Amy Jackson, bakery technologist at Tate & Lyle, discusses the challenges facing bakers in sugar reduction and reformulation of bakery goods

The role of sugar in our diet has long been, and remains, a topic of national discussion. Consumer demand for great-tasting options with less sugar continues to grow across most food and beverages, including sweet baked goods, a category associated with indulgence.

Market research firm Mintel has found that nearly one in four UK shoppers are attracted to a reduced-sugar proposition when buying cakes or baked goods. With government health interventions, such as Public Health England’s guidelines on sugar reduction, alongside NGO-led campaigns and stretching company targets, bakery formulators are being challenged to make progress, and fast.

Having helped bakers in the UK and across Europe to lower sugar in hundreds of recipes, I know the industry is taking this challenge seriously and delivering impressive results. What can be achieved will vary from product to product, and staged reductions will help consumer palates adjust.

Sugar plays many different roles in a cake, and texture, volume and shelf life must be factored into any planned changes. Producers of fine bakery wares aren’t able to use low -or no-calorie sweeteners – a key tool in sugar reduction – in their formulations in the same way other categories can, so they must find other means.

Recently, at Tate & Lyle, I helped update the recipe and manufacturing process for a high street chain’s café cakes, reducing the sugar and fat content by 10%. One of our fibre and starch blends helped reduce the sugar and fat, and deliver some of the functions previously provided by sugar, such as a body, texture and shelf life. By reformulating the recipe, I increased the cake’s volume, making it lighter and less dense. Trials show consumers love the new recipe and sales have risen.

Understanding the nutrition composition of every ingredient in your formulation means you can see how they contribute to the overall nutritional profile. The sugars in your milk powders and syrups, for instance, all add up to the final numbers on your nutrition label. Sugar reduction doesn’t just happen in isolation – all supply chain partners feed into it, from your customer sharing any internal targets or ingredient criteria, to your ingredients supplier working with you to provide a comprehensive solution.

This sector’s achievements to date show sugar reduction can be done, gradually, in a way that supports public health goals, but gives consumers those ‘moments of joy’ they crave.