While most people associate sugar with sweetness, it contributes so much more to a bakery product. When removing sugar from a bakery application to reduce calories, bakers risk much more than just a flavor impact.

“Sucrose is a bulking agent, first and foremost,” said McKenna Mills, senior technical services specialist, Cargill. “When you take out a bulk of the product, you’re going to run into a lot of issues, so you want to match the bulk you’re losing and then the sweetness.” 

There are several ingredients out there that contribute the bulk and structure lost while still contributing fewer calories. Each has their own limitations but can work in tandem with other ingredients to fill in the gaps. Soluble rice flour from Cargill’s SimPure line of ingredients, for example, is a 1:1 replacement for maltodextrin, Ms. Mills pointed out. While it replaces bulk, it does not add any sweetness to the flavor profile. This might be less of an issue depending on the target consumer.

“Which ingredient you choose will be determined by the consumer you’re trying to reach,” she said. “Some consumers, like the very health-conscious, might not put sweetness first and foremost, and that allows us to use other options.” 

Other replacements do have their own sweet taste profile, like isomaltulose and isomalt. Beneo’s Palatinose and Isomalt sweeteners provide bulk as well as half the sweetness of sucrose, with rounded sweetness profiles. While Isomalt boasts half the calories of sucrose, making it a calorie reduction option, both ingredients are low glycemic. Palatinose contains the same number of calories as sucrose, however due to its slow release of glucose, it provides sustained energy. Both ingredients are sourced from sugar beets. 

Fibers are very common for replacing bulk in reduced-sugar applications and carry their own benefits and limitations. One of the benefits is they enable bakers to meet a lot of different needs all at once. 

“Stacking fibers such as FOS, inulin and soluble tapioca fibers can drive down net carbs and calories without adding sugars,” said Thom King, chief executive officer, Icon Foods. 

Chicory root fibers reduce calories while adding bulk and fiber to the formulation. Beneo’s Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose contribute 2 Cal per gram and are prebiotic fibers. They have minimal taste and are soluble.

“With a mild taste, they work well with natural and high-intensity sweeteners,” said Kyle Krause, product manager, functional fibers and carbohydrates, North America, Beneo. “And by providing bulk solids, chicory fiber replaces sugar and added sugars while maintaining the taste and texture of the final product.” 

Cargill’s insoluble Actastar fiber adds bulk and dietary fiber to a formulation. 

Sugar alcohols and ingredients derived from sugar can often replace or contribute to reducing the calories contributed by sugar without losing functionality, but again, they are not without their limits. Bakers should be aware of those limitations to determine which would be best for their formulation. Polyols, for example, can reduce calories while adding bulk, but at high usage rates can cause digestive distress. 

“Many sugar replacements process well and are highly functional, but some may affect finished product attributes,” said Eric Shinsato, senior project leader, innovation and technical service, Ingredion Inc. “Crystalline maltitol is considered a one-for-one replacement for sugar and has good digestive tolerance. Erythritol has high-caloric reduction potential but can crystallize at high-usage levels, leading to an undesirable appearance and cooling effect.” 

One of the latest clean label sweetener ingredients to come on the market, allulose, offers bakers much of the same functionality as sugar with less calories. 

“Our SweetRight allulose tastes and functions remarkably like traditional sugar due to the structural similarity between allulose and fructose, but it has a crucial advantage with just a fraction of the calories,” said Jeff Hodges, bakery scientist, snacks and baking, ADM.

Allulose is a bulking agent that also contributes to humectancy, which extends shelf life, and participates in the Maillard reaction. However, allulose is only 70% as sweet as sugar, so it needs to work with a high-intensity sweetener to replace the flavor. 

“Additionally, allulose burns at a lower temperature than sucrose so bake temperature needs to be reduced and bake time extended,” Mr. King suggested. “Alternatively, blending allulose with erythritol helps abate the tendency to burn.” 

Building back bulk and aiding shelf life are just some of the pieces that need to be replaced when replacing sugar with ingredients that are lower in calories. If bakers don’t also replace sugar’s tastiness, consumers won’t come back for more, regardless of how low the calorie count.

This article is an excerpt from the July 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Calorie Reduction, click here.