By Melissa Hillebrand , assistant editor
SPI POLYOLS INC.
Bakery foods can be sweetened by formulating with sugar substitutes such as polyols. Polyols provide bulk, browning and calories. Xylitol,maltitol, isomalt, lactitol and sorbitol are all polyols.
Bakers can use sugar-free sweeteners to produce icings, glazes and frostings.
High-intensity sweeteners are used as a substitution for sugar. Bakers typically add a bulking agent to their formulas because high-intensity sweeteners contribute no calories or bulk. These sweeteners include sucralose and neotame.
Sugar substitutes are more popular than ever, due to the increasing number of Americans with type 2 diabetes-an increase of 49% within the past 10 years-and the increasing number of overweight and obese adults. As a result, Americans are looking to decrease the amount of sugar in their diets. More than ever, consumers are putting health ahead of indulgence, one of the probable effects of the low-carbohydrate movement.
These consumers want foods with complex carbohydrates that the body cannot turn into sugar, or foods containing reduced or no sucrose. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that sugar consumption by Americans has remained relatively unchanged during the past 10 years, but Americans are consuming more sugar alternatives. This information gives bakers opportunities to take advantage of this growing market and formulate new products with these ingredients.
"The bakery category continues to develop as the consumer becomes more aware of the health advantages of consuming less added sugars," one sweetener manufacturer says. "This is one of the points of the recently released 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans."
When substituted for sucrose, alternative sweeteners make almost all bakery foods more healthful while still providing sweetness. Alternative sweeteners lower a bakery food's calories and net carbohydrates, reduce or eliminate sugar and lower a bakery food's glycemic impact. Alternative sweeteners also provide the functionalities of sugar in terms of texture, volume, browning and bulk. Some sweeteners even add fiber to a bakery food or extend its shelf life.
Alternative sweeteners are categorized as nutritive or non-nutritive. Non-nutritive sugar alternatives are high-intensity sweeteners. These include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, Acesulfame K and neotame. These sweeteners contribute neither calories nor sugar's functional characteristics.
Nutritive sweeteners include honey, molasses, fructose and polyols, also called sugar alcohols. Polyols that bakers commonly use are isomalt, maltitol, lactitol, xylitol and sorbitol. These sweeteners provide bulk, browning and calories. Some polyols are not as sweet as sugar, therefore, if bakers are looking to replicate sugar's sweetness, they will find that these polyols must be used in conjunction with a high-intensity sweetener. Polyols give an added health benefit because they are absorbed more slowly into the blood stream than sugar, giving the body lowered glycemic and insulinemic responses, manufacturers say.
Polyols give bakery foods the functional benefits that sugar provides. Two polyols, maltitol and xylitol, are ideal sugar replacers because they provide the most bulk of the polyols and are almost or equal to sugar's sweetness.
Maltitol, which is 90% as sweet as sucrose, is used to replace sugar in cakes, cheesecakes, nutritional bars, muffins, breads, icings, creams and frostings. Malitol syrup is used to replace corn syrup in these same bakery applications. Maltitol is derived from maltose and contributes 2.1 calories per gram compared to sucrose's four calories per gram. Because maltitol's physical properties resemble those of sucrose, such as molecular weight, solubility and freezing point depression, maltitol can replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio, depending on the desired sweetness level, one sweetener manufacturer says.
Xylitol is 100% as sweet as sucrose. It is derived from xylose, which is a component of birch trees. It contains 2.4 calories per gram and replaces sugar in a 1:1 ratio. "Xylitol, from a regulatory standpoint, can be used in foods for a special dietary purpose," a supplier says. "You can use xylitol in a product that makes some kind of nutritional claim, such as sugar free." Other polyols offer bulk and functionality, but not as much sweetness. These polyols include sorbitol. This sugar alternative is derived from the hydrogenation of glucose. It contains 2.6 calories per gram and is 60% as sweet as sugar. Sorbitol was first incorporated into cookie applications, but now is formulated into many bakery foods. Typically, it is used as a humectant. Sorbitol helps preserve the freshness and softness of bakery foods by retaining moisture. Bakers should incorporate sorbitol at a 2% to 5% level, several manufacturers say.
Lactitol is derived from lactose, or milk sugar. It is 30% to 40% as sweet as sucrose and contains two calories per gram. One supplier says that it is ideal for sweet goods, especially cakes and cookies. In addition, lactitol is prebiotic and has a low glycemic index.
