Making baked foods with less sugar is no easy trick. But functional ingredients that provide additional nutrient content help make up the differences, according to Joseph O’Neill, president and general manager, BENEO, Inc., Morris Plains, NJ.

Baking & Snack: What sugar-sparing strategies do you advise bakery formulators to follow?

Joseph O’Neill: With consumers increasingly looking for added benefits, it would stand to reason that the future looks very promising for sweetening ingredients that offer more benefits than just sweetness. Leading food trends include categories such as natural ingredients, digestive health, weight management and energy management, all of which can be addressed in part by sweet ingredients solutions. Therefore, formulators should look beyond sweetness profiles alone to ingredients with nutritional and technological functionality when making their ingredient selections.

What ingredients does BENEO offer for bakery and snack applications that reduce the amount of sugar in such foods?

BENEO offers a selection of specialty carbohydrates, naturally derived from chicory or sugar beet, which can assist in replacing the taste, texture and mouthfeel of sugar. BENEO’s sugar replacer ISOMALT is derived from sugar beet, while Orafti oligofructose is naturally derived from chicory roots.

BENEO’s prebiotic fiber oligofructose is a multifunctional ingredient that offers a host of technical and nutritional benefits available in both a liquid and powder form. Orafti oligofructose is a natural source of fiber that enhances the fiber content of baked goods and snacks and can also be considered as a low-caloric alternative to sugar at 2 Cal per g. It can complement whole grain formulations and help bridge the fiber gap as consumers are looking for more fiber in their diet. In addition, these unique, tasteless fibers also promote good digestive health.

From a technological perspective, Orafti oligofructose can provide the bulking of sugar. Orafti oligofructose fiber syrups are sometimes referred to in the industry as liquid inulin and are commonly labeled as chicory root fiber extracts. They are widely used in nutrition bars as a source of fiber and as a humectant to extend shelf life by keeping the bars softer for longer. It also contributes to the Maillard browning reactions and provides desirable browning appearance found in baked goods while having a moderately sweet taste (30 to 65% of the sweetness potential of sucrose) without any lingering aftertaste.

ISOMALT is sugar-like and has no aftertaste. It can be used effectively to replace the bulking effect of sugar in baking and snack food recipes and at the same time provide partial sweetness without affecting the taste or texture of the traditional sugar-based recipe. Unlike other sugar alcohols, it has a low heat of solution and no cooling effect. Depending on the concentration, temperature and specific application, ISOMALT can extend 45 to 60% the sweetness value of sucrose. It also has very low hygroscopicity, which helps extend the shelf life of finished products. In cookie fillings, ISOMALT is known for exhibiting good whipping volume, spreadability and caloric reduction at 2 Cal per g. As such, ISOMALT is ideal for sugar reduction in baked goods. It has a pure sweet taste, keeps cookies crispy and offers excellent shelf life characteristics.

Last but not least, there is BENEO’s Palatinose (generic name isomaltulose) that can be considered the next-generation sugar. It is a functional carbohydrate, naturally derived from sugar beet, which is fully yet slowly digestible and provides a prolonged energy supply in the form of glucose. From a classification point of view, it is still a sugar; however, it has characteristics that are not at all sugar-like such as being low-glycemic and non-cariogenic. Furthermore, Palatinose promotes fat oxidation during physical activity. Due to its nutritional benefits, it is often used in cereal bars targeted to athletic consumers and those with an active lifestyle who want a slow and balanced glucose supply.

How does this work? What is the mechanism that allows these ingredients to reduce overall sugar content? Or cut the finished products glycemic index? What usage and/or substitution levels are required?

The main reason why oligofructose and ISOMALT are used instead of sucrose and to replace sucrose partially in baked goods is due to the fact that they provide bulk and have a similar sweetness potential as sucrose. Products with oligofructose are fiber-enriched and lower in calories without altering taste or texture. The sugar replacer ISOMALT may even replace sucrose completely without affecting the taste or texture of the final product.

There are two ways in food technology to reduce the glycemic index of food:

a)         Modification of glucose supply by choosing, for example, low glycemic available carbohydrates such as Palatinose

b)         Reduction of glucose supply by replacing fully available carbohydrates by prebiotic fibers such as oligofructose or sugar replacers (polyols) such as ISOMALT.

Oligofructose is non-glycemic because it is not digested by the human body. It passes into the large intestine unchanged where it is selectively fermented by the gut microbiota. ISOMALT is low-glycemic because it is only partially digested.

According to the application and formulation, ISOMALT can replace sucrose 1:1. Oligofructose allows a “good” or “excellent source” of fiber claim when used at 2.5 g or 5 g fiber per serving, respectively.

Can you point to baked foods already on the market that achieve such results?

There are various market products using BENEO’s oligofructose and ISOMALT.

Oligofructose is the ingredient of choice in high-fiber cereal bars. ISOMALT is widely used in sugar-free cookie fillings, sugar-free wafers and sugar-free cookies.

Additionally, oligofructose helps mask off-flavors associated with high-intensity sweeteners, which are often used in sugar-reduced products. Also, clinical studies have shown that BENEO’s oligofructose helps to reduce the calorie intake and helps you eat less. This evidence gives new opportunities to the bakery industry to approach consumers who would like to manage their weight efficiently.

How must these materials be labeled in the ingredient listing on packages?

Oligofructose is a prebiotic fiber and labeled as “dietary fiber” on the Nutritional Facts Panel and as oligofructose on the ingredient list. It is also recognized as “chicory fiber extract” on labels. ISOMALT is mentioned as “isomalt” on the ingredient list and as “sugar alcohol” on the nutritional panel.