While there will always be a market for sugar-sweetened products, bakers can choose from several other natural sweetener options.
Times have never been sweeter for bakers. Consumers are embracing the movement toward using natural ingredients in foods and are focused more than ever on trimming the national waistline. But a real concern exists about the glycemic impact of foods as the battle against diabetes continues. Fortunately, the introduction of new natural sweeteners on the market has created the perfect storm of function and flavor.
Last December, the sweetener Reb A was approved for use in the food industry and has since been making its way into the beverage market in the form of energy drinks and orange juice. The use of the ingredient in bakery products is on its way.
What is Reb A?
Reb A is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) that is about 200 to 400 times as sweet as sugar. It is used in such small amounts that it is virtually calorie-free. And with its clean finish, Reb A is claimed to be one of the best tasting steviol glycosides — the compounds responsible for the sweet taste of the leaves of the stevia plant.
The stevia plant has been used as a sweetener in its native Paraguay for hundreds of years and has long been known in health-food circles as an ultra-sweet sugar replacement. The FDA approved the use of the product as a dietary supplement based on its low glycemic index, a boon to dieters and those with diabetes or related concerns. However, stevia was not approved for use as an ingredient because of its composition of about 10 glycosides, not all of which are sweet or free from off flavors, most detectable of which is a licorice-like aftertaste. Of greatest concern was that the complex make-up of the plant made it difficult to perform clinical trials for product safety tests. But, the development of a refined stevia derivative changed all of that.
PureCircle USA, Florham Park, N.J., developed a method of extracting and stabilizing the glycoside Reb A from the molecular mix that is stevia, thus allowing the evaluation of the ingredient's safety for human consumption.
Reb A has a low glycemic index for applications for diabetic formulations, is non-carcinogenic and does not promote the development of dental caries. Reb A is approved for beverages, yogurt, powdered beverages, cereals, chewing gum and baked products. It has an affinity for fructose and is stable in baked applications, with no noted flavor degeneration. But because of its extreme sweetening power, and consequent low usage levels, Reb A must be used in combination with bulking agents in baked products, advises Sidd Purkayastha, Ph.D., technical director USA, PureCircle.
Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol or lactitol can be used to add functionality to formulas using Reb A. For products aimed at the diabetic market, Purkayastha recommends using a fiber-based ingredient, such as inulin, oat fiber, soluble corn fiber or polydextrose, to maintain functionality.
Reb A not only has super-sweetening capabilities, but as the world continues to go “green,” Reb A fits in with consumers' desires to reduce their carbon impact. The sweetener is processed using the best available green technology. Using a holistic approach, stevia is grown in 20 tropical countries around the world, most notably China, where the manufacturer partners with more than 15,000 farmers to cultivate the plant. Processing takes place in Malaysia, where Reb A, accounting for only 4 percent of the composition of the stevia leaf, is purified to a 97 percent pure crystal form. The by-products of the processing go to compost, and spent steam used to process the stevia leaves is used as an energy source. Thus, the cultivation and processing of Reb A provides sustainable employment throughout the world.
Reb A can be blended to specification to achieve the sweetness and functionality required by almost any baked product.
Another sweet option
Another new option for bakers is Natur Baker's Blend from Natur Research Foods Inc., Los Angeles. Natur Bakers Blend is a patented formula sweetener that mimics the functionality of sucrose with a 40 percent reduction of calories and a reduced glycemic load when compared to sugar.
The ingredient caramelizes similar to sugar, provides texture and structure, and develops a crust like sugar. Natur Bakers Blend can be used in cupcakes, cakes and cake mixes, brownies, bars, icings and cookies with a 95 percent performance comparability to sugar. In most cases, it is a 1:1 replacement by weight for sucrose. Some applications may take some adjustments, says Loren Miles, president, Natur Research. The blend can be customized if needed. This sugar replacer has the added benefit of being free from sugar alcohols, which in some cases, may have an unappealing digestive side affect.
Capturing the low glycemic market
With diabetes on the rise in the United States, the need for sweeteners that reduce the glycemic load on consumers is nearly a mandate. Diabetics and those who have been diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X are seeking foods that deliver all the flavor without the effects that the consumption of sugar can bring. Schools, for instance are replacing sugary snacks with options that are viewed as healthier in order to stave off juvenile obesity and diabetes in students. But as concerns over health increase, the desire for sweet treats remains. Offering sweets that deliver both the healthful benefits of low glycemic values along with the goodness and indulgence factor of a tasty treat is a win-win for all.
