Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy Desserts

Posted on:April 4, 2019

AS WITH BAKERY PRODUCTS, sugar’s most critical role is to control the texture of frozen dairy and frozen novelty products, began Jon Hopkinson, Ph.D., a technology consultant specializing in frozen desserts, in his presentation titled “Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy and Novelty Products.” It does so by managing water.

Sugar plays a crucial function in both ice cream-type desserts that are frozen while stirred, and quiescently frozen desserts, which are usually frozen in molds. First, it controls the freezing and melting characteristics of these products. It also contributes sweetness, viscosity, color and secondary flavors, such as browning flavors developed during pasteurization.

Although sugar, with its multi-functional properties, plays a key role in ice cream and frozen novelties, several strategies can be used to achieve quality reduced-sugar frozen desserts.

“Sugars are the most important control variables to determine proper freezing properties of mixes during processing,” explained Hopkinson. “Freezing-point functionality must somehow be compensated for when sugars are taken out of the formula.” Shelf-life is affected by sugar’s effect on product melting point, sugar migration and freeze-thaw recrystallization properties. For example, sugars can migrate and recrystallize on the surface of ice-pops, creating little round “cancer spots” on the surface during freeze-thaw cycles.

Colligative properties like freezing point are determined by the number of molecules (particles) per fixed unit of weight. Small molecular weight ingredients, like monosaccharides, contribute more particles per gram than disaccharides, and therefore have a greater effect on freezing point depression. The molecular weight of sucrose is 342; for glucose and fructose it is 180; and for erythritol, it is 122. Thus, selecting sucrose substitutes based on their molecular weights can help control freeze-point depression.

So, what if the goal is to reduce the sugar content in a gelato, sorbet or ice cream product by 50%, asked Hopkinson? He presented some strategies, with the caveat that one should carefully check the patent literature before mapping out a product development strategy.

One can hypothetically replace some or all the sugar with sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol), but their negative effects on digestive wellbeing at higher concentrations merit careful consideration. Erythritol, on the other hand, does not have the digestive liabilities of sugar alcohols, noted Hopkinson. “In fact, one can get away with 1:1 substitution of sugar with erythritol while keeping sweetness constant, cost permitting. However, you may also need to add additional bulking agents in order to control the amount of water available to freeze.”

A second strategy is to replace some of the sucrose with lower- molecular weight ingredients. For example, one can use combinations of erythritol, glycerol and fructose, with a sweetness boost from high-potency sweeteners, such as acesulfame-K or natural stevia.

A third strategy for frozen dairy desserts is to remove lactose (a disaccharide) by ultra-filtration and add-back monosaccharides, such as glucose and fructose. This could be expensive, so another alternative might be to treat the milk with lactase enzyme, converting lactose to the monosaccharides, glucose and galactose. Hopkinson warned that there may be a patent issue here as well.

A fourth strategy would be to replace sugar with a fruit juice and bulking agent. However clean-sounding the juice component, this will likely require adding additional bulking agents with complex-sounding names (e.g., maltodextrin, erythritol). Under the pending nutrition labeling regulations, juice concentrates will need to be factored in as an Added Sugar on the nutrition label. “Trying to achieve an ‘all juice’ claim for a frozen dessert can be a regulatory nightmare, as most single- strength juices don’t contain enough sugar to meet processing, taste and product-quality requirements,” warned Hopkinson.

And, finally, “one can just remove a portion of the sugar from a formula and leave it at that,” concluded Hopkinson. “Quality won’t be as good, but at-least some consumers may be willing to accept the trade-off in the interest of reduced sugar and calories.” He finished his presentation by illustrating the very long and complex ingredient statements from some mainstream frozen desserts with low sucrose or no sucrose, showing that there is much room for improvement.

“Tips for Reducing Sugar in Frozen Dairy and Novelty Products,” Jon Hopkinson, Ph.D., technology consultant specializing in frozen desserts

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Analytical Methods for Lawful Sweetener Labeling

Posted on:April 3, 2019

THE REVISED U.S. NUTRITION LABEL regulations, to be implemented in 2020, will transform the carbohydrate portion of the label by including a line for added sugars along with revised definitions of dietary fiber. The food and beverage analysis industries are far from ready to accommodate these changes, explained David Plank, Ph.D., Managing Principal, WRSS Food & Nutrition Insights and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota, in his presentation, “Analytical Methods for Walking on the Lawful Side of Sugars, Dietary Fiber and Bioactive Sweeteners.”

