Batting clean-up in the formulating game, honey can be a heavy hitter for bakery teams. “The commercial baking industry has always used honey,” said Catherine Barry, director of marketing, National Honey Board (NHB), Firestone, CO, “but its popularity is booming as consumer trends align perfectly with the benefits of honey.” She spoke to Baking & Snack in an exclusive Q&A.


Baking & Snack: What are the advantages to using honey in commercially produced bakery products?

Catherine Barry: The commercial baking industry has always used honey, but its popularity is booming as consumer trends align perfectly with the benefits of honey. These benefits span from flavor to functional to marketing. Simply put, honey tastes great, delivers many functional benefits to bakery foods and appeals to consumers looking for indulgent, sweet products with clean labels and natural ingredients.


As a sweetener, honey imparts exceptional flavors in all bakery foods, from cookies and crackers to breads and rolls to bars and cereals. More importantly, it sweetens bakery foods naturally, and gives bakers a "clean label" alternative to other sweeteners.


Honey also is used in bakery foods to enhance the flavors of other ingredients. Naturally occurring organic acids in honey, such as gluconic acid, enhance the flavors of spices, fruits and nuts. When used with cinnamon, herbs, spices or other flavors, honey helps bring out those tastes and aromas.


What are its functional and operational advantages? Marketing advantages?

Because of its high fructose content, honey is sweeter than sugar, allowing bakers to use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness. When substituting honey for sugar in formulas, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the formulas. Honey can be used as a complete or partial replacement for almost any sweetener. However, differences in formulas and baking environment make substitution guidelines slightly different dependent on the formula.


In bakery foods, honey performs many roles beyond sweetening bakery foods. Products that contain honey dry out more slowly and have a lesser tendency to crack. This is due to honey’s hygroscopicity. Honey also provides more uniform baking with a more evenly browned crust at lower temperatures as a result of the sweetener’s fructose content.


Honey also imparts an improved aroma at relatively small percentages (up to 6% by weight of the flour) in sweet cakes, biscuits, breads and similar products. The high acidity of honey (avg. pH 3.91) also helps inhibit mold growth in bakery foods and extend shelf life.


Honey naturally coats, binds and thickens products, improving body and mouthfeel. Because it is water soluble, honey is easily added to a variety of mixes and can be pumped or extruded in a variety of manufacturing processes.


From a marketing perspective, the name “honey” is its biggest benefit. Honey is not created from chemicals in a processing plant. Instead, it comes from Mother Nature and is produced in a beehive. Honey is the ideal sweetener to enhance the flavor profile of bakery foods striving to attract consumers looking for all-natural and pure ingredients. It offers food manufacturers the opportunity to provide a sweet product using a natural sweetener that promotes a clean label.


What are some of the challenges?

From a processing standpoint, incorporating honey into an automated manufacturing process should not pose any problems. Available in both liquid and dried forms, honey is suitable for both liquid and dry ingredient handling systems.


What role do you think honey will play in the future of baking?

From gluten-free to all-natural, honey is the ideal sweetener for the future of innovative baking products. The sweetener is aligned perfectly with consumer preferences, and will continue to grow in popularity.

Bonus Webinar – Watch now

“Honey’s forms, functionalities and marketability” — The sweeteners bakeries use have been placed under intense scrutiny by consumer watchdog groups, media thought leaders and social network trendsetters. Learn how to incorporate honey into bakery foods to drive flavor and consumer acceptance by watching this archived webinar.