“Education and positioning is a key marketing advantage,” Miles says. Educated consumers, realizing the advantages that these new sweeteners bring to their favorite foods, will be willing, he feels, to pay the higher price point that these ingredients command. While there will always be a market for sugar-sweetened products, these new natural super sweeteners will create a demand all their own.
Old favorites generate new interest
While the some of the newer sweeteners are creating a buzz in the bakery world, some classic favorites also are generating attention. The use of honey in bakery foods has a renewed interest by consumers, says Charlotte Jordan, National Honey Board, Firestone, Colo. “The addition of honey to a formula can help clean up the label statement and reduce dependence on artificial ingredients. Honey also helps extend the shelf life of baked products by providing antimicrobial benefits, and provides browning that can help reduce the baking time or temperature. Oven temperature reductions by about 25°F are recommended by the Honey Board. The addition of honey to frozen doughs also increases dough strength by protecting the gluten from damage during the freezing process.
When substituting honey for granulated sugars, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the formula. For every 8 oz. of honey used, reduce the total liquids in the formula by 2 oz.
Besides its sweetening capabilities and baking improvements, honey creates a flavor profile all its own that can enhance the inherent flavor of a food. Orange blossom honey, for instance, can add fruity topnotes to orange scones, Jordan says. Likewise, buckwheat, clover or fireweed honeys can add a flavor burst to breads, cookies and icings.
Raisin paste is another alternative sweetener that offers many advantages to the baker. Raisin paste acts as a humectant, a preservative, a coloring agent and as a texturizing and flavoring agent. It also can provide additional fiber to a formula. Raisin paste can be obtained in a range of colors, based on the blend of golden to regular raisins used in the paste. Due to the presence of tartaric acid in raisin paste, lower levels of dough strengtheners may be needed to produce doughs of similar viscosity to ones that do not contain raisin paste. Tartaric acid in the paste increases the activity of yeast in breads. Raisin paste may be added in levels from one to more than 20 percent, depending on the functionality and flavor profile needed in a product. Usage levels and baking advice may be obtained from the California Raisin Marketing Board, Fresno, Calif., and AIB International, Manhattan, Kan.
Other natural sweeteners, such as sorghum syrup, agave and brown rice syrups, have less of a sweetening action than honey and the all-natural super sweeteners, but they also promote browning and provide a clean label statement for the discerning consumer.
The ingredient statement
Some direct consumer educational campaigns may be required for some of the newer ingredients on the market to encourage mainstream acceptance, but manufacturers are ready to take on the challenge. All of the previously mentioned sweeteners are considered natural, and many, such as honey and raisins, already have a consumer-friendly appeal.
Reb A should be labeled “Reb A (a natural stevia leaf sweetener)” says PureCircle's Purkayastha. The qualifier also may be stated at the end of the label statement, using an asterisk to denote the postscript. (i.e. Reb A*, * a natural stevia leaf sweetener).
Natur Baker's Blend are proprietary formulations based on customer specifications, thus the manufacturer will advise customers on the best way to claim the sweetener on the label.
Taking advantage of the market
Bakery sweets have the advantage, even in these recessionary times, of being an affordable treat that consumers continue to indulge in. The addition of using natural sweeteners that have a positive impact on health and diet can open the doors to new markets and help retain market share that might otherwise be lost. While reformulating a sweet snack with a new ingredient may be seen as costly, the ability to keep a natural, healthy counterpart in the market may be worth it to keep your customer base.
With all of the sugar-free and natural options available, both bakers and consumers can enjoy the sweet, low glycemic smell of success, surely a win-win for all.
|To replace 1 kg of:||Use this amount of honey||Adjust water by this amount|
|Sugar||1,214 g||-214 g|
|Liquid sucrose||819 g||+ 181 g|
|Liquid invert sugar||929 g||+ 71 g|
|HFCS||42% 862 g||+138 g|
|HFCS 55%||934 g||+ 66 g|
|HFCS 90%||910 g||+ 90 g|
|Corn syrup 42 DE 974 g||+ 26 g|
|Molasses||874 g||+ 126 g|
Source: National Honey Board. For more information on honey, go to www.nhb.org.