“The FDA stated goals behind the regulatory changes are both to increase nutrition label transparency for consumers and to improve the health of the U.S. population via weight maintenance and a reduction in cardiovascular disease risks through reduced sugar consumption,” said Plank. The FDA’s goal for dietary fibers is transparency in order to erase the concept of “fake fiber” from nutrition labels. The objective now is to increase the consumption of “whole-grain, whole-food” fibers.

In regard to American food and beverage companies, the incentives are not just to avoid the wrath of the FDA for regulatory non-compliance, but also to avoid class-action lawsuits that will be brought whenever plaintiffs believe that they can demonstrate that food and beverage manufacturers have misled the “average” consumer. “Lawyers and consumers are always looking for a pay- day because they know that, in most cases, class-action lawsuits never go to trial but are settled out of court,” said Plank.

One of the potential warning signs should be if a formulation or label claim goes counter to the intent of the regulation, said Plank. He cited, as an example, a company adding a resistant starch to increase a product’s dietary fiber nutrition label declaration while also adding an amylase enzyme to digest the dietary fiber into glucose in order to increase sweetness. “Technically, it may be compliant with the letter of the regulations, but you will have violated the intent,” said Plank.

Plank identified two essential elements of the pending nutritional labeling regulations. The first element is that the label requires that all added mono- and disaccharides must be listed as “Added Sugars,” whether digestible or not. Thus, allulose and tagatose, which each contribute zero calories per gram, must be designated as “added sugars.”

Allulose, a monosaccharide, registers 0-0.4 Kcal/g and also inhibits” intestinal alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme that digests starch in the small intestine. Thus, not only is it non-caloric, it actually contributes the physiological benefits of a fiber through its action on reduced- starch digestion and concomitant reduced glycemic response,” said Plank. Even so, by the new regulations and existing current regulations, this physiological beneficial non-digestible carbohydrate must be labeled as added sugar, because it is a monosaccharide with less than a degree of polymerization (DP) of 3.

The second element is that none of the existing AOAC-approved dietary fiber analytical methods determine dietary fiber under the new regulations: They only measure non-digestible carbohydrates (NDC). However, when the existing AOAC-approved methods are used for determining insoluble and soluble NDCs in accordance with the new regulations, then a food manufacturer may claim zero calories per gram for the content of insoluble NDCs and 2 calories per gram for soluble NDCs on their food label—even if the NDCs do not physiologically qualify as dietary fiber. So, the determination of NDC content by these traditional AOAC analytical methods still has a practical benefit for those food manufacturers looking to make a low-caloric content product.

There are no analytical methodologies that can determine dietary fiber or added sugar as defined by the new regulations. As a result, food manufacturers are required to keep records of their food product formulations to support their nutrition label claims. FDA allows significant flexibility in how these records are constructed but does require them to be available for audit and maintained for a minimum of two years, post production.

The food analysis industry is hustling to catch up to the pending realities and liabilities of nutritional labeling compliance in 2020. They still have a long way to go.

“Analytical Methods for Walking on the Lawful Side of Sugars, Dietary Fiber and Bioactive Sweeteners,” David Plank, Ph.D., Managing Principal, WRSS Food & Nutrition Insights and Senior Fellow Researcher, University of Minnesota

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Five Recommendations for Sugar-Reduced Baked Products

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HOW DOES ONE REDUCE THE SUGAR content of products defined by their sugar content? Melanie Goulson, MSc, General Manager, Merlin Development and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University, provided some potential solutions to this dilemma in her presentation, “Five Tips for Reducing Sugars in Bars and Baked Goods.” Goulson began by noting that the chocolate-chip cookie, an American bakery icon, contains 11g of sugar per 33g serving. “We can see that baked products and cereal and protein bars that we know and love generally consist of about one-third sugar. Endeavoring to replace that sugar represents a monumental task.”

Monumental, perhaps, but for the baking industry, such a task may be a defensive necessity. The challenge is that sugar contributes not just sweetness, but also bulking, functionality, yeast food, flavor, color, solubility, preservation, texture and viscosity to baked products. Then there are additional criteria to be met, such as meeting marketing goals regarding sugar-type content, clean labels and extended shelf life.

Goulson laid out a systematic approach to sugar reduction with five recommendations: The first is to “intimately familiarize oneself with the properties of all non-nutritive sweetener candidates.” These include bulking agents, such as erythritol, maltitol or allulose, typically used as a 1:1 replacement for sugar; and high-potency sweeteners, such as heat-stable sucralose or acesulfame-K and natural stevia or monk fruit-derived sweeteners, which are used at very low parts per million levels.

