’s health (e.g., dietary sugar can impair the structure of DNA). World organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization have adopted strong anti-sugar policies. In Chile, for example, any product with added sugar must prominently display a black warning logo identifying the product as “high in sugar.” World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Nutrition in Health and Development, Dr. Francesco Branca, went so far as to claim that, “Nutritionally, people don’t need any sugar in their diet.”

So, are the alleged links between sugar consumption, obesity and other diseases supported by the science? Jones emphatically argues “no.” Much of the evidence claiming negative effects from sugar consumption is based on epidemiological data. “One thing that I want to emphasize to consumers is that epidemiological studies only show associations, not cause-and-effect. For example, we know that high-fat ice cream, low-fat ice cream and cell phone use are associated with obesity; we also know that sales of workout shoes and clothing are associated with obesity.” But these are only associations. High-level consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages can just as easily be marathon runners or people with poor dietary and lifestyle habits.

Sugar, per se, does not cause weight gain or diseases. Actual scientific studies claiming links between sugar and sweetener consumption to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular health or other disease conditions are problematic at best, said Jones. She deconstructed a list of studies claiming such links. Some studies were inconclusive; other studies overdosed rat diets with sugar.

“What we can do is associate excessive sugar intake and calories with obesity, and obesity with Type II diabetes,” said Jones. Ditto for excessive fat or protein intake. “There is also agreement that high circulating sugars in the blood are high-risk factors for a number of complications.” But high blood sugar levels don’t necessarily equate to high sugar consumption.

But, more fundamentally, “If you look at historic sweetener intakes, based on disappearance data, you will see that the consumption of caloric sweeteners as a percentage of the diet has steadily declined and, today, is at a slightly lower level found in the 1970s. But total calorie intake has risen, and people have become more obese over that period. What we find is that it is not grains; it is not sweeteners; it is not fat…it’s everything together: It’s the calories!”

Unfortunately, much of the public’s confusion is exacerbated by media obfuscation of already questionable scientific data, through misinterpretation and the use of misleading headlines. This encourages consumer media and non-profit organizations to create deductive links between sugar consumption and cardiovascular disease “…that we really don’t have the data to support,” Jones concluded.

This can have unfortunate consequences. One of the (several) benefits of dietary sugar is that it increases the palatability of very nutritious foods. Jones cites an example of “zealous parents in New York” that successfully banned the consumption of flavored, sweetened milk in schools. This drove milk consumption way down, “along with calcium, riboflavin and other important nutrients found in milk.” Eventually, pediatricians and parents realized their mistake and tried to return flavored milks to school lunch menus but, alas, kids had by then switched their beverage preferences to their detriment.

“We really need to be careful that we don’t, with good ‘motives,’ end up making the wrong, uninformed and untested choices that are detrimental, said Jones. In conclusion, it’s not the sugar: It’s the lifestyles and the calories! “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Is This Truth in Labeling?”

Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., CNS, CFS, LN, Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Scholar of Food and Nutrition, St. Catherine University

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