Sweetened fibres – the sweet journey (part 6 of 6)
Product development • This is the sixth and last article on our sweet journey from sugar to sweetened fibres. In this chapter we will learn how dietary fibres together with high intensive sweet substances from natural sources can replace sugar 1:1 without altering the manufacturing process.
In five articles we have looked at sugars, sugar alcohols and other bulk sweeteners, as well as artificial sweeteners and high intensive sweet substances from natural sources. We have realised that the problem that we want to solve is the high energy content of sugar, and the high glycaemic index relative to its sweetness, and that the solution is a high intensive sweet substance from a source that feels just as natural as that of regular sugar. But one challenge remains.
If we replace one kilo of sugar with three grams of steviol glycosides – which are extracted from stevia in much the same way that sugar is extracted from sugar beets – then we have to replace the other 997 grams with something else.
This ”something else” should first and foremost fill the sugar space – give bulk. But it must also give the right mouthfeel. And it may need to compensate for steviol glycosides slightly bitter taste and licorice-like aftertaste. In addition, it should be able to be used in manufacturing without any special considerations or changes in the manufacturing process. Right?
Exactly what this ”something else” is depends on the application. It is rarely just one ingredient, but several. Which and in what proportions must be carefully adapted to the application. It requires expertise and equipment that many producers lack, and it takes a long time and costs a lot of money.
One solution for many recipes
Even if all recipes, or formulations, are different, there are great similarities in how sugar is used in many application areas.
For example, sugar is used to sweeten ice cream, but it is also used to give the ice cream its texture and softness making it possible to scoop up. This is true for almost all ice cream (edible ices being the exception), even if each kind of ice cream has its unique recipe. The same goes for bread, bakery products, chocolate, jellies, sauces, soups etc.
You can develop one or a couple of different solutions for each application area and then use it in each recipe, instead of sugar. It may still take some adjustment for each recipe, but it’s not at all as costly and time consuming as doing it from scratch.
So what does a solution like this look like?
Replacing the bulk of sugar
One of the biggest problems with replacing sugar with a high intensive sweet substance from a natural source is that the bulking disappears. The high intensive sweet substance doesn’t fill it out like sugar does.
You can use maltitol to fill the void left by sugar. But this won’t gain you much. Maltitol has half of sugar’s calories and more than half of sugar’s GI. This is not good.
You can also use erythritol, which has zero kcal and GI. Erythritol feels like sugar in your mouth, or would do, if it wasn’t for its cooling effect which occurs when it comes into contact with saliva.
Both maltitol and erythritol is, like all sugar alcohols, less pleasant to consume in larger amounts. They bind liquid in the large intestine, which can lead to diarrhoea. This is why products containing more than 10% of sugar alcohols must carry the warning that excessive consumption may have a laxative effect.
Two other popular, but equally poor, solutions are maltodextrine and polydextrose.
Maltodextrin contains the same number of calories as regular sugar and has a GI between 120 and 150 – far above regular sugar.
Polydextrose has calories and GI comparable to sugar alcohols. Unfortunately, it is also not the only qualities it shares with sugar alcohols – both are laxative as well.
Dietary fibres are a better solution to filling the void left by sugar. This is positive in two respects for consumers: they perceive it as both natural and healthy. From a food technology perspective fibres also contribute with other good qualities.
A sweet cocktail
Often it is not enough to replace the bulk of sugar with dietary fibres, and its sweetness with a high intensive sweetener of natural origin. To get the taste and texture you require you might need a small amount of sugar alcohols, maltodextrine or polydextrose.
But in difference to using these for bulking purposes, the quantities needed are small and far from any that may cause digestive issues.
Is the solution then to use dietary fibres, a high intensive sweetener from natural origin, and possibly a little of something else..?
The ideal solution
Anybody who has tried to replace sugar with dietary fibres and sweeteners of various kinds can testify that this is not as simple as you might think. There are three issues to be addressed.
First of all, you need the ”right” dietary fibre. You need to find a fibre that has the right qualities suitable for the application in which it is to be used. But equally important is that you have to choose a fibre that can be purchased in high enough quantities and at an acceptable price. Not an easy equation to solve.
Then you need the right sweetener. Of course it should be of natural origin and not add more calories or raise the GI more than absolutely necessary. The solution is normally some kind of steviol glycoside, e.g. Reb A or Reb M, in combination with a small amount of sugar alcohol, maltodextrine and polydextrose. Sometimes you might add some natural flavouring too.
Finally, you need to make sure it all actually replaces sugar. The end product must replace sugar one-to-one in recipes. It needs to be storable, transportable and possible to handle without it shifting into layers. And it must be possible to use in production without having to alter the recipe or the production process. To make this come together may the hardest part of all.
The ideal solution to the problem to replace sugar in an application area is thus
- find the right fibre,
- find the right mix of high intensive sweeteners of natural origin and a small amount of sugar alcohol, maltodextrine and/or polydextrose, and
- create a homogenous solution that replaces sugar one-to-one in both the recipe and production process.
We call this solution sweetened fibres.
Finally! We have come to the end of our journey. We started with regular sugar and the problem that causes. The journey then took us on past other sugar types, sugar alcohols, other bulk sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and high intensive sweeteners of natural origin before we finally arrived at the best solution: sweetened fibres.
It has been a pleasant journey. And we hope that you have found some gems of knowledge to take home.
If you think sweetened fibres sounds like something that would suit you and your business, maybe you would like to try it even, you are more than welcome to get in touch. We will answer your questions to the best of our ability, and if you want to try sweetened fibres in your recipes we will help you with this too. Send us an e‑mail at email@example.com or give us a call on +46 8 613 28 88.
We are looking forward to hearing from you!
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