The second recommendation is to use sweetener blends. “Blending allows one to maximize sweetness, mitigate off- flavors; improve the temporal dynamics of sweet-taste perception; and leverage sweetness synergies.” Also, importantly, she strongly recommended that product developers “take every gram of sugar that you can get. If marketing is willing to accept one or two grams of sugar on the label, take it and run.” Even a very small amount of sucrose can speed up sweetness onset and round out the taste profile.

The third recommendation is to become intimately acquainted with all available bulking agents. Caloric bulking agents include maltodextrin, proteins, sucromalt and isomaltulose, for example. Low and no-calorie bulking agents may consist of sugar alcohols (e.g., maltitol and erythritol); fiber and fiber syrups (e.g., inulin, tapioca fiber); and resistant maltodextrin.

“In my own experience, I have observed very good results using chicory root fiber and erythritol for bulking (to achieve) 50%-or-greater sucrose reductions in cupcakes or cookies. A blend of inulin and erythritol combined with stevia glycosides can develop a nice, natural-label sugar replacement system.” Blends of polydextrose, acesulfame-k and sucralose can often be cost-effective, and sometimes, maltitol alone can be sufficient for bulking and sweetening in baked goods, “as long as browning is not a strict requirement,” Goulson added.
The fourth recommendation is to carefully manage texture, “which is critical to consumer acceptability,” explained Goulson.

Sugar plays many roles in texture. It can be important for aeration during mixing (cakes); for tenderization; and for controlling the rate of gluten formation. Other steps one can do to offset the textural impact of sugar reduction are to use flour with less protein; increase fat content (to prevent full gluten development); use emulsifiers (lecithin, egg yolk); reduce mixing; and manage moisture with soluble fiber, glycerol and other small molecular-weight ingredients.

As a fifth recommendation—regarding cereal and protein bars in particular, Goulson professed great satisfaction with using dietary fiber syrups, such as inulin, tapioca and corn syrups. She recommended paying close attention to the molecular chain lengths of the syrups and to be aware of potential digestive tolerance issues.

Can such products ever hope to meet consumer expectations? “It’s a steep challenge to replace 100% of the sugar in baked goods and bars and fully duplicate a full-sugar version,” Goulson replied. “But by using ingredient systems to replace all of the taste and functionality of sugar, you can make very good products.”

“Five Tips for Reducing Sugars in Bars and Baked Goods,” Melanie Goulson, MSc, General Manager, Merlin Development and Adjunct Professor, St. Catherine University

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Food Technology, Neuroscience & 3rd Generation Stevia Extracts

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IN HIS PRESENTATION “3rd Generation Stevia Extracts: Neuroscience, Ingredient Technologies and Food Applications,” Alex Woo, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, W2O Food Innovation, emphasized that “improved steviol glycosides technologies beget better sweetener strategies.” In speaking about the chemistry and application of high-potency sweetener ingredients for foods and beverages, Woo pointed out in his characteristic trademark clarity and wit, that the big drive today is to develop “natural” sources for high-potency sweeteners that offer superior performance.

Factors that affect the function of various steviol glycosides include purity and chemical structure, which affect taste, solubility and sweetness intensity. “Natural stevia leaf contains anywhere from 40 to 70 identified steviol glycosides,” said Woo, “of which 11 have thus far been food-approved.” Each of the 11 may bind to different locations within the Venus Fly Trap part of the sweet- taste receptor, which “helps explain why they all taste different from one another.” It also explains why they can also taste better together in unique combinations.

Steviol glycosides (i.e., stevioside and rebaudiosides) consist of a central “steviol” alcohol ring structure to which multiple and different types of sugars are attached. These sugar side chains determine the taste and solubility properties of the different steviol glycosides—the more soluble the molecule, the more rapid the sweetness onset and clearance.

Highly water-soluble erythritol has quick onset which, together with steviol glycosides’ slow onset, delivers an overall sugar-like quick sweetness onset perception. An osmolyte, such as table salt, decreases steviol glycosides’ sweetness lingering via osmotic pressure change, said Woo.

