Lets face it, we all love sugar! Not only does it taste great, but it’s incredibly functional providing bulk and structure to baked goods, confections and a multitude of other food products. Sugar is amazing—except that we all need to limit our intake. Sugar leads to diabetes and obesity and cavities and lots of other health problems. Unfortunately this wonderful delicious functional ingredient can only be consumed in small amounts.
There are lots of sugar substitutes out there that can help the nutritional profile of your product but most have drawbacks. High intensity sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit may not have any calories, but they also don’t have any bulk or functional capabilities. Have you ever tried to make a cake out of stevia—not possible! There are also sugar alcohols out there like Sorbitol, Xylitol and Erythritol, which are commonly found in gum and sugar free candy. Consumers need to be careful when eating products that contain sugar alcohol. If you have ever eaten a whole chocolate bar made with sorbitol, you know why—it can cause grumbly stomachs and gas in sensitive consumers.
There are two new exciting sweet ingredients on the market that can help you, the formulator, control sugar in your products but still provide the bulk you need to create those products! You may have seen the word Chicory Root Fiber, Inulin or the scarier sounding “Oligiosaccharide” on labels of food products that have a nice dose of fiber. All of these ingredients are in the same family of “prebiotics”. Prebiotics are a category of functional fiber ingredients that stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial “good” bacteria in the colon. Most prebiotics come in both syrup and powder form and have less than 3% glucose. The powder form is typically around 95% fiber and the syrup, which is a blend of the powder and water- is around 70%. They both have a light sweet taste (about 50-60% of sucrose). Prebiotics essentially can be used to replace all or part of the sugar in your formula with fiber. Your carbohydrate content can stay the same, but your grams of sugar are now grams of fiber and your product will have a lower glycemic index. You can call it “dietary fiber” on your label and educate your consumer on the benefits of prebiotics in their food. The company Vita Fiber (bioneutra.ca) sells prebiotic fiber in retail sized containers or in 25 KG containers. It can be used in candy, granola, beverages, trail mix and anything that could have or would have contained sugar. Manufacturers take note- like with all fiber products, some consumers may be sensitive to large quantities consumed in one sitting. Make sure your portion sizes have no more than 5 or 6 grams of “dietary fiber” per serving.
The second ingredient worth exploring is a bit more complex and difficult to procure and it has some development restrictions. Allulose is a brand new sugar replacement on the market that virtually no one is using… yet! Allulose is a very low calorie (0.39 calories per gram) sugar that tastes exactly like sugar, because it is! It official sugar name is D-Psicose, and it is one of the many different sugars that exists in nature in very small quantities. It was first identified in wheat and has since been found in corn, figs and raisins. It is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) that is recognized as a carbohydrate and absorbed by the body but is not metabolized, so it is essentially calorie free and has no impact on blood glucose levels. Allulose is not yet available in supermarkets but manufacturers can order it directly and use it in moderate amounts in their food product creations. Allulose has received Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status from the FDA. There are two companies that sell allulose- Tate &Lyle and a non-GMO version from The Anderson Global Group.
Prebiotic fibers and D-Psicose are both great ways to reduce sugar, increase fiber and help consumers manage their glucose response. Unlike high intensity sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia, which must be used in combination with maltodextrins, these two ingredients already have bulking capacity and can provide the function you need without the calories or sugar.