Another sugar alternative is isomalt. This ingredient is 40% as sweet as sugar, contains two calories per gram and is derived from natural beet sugar. One manufacturer offers a line of isomalt ingredients that can be substituted for sugar in a 1:1 ratio, while still delivering the same bulk, texture, volume and shelf life that sugar offers. This line is formulated in cookies, hard biscuits, cream-filled wafers and baking premixes. The isomalt offered by the manufacturer also has a low glycemic response when consumed.
Bakers also can increase sweetness in bakery foods without the bulk by formulating with a high-intensity sweetener. The most recent high-intensity sweeteners to come into the market include sucralose and neotame.
Sucralose is derived from sugar and contains no calories. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and typically used in combination with a bulk replacer in order to maintain a product's volume and texture. The usage level for sucralose depends on the amount and type of bulk replacer that is formulated into bakery applications. Sucralose provides high stability and is calorie free.
Another high-intensity sweetener is neotame. Neotame is 8,000 to 10,000 times as sweet as sugar. To put this in perspective, one gram of neotame equals 20 lbs. of sugar. One manufacturer offers a sugar-free sweetener derived from neotame. This sweetener provides bulk, texture and moisture, unlike most high-intensity sweeteners.
This product is available in powder and gel forms, with the gel form especially ideal for retaining moisture, the manufacturer says. The powder and gel forms have different substitutions for sugar. One pound of the gel sweetener equals two pounds of sugar, but one pound of the powder sweetener equals four pounds of sugar.
Because these products are not substituted at equal levels to sugar, some volume will be lost in the product. However, the manufacturer says that this is not a problem, because this sweetener is used in products where volume is not as necessary, such as cheesecakes, cookies and brownies. "Unfortunately, I will not lie to people and tell them it works in layer cakes," the manufacturer says. "The reason it does not work is because sugar in layer cake is a like a building block."
In breads, this sweetener can be used for sweetening purposes, but bakers will have to add another ingredient to the mix so the bread will ferment.
Although this manufacturer offers a high-intensity sweetener that provides many sugar functionalities, highintensity sweeteners, such as sucralose and neotame, do not offer bulk, texture or volume when used alone. Bakers will have to change their bakery formulations to compensate for this.
One polyol supplier offers a line of polydextrose ingredients that can be added to high-intensity sweeteners for sugar replacement. These polydextrose ingredients offer no sweetness and are designed to replace the bulk and functionality of different types of sugar systems, the supplier says. When formulated into bakery applications, these polydextrose ingredients also count as fiber on the nutrition label. Each polydextrose gives one calorie per gram and is not glycemic.
Problems with sweeteners
Adding bulk and texture to high-intensity sweeteners is not the only complication that may arise when using sugar alternatives. Another problem is cost.
"Sugar is pretty inexpensive, so there definitely is a cost impact," the supplier says. "[Sugar alternatives] by nature cost more to produce. These ingredients are more expensive than sugar, but that doesn't mean they are less processable." This is because consumers have shown that they are willing to pay higher prices for sugar-free bakery foods.
Polyols also tend to be hydroscoptic, meaning that they pull moisture from the air. One supplier recommends that polyols be blended with a dry powder to minimize this effect. Also, these bakery foods should not be exposed to heat and humidity.
Another difficulty with sugar-free sweeteners is laxation. Many people feel that they will have toleration issues when consuming these ingredients. However, high-intensity sweeteners give no laxation effects, and manufacturers say that polyols rarely have laxation problems. Individuals may experience discomfort because of their personal toleration, if they consume more than one serving or if they consume polyols on an empty stomach. Among polyols, maltitol and xylitol have the highest laxation thresholds. Between 60 grams and 90 grams of maltitol can be consumed daily, and between 50 grams and 90 grams of xylitol can be consumed daily, one manufacturer says.
hen formulating with a polyol or high-intensity sweetener, bakers will notice that bakery foods color differently. Polyols do not contribute to browning, as sugar does when it caramelizes. High-intensity sweeteners also do not color, but the manufacturer offering the gel product says that this product can brown. "It's not going to color like a regular baked good because there is no sugar to burn," he says. "It gets to a certain color then finishes."
Bakers wanting to provide bakery foods with sugar-free sweeteners and color should formulate with both sugar and sugar-free sweeteners. Bakers can produce reduced-or low-sugar bakery foods by formulating with a 25% or 50% sugar reduction.
The sugar-free market is growing and will continue to remain lucrative as long as consumers seek more healthful foods. Bakers looking to offer reduced or no sugar products can carve a niche in this marketplace by formulating with a variety of sugarfree sweeteners.