Rebaudioside A (REBA), the most common steviol glycoside in commercial use, consists of four glucose units and is about 200x sweeter than sucrose. Its available purity in the marketplace ranges from 40% (REBA40) to 100%

Second-generation stevia is all about REBA. The higher the purity, the better the taste. However, REBA itself at high usage is still bitter, because it triggers two out of the 25 bitterness receptors: TAS2R4 and TAS2R14. REBB, with one less glucose side chain, is less sweet but also less bitter than REBA. Combinations of A and B have complementary (but not proven synergistic) effects on sweetness. At the far end of spectrum is “the famous REBM, the biggest steviol glycoside,” with six attached glucose units. “It is the best-tasting and the sweetest of the steviol glycosides, so far,” explained Woo. Farm-based third- generation stevia extracts are the newer 2-way and 3-way blends of REBA, B, C, D and/or M for even more sugar-like taste but at higher cost, he added.

How can steviol glycosides be improved? One approach underway is to breed stevia varieties with elevated levels of REBM (for the optimum profile) or REBC (for increased sweetness). Another is to use “natural” enzymatic glycosylation (“bioconversion”) of REBA to generate REBM. A third approach is to use “natural” microbial fermentation to convert corn glucose or sugarcane sucrose to REBM. Fermentation and bioconversion-based stevia already co-exist with farm-based stevia in 2018. “The acceptable cost of high-potency sweeteners will vary according to their application and consumer expectations,” said Woo. He presented a matrix that cross-compares different stevia purity and moiety combinations whereby to achieve acceptable cost benchmarks, depending upon the food and beverage applications.

Another factor is the use of flavor compounds to enhance the performance of high-potency sweeteners. Woo explained how enzymatic glycosylation of REBA can be used to transform stevia extract into a sweetness-enhancing natural flavor with modifying properties (FMP) called glucosyl steviol glycosides (GSG). Using a GSG FEMA 4728 at up to 175ppm in a beverage would qualify it as a flavor, according to Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) criteria. Native stevia extracts, such as REBA60 and REBA80, also qualify as natural flavors, when used below 30ppm and 35ppm, respectively.

Woo is a big advocate of using stacking strategies to achieve desirable sweetness profiles. Stacking is a sugar-reduction strategy for building up to the required sweetness intensity and profile, while staying below the off-flavor thresholds for all the plant-based ingredients used.

“Here is how one can achieve a targeted 12% sucrose equivalence of sweetness (12˚Brix) for a beverage,” said Woo. Referring to the cost matrix provided earlier in the presentation, Woo started with 300ppm of an optimized steviol glycoside blend designed for sugar free to achieve 7˚– 8˚Brix. Adding 100ppm of a high-purity mogroside from monk fruit, such as Mogrosides-V 55%, and either 1% erythritol or 2% allulose (both can be labeled as natural flavor below their FEMA limits) added another 2˚ Brix.

Also, mentioned Woo, one can use all five senses to enhance sweetness perceptions, including product packaging or immediate environmental smell, sight, sound and touch. “Together, these cross- modal interactions allow one to arrive at the final goal of 12˚Brix or even higher,” said Woo.

Thus, strategy combined with technology may yet provide the solution to using high-potency sweeteners at optimum sensory performance and cost.

“3rd Generation Stevia Extracts: Neuroscience, Ingredient” Technologies and Food Applications,” Alex Woo, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, W2O Food Innovation

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

Progress on High-Potency Sweeteners, Taste Modulators and Enhancers Continues

Posted on:April 1, 2019

GRANT DUBOIS, PH.D., Consultant, Sweetness Technologies, LLC, reviewed the progress made on natural high-potency (HP) sweetener systems for food and beverages by offering tantalizing insights on how to resolve some of their negative taste and flavor attributes, in his presentation titled “Replication of Sugar Taste Enabled by Taste Modulators and Enhancers.”

Earlier work with HP sweeteners and sweetness enhancers recognized the importance of both maximal sweetness intensity and taste quality. However, DuBois listed six additional criteria for use in determining the commercial viability of such ingredients: safety, stability, solubility, cost, patentability and consumer acceptability.

A major research focus today is the search for all-natural HP sweeteners and sweetness enhancers. Interest in these ingredients began to grow at The Coca-Cola Company in the 1990s, recalled DuBois. This led to the development and commercialization of rebaudioside A (REBA)—a sweet-tasting diterpenoid glycoside isolated from South American stevia plant leaves. “One challenge with REBA was a maximal sweetness response at ambient temperature of <10% sucrose equivalency (SE). However, in cold solutions, that maxima increased to 18% SE, so it wasn’t as bad as it first looked, explained DuBois.

