When it comes to replacing the sweetness in baked goods that have less sugar and calories, bakers have a plethora of options. Discoveries in nature and in the food science lab have resulted in new understandings of the way sweetness is perceived and how formulators can deliver the flavor with fewer calories. The key has been providing a well-rounded sweet flavor without the off-notes that some replacement ingredients can provide. 

“When you take something out of a standard product, you will run into lots of flavor issues, even if you remove flour,” said Dave Lindhorst, technical account manager, Cargill. “We often recommend the combination of erythritol and stevia because erythritol provides some sweetness while adding bulk and then that’s where the stevia solution comes in, to provide the sweet roundness.”

Stevia has long reigned as the clean label choice for sweetening. However, it has also struggled with bitter off-notes, which have made it tricky to work with. New developments in stevia sourcing and extraction, however, have improved these aspects, making it a more reliable replacement for the flavor of sugar. 

“Monk fruit and first-generation stevia have flavor challenges and usage levels will need monitoring,” explained Eric Shinsato, senior project leader, innovation and technical service, Ingredion Inc. “However, next generation stevia has significantly improved flavor and sweetness and can be enhanced with other steviol glycosides with flavor modifying properties.” 

The two most desirable steviol glycosides, Reb M and Reb D, provide the best flavor but also comprise less than 1% of the stevia leaf. These steviol glycosides can be obtained through fermentation or specific extraction techniques that are specific to each ingredient supplier. 

ADM uses a proprietary approach to stevia extraction and purification to maximize the glycosides that provide the most sweetness with the least off-notes in its SweetRight Edge stevia. In doing so, ADM is able to provide a sweet flavor with less of the off-notes that often require formulators to add taste modifiers or flavor maskers when working with stevia. 

Cargill’s EverSweet and ClearFlo sweetener system combines the company’s Reb M stevia sweetener with a natural flavor to manage off-notes and provide a more sugar-like taste in the high-intensity sweetener.  

Beneo’s Isomalt is sourced from beet sugar and only contains half the calories of sugar. Not only does Isomalt provide some of the functionality of sugar, its low hygroscopicity helps crispy cookies maintain their texture. It also has a rounded sweetness profile. 

If clean labels aren’t an issue, bakers now have other sweetener options available, though these might need other accommodations. 

“Sucralose is economical, has good taste and is bake stable, but it can be an issue if you’re pursuing a cleaner label,” Mr. Shinsato said. “Aspartame cannot handle baking temperatures without degrading, and ace-k typically must be combined with other sweeteners to provide an acceptable flavor profile.” 

By knowing the limitations of these and other sugar reduction ingredients up front, bakers can understand how to combine ingredients to effectively reduce sugar and their product’s calories, without losing out on quality taste and texture.

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