While there are many benefits of replacing sugar with other natural sweeteners, cost often remains the biggest hurdle. 

“With the baking industry expected to deliver affordable and accessible goods like breads and cookies, the pressure from adjacent food segments like the beverage industry can drive alternative materials above the value for return in applications,” said Justin Kanthak, director of business development for Batory Sweetener Solutions. “These challenges are exacerbated when considering reduced or no-sugar-added applications.” 

Bakers may grapple with supply issues as well, as many natural sweeteners are more difficult to source than sugar. To avoid ingredient shortages, bakers should have two suppliers of the same sweetener, Mr. Kanthak recommended. 

“With many high-intensity sweeteners being produced outside of the continental United States, supply chain interruptions can not only impact delivery time but cost,” he said. “Flexibility and preparation can offer a little peace of mind to an ever-changing world.”

Manufacturers should also consider having a backup sweetener, especially if their current one proves to be too expensive, varies greatly in quality and is consistently unavailable, said Joe Savelli, director of culinary innovation, Malt Products.

“It's also important to constantly monitor market trends, customer preferences and feedback,” he added. “If consumers start to show a strong preference for a different sweetener, it may be worth incorporating that into products.”

Thankfully for bakers, availability and cost of natural sweeteners continues to improve. Hank Wang, technical director, North America, Howtian, observed that recent expansion in stevia yield is significantly lowering the cost of these extracts. 

 “When coupled with the rising costs of sugar globally, we’re seeing for some of our customers that sugar reduction with stevia is also translating to a cost reduction,” he said.

Mr. Savelli added that natural sweeteners do have certain sourcing advantages compared to artificial ones.

“Many natural sweeteners can be obtained from multiple sources because they are less proprietary than their artificial counterparts,” he explained. “This leads to markets that are relatively stable over the short and medium term.”

Bakers who successfully reduce or fully replace sugar in their baked goods with natural sweeteners can capitalize on one of the leading trends in the baking industry. 

“Those who have engaged in sugar reduction efforts earlier than others recognize this not just as a shift in consumer tastes, but as an emerging business and marketplace opportunity,” said Michelle Yin, technical lead, Canada, Howtian.

This article is an excerpt from the August 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Sweeteners, click here.