Unfortunately, as with other natural HP sweeteners, off-tastes were an issue: Most commercial REBA products exhibit distinctive bitter and licorice-like notes. DuBois explained that the REBA under study in early work was 97% (min) purity and that “batch- to-batch bitterness and licorice-like taste variability suggested the culpability of contaminants.” Today, REBA of higher purity is available with negligible off-tastes, albeit somewhat more expensive. (See sidebar “The Cost of Sweetness”).

Additionally, the challenge of social perspectives exists. For example, new ingredients must weather reflexive and hostile social media storms. When aspartame was first introduced, activists charged that the breakdown of aspartame into phenylalanine (Phe) and methanol posed severe public health threats. However, perspective matters: “If I eat 100g of roasted chicken, I ingest 13x the Phe that I get from the aspartame in a 12oz Diet Coke, while 12oz of tomato juice provides 5.9x the amount of methanol generated from the aspartame in a single Diet Coke,” countered DuBois.

More than 40 sweet diterpenoid glycosides have been isolated from the stevia plant of which REBA was one of the first to be brought to the market. In recent years, rebaudiosides D (REBD) and M (REBM) have been commercialized, although they are present only at very low levels in the plant. Because of their low natural abundances, REBD and REBM are manufactured in bioconversion or fermentation processes and therefore cannot be labeled as “stevia leaf extracts,” as is the case for REBA. Another commercialized terpenoid-type sweetener is the triterpenoid monk fruit sweetener group, members of which are known as mogrosides. The monk fruit sweeteners are very challenging to purify and are available in a range of purities.

Other categories of natural HP sweeteners are on the market or in development and include proteins (e.g., thaumatin and brazzein) and amino acids (e.g., monatin). Each has its own problems, ranging from licorice flavors (thaumatin); lingering sweetness profiles (thaumatin, brazzein and monatin); to rapid-degradation into foul-smelling derivatives (monatin). Neohesperidin dihydrochalcone, a flavonoid-type sweetener, is commercially available and claimed by some to be natural but does not occur in nature.

DuBois equivocated on the opportunities presented by flavors with modifying properties (FMPs) of the positive allosteric modulator (PAM) type. PAM FMPs significantly enhance the sweetness intensities of carbohydrate sweeteners. Dihydroxybenzoic acid, for example, will increase the sweetness perception of sucrose by 1.3-fold and fructose. by 1.2-fold he noted.

“While PAMs were hoped to be a big deal for us when I was with The Coca-Cola Company, they ultimately were not,” said DuBois. The reason? In vivo, “the probability of sucrose and PAMs binding at a taste receptor at the same time, as required to enable this synergistic response, is far too low; and so, the hoped-for 10-20-fold “enhancements were never found.

While PAM FMPs have not realized significant commercial success, sweetener FMPs such as glucosylated steviol glycosides (GSGs) have realized success as natural flavors which enable reduction of caloric sweetener levels. These FMPs are used below their sweetness detection thresholds and thereby enhance sweetness by 1.1-1.2-fold.

One area in which very significant progress has been made is in the identification of taste modulators for HP sweeteners. “In early work, we noticed that osmolytes worked well at eliminating the lingering sweet aftertastes of HP sweeteners.” As example, adding salt at 500 mg/L to REBA “eliminated the lingering sweetness effect; however, such formulations were too salty.” Erythritol was also found to be very effective in elimination of the REBA sweetness lingering aftertaste, but cost remains the challenge with REBA/erythritol formulations.

In closing, DuBois hinted at major developments in taste modulation technology on the verge of disclosure. Stay tuned.

The Cost of Sweetness

A key metric for commercial viability is cost. Beverage companies measure ingredient cost impacts in terms of cost/unit case. “If we use HFCS as a benchmark, the sweetener cost is about US$0.51/unit case for a beverage like Coca-Cola. In contrast, the cost/unit case for a beverage like Diet Coke sweetened with aspartame today is ca. US$0.03-0.04 (ca. US$0.33 in 1985 when aspartame was under patent protection),” noted Grant DuBois.

Currently, a blend of REBA with erythritol to balance the sugar taste pro?le and which tastes pretty good, incurs a cost of about US$0.99/unit case. In his opinion, the cost threshold for viability should be ca. US$0.40/unit case, so there is work to be done.

“Replication of Sugar Taste enabled by Taste Modulators and Enhancers,” Grant DuBois, Ph.D., Consultant, Sweetness Technologies, LLC

This presentation was given at the 2018 Sweetener Systems Conference. To download free presentations and the Post-conference summary of this event, go to

See past and future Sweetener Systems Conferences at

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