The big challenge for manufacturers of sweet bakery products is to develop recipes that offer lower free sugar intake without compromising on taste.
Here, Dr Els Vandenberghe, Product Development Technologist at Taura Natural Ingredients, discusses new research on consumer responses to reduced added sugar cookies … and introduces an alternative to traditional sweeteners.
Our natural desire for sweet-tasting food and drink is a source of both great pleasure and major public health problems. Whether it’s triple chocolate cheesecake, salted caramel brownies, candy or soft drinks, excessive indulgence can cause tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.1
To lessen the burden of such diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the intake of free sugars should not exceed 10% of our total dietary energy intake.2
Widespread awareness of the consequences of high sugar consumption has not reduced the appeal of sweet food products … and calling for their total elimination from diets is not the best way to achieve WHO’s goals. One alternative approach is to change the formulation of sugar-rich processed foods.
Replacing sugary products with reformulated options could be a good strategy for sugar intake reduction without need for dramatic alterations to everyday diets. However, sugar reduction through reformulation is challenging because it can cause changes in flavour and texture, food functionality, shelf-life and cost.3
These are all major determinants of the commercial success of a food product in the consumer market.
Another seemingly logical approach is to replace sugar-rich products with versions sweetened with high-intensity sweeteners that can provide the sweetness of sugar but with a lower calorific content. However, a growing number of studies indicate that, in the long-term, artificially sweetened food products do not promote improved health, and concerns about their safety and health implications have been raised.4,5
This has led to increased interest in natural sweeteners from plants such as stevia.6 Unfortunately, these ingredients tend to exert a high degree of bitterness, posing challenges for the confectionery industry.
Sugar reduction in biscuits
The reformulation of sweet bakery products to improve their nutritional profile often involves the reduction of sugar and fat. Both sugar and fat are important ingredients in biscuits, largely because, in addition to their functional and textural properties, they add important sensory aspects.
On a sensory level, research has shown that reducing sugar has a much higher impact than reducing fat. In one study, a 50% butter reduction in cookies was not found to be distinguishable, but biscuits with 25% less sugar were perceived as significantly less sweet than a standard biscuit.7
Not only was a reduction in sugar more noticeable for a sensory panel, it also meant the biscuits were disliked more. In other words, liking seems to be related more to sweetness than fat content.8,9
Other studies on the sensory perception of fat- and sugar-reduced biscuits and chocolate puddings have produced similar results.7,9,10 In each case, researchers concluded that sweetness is the key sensory attribute determining liking, and that even relatively low decreases in sugar are noticed by consumers.
It is of the utmost importance, therefore, to develop recipes that offer a lower sugar content but deliver the taste of an unaltered product. But it’s not just about the way sweetness is perceived on a physiological level — psychology also plays a part.
Research has shown that the perception of the sensory characteristics of a food product is influenced by the expectations of the consumer, even before they have tasted it.11
Most consumers believe products cannot be made healthier without compromising on their sensory characteristics; several studies have found an inverse relationship between consumer perceived healthfulness and tastiness.12–14
Therefore, providing the industry with solutions to overcome not only the physiological effect of sugar reduction, but also the prejudices of the consumer, is not easy.
Taura JusFruit pieces as sugar substitutes
At Taura, the goodness of fruit is concentrated with our Ultra-Rapid Concentration (URC) technique to create real fruit and vegetable pieces, pastes and flakes. Taura’s unique URC technology results in fruit concentrates that retain the flavour, colour and nutritional characteristics of the raw materials.
Thanks to Taura’s special concentration process, the natural sweetness of the fruit is also concentrated, resulting in fruit pieces with enormous potential to be used in sugar-reduced food applications such as baked goods. JusFruit is Taura’s range of no-added-sugar fruit pieces.
Including them in sugar-reduced biscuits can create sweet spots that deliver an intense release of sweetness when chewed. The lingering aftertaste then gives the whole biscuit a sweeter perception. In 2015, Taura became part of Frutarom.
This strategic partnership has helped us to develop special fruit pieces that make the eating experience even sweeter. In May 2018, Frutarom and IFF announced they were joining forces to become one of the world’s largest flavour and fine ingredients companies.
A lot of the sweetness contained in Taura’s JusFruit pieces comes from the high level of naturally occurring sugars in the fruit. Combining this with the right ‘smart’ flavour has a synergistic effect, leading to the full delivery of sweetness in the mouth.
For applications in which inclusions are not desirable, Taura also offers the option to add sweetening fruit paste directly to the dough. Because this includes ‘no added sugar’ pastes, customers can reduce the amount of added sugar in any biscuit to zero.
Putting JusFruit pieces to the test
Researchers set out to test whether our JusFruit pieces can be used to overcome the challenge of decreased sweetness and flavour in sugar-reduced biscuits. Working with Aromco, they developed three different soft-baked cookie recipes: a full sugar reference; a cookie with 30% reduced added sugar; and a cookie with 49% reduced added sugar with JusFruit pieces.
