Six Ways to Sweeten Without Adding Sugar
When formulating a blend, sugar is commonly added to help balance and round out a flavor. Adding sugar contributes to your nutritional label’s sugar totals, but what if you wanted to add sweetness to your blend without additional sugar? The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently amended the nutritional label to not just include sugar, but to also have an “added sugars” section. The purpose of this change is to help consumers gain more knowledge of how much sugar is actually added to their products. Click to learn the difference between the old and new nutritional label.
Original vs. New Format
When considering sweetness levels, it’s important to understand the various types of sugars and how they differ. All sugars are simple carbohydrates that are easily digested and absorbed in the body. There are two main types: monosaccharides (one molecule of sugar) and disaccharides (two molecules of sugar). Fructose, Galactose and Glucose are examples of monosaccharides while sucrose, lactose and maltose are examples of disaccharides.
These sugars are broken down even further into natural and added sugars. Added sugar includes any sugar or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal. Per the FDA, some added sugars to be aware of include syrups, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maltose, trehalose, honey, molasses, sucrose, lactose, maltose sugar, and concentrated fruit juice.
Natural sugars are those found naturally in foods such as fruit and milk. These sugars can be added to foods to make them taste sweet including dairy products, fruit powders, 100% fruit juice, vegetable powders, or 100% fruit and vegetable juice. This excludes juice concentrates, which are considered added sugars, as the amount of added sugar would be more than what was expected of the natural 100% juice. Examples of sweet vegetable juices are carrot juice, beet juice, or sweet potato juice.
So, how can customers get a sweet flavor from their product without too many added sugars or without turning to artificial or high intensity sweeteners?
Here are some creative ways to make a product seem sweeter without adding sugar:
- When making a pizza sauce, sugar is a common component added to tomato paste, herbs, salt and water. To decrease the “added sugars” portion of the label, carrot juice can be added to the formula to give the blend a naturally added sweetness. We could also go a step further and add carrot powder to the sauce to add sweetness without adding sugar directly into the mix.
- When formulating a dry seasoning blend, sweet spices can help boost any sugars added to a blend such as adding cinnamon to a BBQ seasoning. Cinnamon will enhance the BBQ flavor and add some perceived sweetness to the formulation.
- For an Italian sausage seasoning, there is typically fennel and/or anise added to the spice mix. Fennel and anise have a sweet perception to them but anise tends to be a little sweeter. Adding more anise to a sausage blend will make the sausage seem sweeter. Another trick for sausage formulations would be to increase the fat content which often lends a better mouthfeel making the sausage seem sweeter.
- Adding in sweet flavors, like brown sugar, to a seasoning can enhance the perception of added sweetness or mask any bitter or sour notes. In addition, adding a vanilla flavor to the formula might smooth out any bitter peaks in a base seasoning.
- Lowering the salt in the formula can decrease the salty perception and allow the sugars to be more prevalent. From another point of view, salt can be added to a sweet formula to enhance the sweetness of a profile. The salt can add pop to the flavor while enhancing the overall taste experience.
- Dairy products have naturally occurring sugars that can help with enhancing sweetness. Items such as sweet whey powder or non-fat dry milk have naturally occurring sugars that are easily added to dry seasoning mixes. This can be used for topical or sauce applications.
There are many different ways to add sweetness to a product without adding a lot of sugar. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits, veggies, or dairy products help with sweetness along with sweet spices, flavors, or adjusting the amount of salt in the formula. The new FDA rule just makes the process a bit more interesting to developers!