Formulators need to balance functional properties, digestive tolerance and labeling preference when choosing among sugar alternatives, advised Eric Shinsato, technical sales support manager, Ingredion Inc., Westchester, IL.

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

Eric Shinsato: Before taking on the challenge of reducing added sugars, ask questions so to be clear on the message the product is to deliver to the consumer. Is the goal to meet a specific claim of sugar reduction, or is there a target amount of sugar per serving? Will the reduction in sugar be offset by an increase in another ingredient that essentially negates any positive benefit? Do the replacement bulking agents and sweeteners need to be “natural?” How much is at risk in terms of cost and brand image if this effort is to be completed?

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

Ingredion offers a full line of sweeteners for sugar-free and reduced sugar applications including SORBO sorbitol solutions and SORBOGEM crystalline sorbitol, MALTISWEET crystalline maltitol and maltitol syrups, HYSTAR maltitol syrups and polyglycitol syrups, STABILITE polyglycitol powders, ERYSTA crystalline erythritol and ENLITEN reb A stevia.

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?

In many cases, polyols combined with stevia can replace sugars on functionality and sweetness. Crystalline maltitol can replace sugar 1:1 based on its crystal structure, molecular weight and relative sweetness. Maltitol syrup can effectively replace a corn syrup or other liquid sweetener depending on the desired viscosity or crystallization control. If the sweetness needs to be enhanced, stevia may be added. The only shortcoming of polyols is that they do not contribute to browning and thus do not add the caramelized notes typically associated with sugar.

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

There are a variety of sugar-free cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, pies and specialty items available as box mixes or finished products at retail stores and bakeries.

Looking at current uses of your ingredients in such formulations, how would you recommend their use be improved? Be made more effective in reducing the amounts of added sugars?

Usage may be improved by optimizing the balance of functional properties, digestive tolerance and labeling preference. For example, maltitol is an excellent replacement for sugar for functionality and tolerance, but it is not considered “natural.” Conversely, erythritol is accepted as “natural” and is most highly tolerated but will readily crystallize due to its low solubility. Depending on the application, a combination of polyols and stevia may be needed to achieve the desired finished product.

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

The polyols are typically labeled by their common name, such as maltitol or erythritol, and stevia as rebaudioside A or reb A.