There was a distinct decrease in sugar content between the full sugar reference (38.6 g/100 g) and the sugar-reduced cookies. The cookies with and without the Taura JusFruit pieces (sugar content of 27.3 g/100 g and 28.2 g/100 g, respectively) had a similar sugar content.
Although it was not the main objective of the addition of JusFruit pieces, their use also increased the fibre content of the end product. The fibre content in the cookies with added JusFruit pieces was higher than in the other recipes, corresponding to an increased fibre content of 60%.
Taura’s JusFruit pieces, developed as sweet spots, are an excellent solution for manufacturers designing sugar-reduced versions of bakery products
Twenty six untrained panellists participated in a blind tasting session and each received six samples (two each of the three cookie types). They judged two sensory attributes: sweetness and overall taste. The results revealed no significant difference between the full sugar reference cookies and the sugar-reduced cookies with JusFruit pieces.
However, the sweetness of the standard sugar-reduced cookies was perceived to be significantly lower. It was clear that although the sugar-reduced cookies and the sugar-reduced cookies with Taura JusFruit pieces contained the same total amount of sugar, there was a difference in how sweet the panellists perceived them to be.
The cookies were also tested for “optimal sweetness” using a scale from 1–7, with 4 being the optimal sweetness. The standard sugar-reduced cookies scored 3.71, whereas the full-sugar cookies scored 4.57, suggesting that they were considered too sweet.
The cookies with JusFruit pieces came closest to optimum sweetness with a score of 4.25. In addition to sweetness, panellists judged overall taste. The sugar-reduced cookies with JusFruit pieces received the highest scores, followed by the standard sugar-reduced cookies, with the full sugar reference cookies liked the least.
A perfect balance
Not only did the cookies with JusFruit pieces seem to be just as sweet as the full sugar version, their sweetness was also liked more. In other words, their addition to recipes not only compensates for loss of sweetness, it also improves the way sweetness is perceived by consumers.
Furthermore, the overall taste of the sugar-reduced cookies with JusFruit pieces was liked more than the other two samples, showing that JusFruit pieces can positively contribute to the overall taste of the end product.
It can be concluded that Taura’s JusFruit pieces, developed as sweet spots, are an excellent solution for manufacturers designing sugar-reduced versions of bakery products.
- J.D. Mainland and H. Matsunami, “Taste Perception: How Sweet it is (To be Transcribed by You),” Current Biology 19(15), R655–R656 (2009).
- J. van Raaij, M. Hendriksen and H. Verhagen, “Potential for Improvement of Population Diet Through Reformulation of Commonly Eaten Foods,” Public Health Nutrition 12, 325–330 (2009).
- S.E. Swithers, “Not So Healthy Sugar Substitutes,” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 9, 106–110 (2016).
- 5. M. Carocho, et al., “Adding Molecules to Food, Pros and Cons: A Review on Synthetic and Natural Food Additives,” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 13(4), 377–399 (2014).
- M. Carocho, et al., “Natural Food Additives: Quo Vadis?” Trends in Food Science and Technology 45, 284–295 (2015).
- A. Drewniski, K. Nordensten and J. Dwyer, “Replacing Sugar and Fat in Cookies: Impact on Product Quality and Preference,” Food Quality and Preference 9, 13–20 (1998).
- L. Abdallah, et al., “Is Pleasantness of Biscuits and Cakes Related to Their Actual or Their Perceived Sugar and Fat Contents?” Appetite 30, 309–324 (1998).
- C. Biguzzi, P. Schlich and C. Lange, “The Impact of Sugar and Fat Reduction on Perception and Liking of Biscuits,” Food Quality and Preference 35, 41–47 (2014).
- P.J. Geiselman, et al., “Perception of Sweetness Intensity Determines Women’s Hedonic and Other Perceptual Responsiveness to Chocolate Food,” Appetite 31, 37–48 (1998).
- F. Reis, et al., “The Role of Information on Consumer Sensory, Hedonic and Wellbeing Perception of Sugar-Reduced Products: Case Study with Orange/Pomegranate Juice,” Food Quality and Preference 62, 227–236 (2017).
- S. Biakolva, L. Lasse and A. Fenko, “The Role of Nutrition Labels and Advertising Claims in Altering Consumer’s Evaluation and Choice,” Appetite 96, 38–46 (2016).
- A. Fenko, L. Kersten and S. Bialkova, “Overcoming Consumer Scepticism Toward Food Labels: The Role of Multisensory Perception,” Food Quality and Preference 48, 81–92 (2016).
- R. Raghunathan, R.W. Naylor and W.D. Hoyer, “The Unhealthy = Tasty Intuition and Its Effects on Taste Interferences, Enjoyment and Choice of Food Products,” Journal of Marketing 70, 170–184 (2006).