Sugar is a complex ingredient that wears many hats, and no one replacement option can truly say the same. To create a product that delivers a comparable experience and doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, bakers must find the combination of ingredients that will play well together.

For starters, sugar can be one of the least expensive ingredients in a formulation, which means a baker must be strategic in replacing it so as not to incur too much cost. You can sub in inexpensive ingredients like maltodextrin, corn syrup or even corn starch, said Matt Gennrich, senior food scientist, Cargill, but they require smaller amounts, and they won’t provide the functionality to accompany the sweetness they provide.

“With something like maltodextrin, you can sub in small amounts because you can combine it with chicory root fiber or erythritol or even flour or starch,” Mr. Gennrich suggested. “But with those cheaper ingredients, you’re not replacing the sugar at a meaningful level. To get up into a 10%, 15% or 20% sugar replacement, you need to focus on ingredients like chicory root fibers and erythritol or combinations of those.”

Erythritol contributes sweetness that could get close to sugar, but it may not provide a comparable browning or spread. Meanwhile, chicory root fiber offers good textural replacement, but it can create gastrointestinal issues in high doses, and high-potency sweeteners can bring a lot of flavor without the bulk.

“But when you combine these ingredients together, the erythritol and chicory root fiber can even each other out with what they promote,” Mr. Gennrich suggested.

It’s not only ingredients that can join forces with one another. Fibersol is the result of a joint venture among Archer Daniels Midland Co., Matsutani Chemical Industry Co. and Matsutani America, Inc.

“It’s a low-calorie replacement for the structural function of sugar that also adds positive nutrition,” said Olivia Rhode, scientist, snacks, bakery and confections for the Food Science and Technology Group at ADM.

Using Fibersol with a no- or low-calorie sweetener can reduce up to 30% of sugar in a formula, Ms. Rhode suggested.

“In sweet goods such as cakes, cookies and brownies, 30% to 50% sugar reduction can be achieved with a combination of Fibersol, erythritol and high-intensity sweeteners,” she said.

Combining ingredients can also have an impact on taste, perhaps creating new value propositions that were yet to be considered.

“Stevia can impact the overall flavors of the product you’re using it in,” said Matthew Jost, research and development chef, PureCircle. “It creates a great opportunity to provide not only a flavor and a sweetener, but at the same time, it also provides an opportunity to use less of those expensive ingredients.”

He added that stevia enhances flavor notes in cinnamon and vanilla.

“You can use up to 15% less in whatever you’re formulating and still have a wonderful flavor that comes through and shows very well,” he said.

At Ingredion, a full portfolio of sugar reduction sweeteners offers bakers the flexibility to find a sugar-reduction combination that will deliver on both flavor and functionality in their product development.

Sugar’s benefits — and its detriments — are straight forward. But consumers’ often contradictory demands make finding a suitable replacement a puzzling proposition.

The whole concept of sugar reduction is a big issue that will not be going away anytime soon. And it requires some outside-of-the-box thinking.

“Smart sugar reduction projects are driven by a deep understanding of the customer’s goals and objectives and consumers’ preference for reduced sugar products that don’t compromise on taste,” Ms. Rhode said.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on sugar reduction, click here.