With nearly two decades of industry experience, Jeff Hodges is an expert in all things formulating for baking and snack products. He said this passion for baking began at a young age.

“I was captivated by how a simple combination of ingredients could create something delicious,” he said. “This curiosity of how ingredients interact followed me from childhood through college.” 

At the University of Kansas, Mr. Hodges dove into the world of mechanical engineering but kept his baking skills sharp, experimenting with different ingredients and intriguing formats. 

“Imagine my delight after graduation when I was offered a position that allowed me to combine my education and love of baking and innovation,” he said. 

Mr. Hodges graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and took a position at Cereal Ingredients Inc., where he held a variety of roles including product development engineer, senior technologist and program administrator. He then worked at Bimbo QSR as senior new product specialist. 

In August 2020, Mr. Hodges joined ADM as the manager of the bakery, snacks and confections applications group in Decatur, Ill. Every day is different in his role at ADM, Mr. Hodges said, bringing new challenges to solve for a variety of baking applications. 

“I enjoy being pushed daily to find new solutions, and I’m grateful to work alongside the incredibly talented and skilled scientists at ADM,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how new ingredients can be used in different ways to overcome formulation hurdles while also growing our technical expertise across an ever-
 expanding range of baked and even some non-baked applications.”

How has the better-for-you movement spurred the use of alternative/low-calorie sweeteners in baked goods?

Consumers are increasingly scrutinizing product labels, as they take a more proactive approach to supporting their overall well-
 being. To do this, many consumers look to reduce calories and limit added or total sugars. Our research shows that sugar reduction becomes 62% more important for consumers purchasing low-calorie foods and beverages. However, consumers will not sacrifice an enjoyable sensory experience, with 82% rating both taste and sugar reduction as important in their purchasing decisions. Since baked goods often derive much of their total calorie count from added sugars, any reduction of sugar in a formulation has the potential to constitute a significant reduction in calories in finished baked goods. Bakers can address these growing consumer demands for fewer calories and reduced sugar content by using alternative sweeteners that contain low or no calories.

What are common alternative sweeteners for baked goods? What applications are they best suited for?

Stevia is one of the most common and popular alternative sweeteners most often used for baked goods. Our SweetRight Edge stevia has no calories and a glycemic index of zero, and it’s exceptional for reduced-sugar and low-calorie baked goods. 

With structural similarity to fructose, allulose is also a fantastic option for bakery items. Plus, our SweetRight allulose tastes and functions like traditional sugar, maintaining the taste profile and mouthfeel consumers love in their baked goods, cereals, confectionery and snacks. Allulose occurs naturally in wheat and dried fruits, contains no sugar alcohols and isn’t listed on product nutrition labels as an added sugar — making it appealing to conscientious consumers closely reviewing ingredient lists and nutrition facts. 

Moreover, SweetRight Reduced Sugar Glucose Syrup (RSGS) is an excellent alternative, allowing for more formulation flexibility in applications like protein bars and snacks. When used in reduced-sugar formulations, RSGS can replace corn syrup without sacrificing functionality, as it provides binding and viscosity comparable to this traditional sweetener. 

When considering alternative solutions, are there other complementary ingredients that can be leveraged?

When leveraging alternative sweeteners in baked good formulations, it’s also important to consider the broader consumer appeal and demands. Lowering sugar and calories is top-of-mind for many consumers, and often goes hand-in-hand when they’re seeking out functional ingredients to incorporate into their diet. In fact, sugar reduction becomes 56% more important for shoppers searching for functional foods and beverages.

ADM/Matsutani LLC’s innovative soluble dietary fiber solution Fibersol meets consumers’ desire for added fiber in functional applications, while also acting as a complementary ingredient to reduce sugar without affecting aroma, flavor or texture. Fibersol builds back integrity through structural and binding qualities that can be lost when sugar is reduced or removed completely. Additionally, product developers can use Fibersol in place of sugar, syrups and honey. Fibersol is a good addition to reduced-sugar cakes, crackers, breads, pastries, frostings and coatings, maintaining a desirable texture in each application. 

What are common formulation challenges when using these sweeteners? How can they be resolved?

We often see several formulation challenges when reducing sugar and replacing it with an alternative sweetener — especially in baked goods. Sugar plays a vital role beyond providing sweetness; it’s crucial for functionality. All sensory factors must be rebalanced, rebuilt or replaced to ensure consumer acceptance of low-sugar formulations. 

Methods for sweetener optimization rely heavily on the type of baked offering and the preferred sweetener system. For bakery formulations that are already not as sweet, like breads, only a slight adjustment to the yeast is needed to achieve sugar reduction. Alternatively, cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies and bars can use a simple one-to-one swap of ingredients to yield desired results, such as SweetRight Edge stevia in place of sugar, or RSGS rather than corn syrup. Additionally, replacing sucrose with our GrainSweet glucose-fructose syrup is a simple exchange, bringing sweetness, functionality and cost optimization to a variety of applications, including bread and bakery.

For nearly all other bakery offerings, bakers need to test the formulation with incremental changes until sugar reduction and sensory goals are met in the finished product. Furthermore, switching from traditional granulated sugar to liquid sugar systems may require minor adjustments involving water content and the preferred sweetness level. However, greater formulation modifications might be necessary when moving from a conventional sweetener to a lower sugar option. 

How can bakers ensure they find the best sweetener for their bakery product?

A collaborative supplier is an important piece of the puzzle when bakers are considering the right sweetener for their bakery offerings. We partner with bakers to overcome formulation challenges and reach calorie-reduction goals with optimized sweetening solutions, formulation ingenuity and our comprehensive sugar reduction approach. By identifying the best sweetener or combination of sweeteners, our technical experts help bakery brands create low-calorie and reduced-sugar bakery and snack items.