Bakers are being urged to understand the function of sugars in bakery items before moving to reduce the sugar content.

The recommendation was made in new guidance developed by Leatherhead Food Research on behalf of the Food and Drink Federation, which is aimed at helping small and medium-sized producers who are looking to reformulate their products.

The publication, Reformulation Guide Spotlight on Sugars, sets out the regulatory framework covering the reduction of sugars and identifies the challenges and opportunities in reducing sugars for the baked goods, soft drinks, and dairy categories. It cautions that “various problems” may arise when bakery recipes are reformulated with reduced sugar content.

“The reduction of sugars in baked goods results in a loss of viscosity and body due to low solids, poor aeration, no browning, loss of shelf-life and poor flavour release,” the guidance stated.

“Usually, a reduction of 15-20% can be reasonably achieved. However, a high level of reduction (more than 50%) is very challenging due to the multiple functions of sugars in baked products.
“In bakery products such as cakes with a higher water content, shelf-life issues such as staling and microbial spoilage can be a major problem when sugars are removed and therefore these points need to be addressed before the reformulation work is carried out.”

The total level of sugars in bakery products can range from approximately 3% in white bread to 40% in fruit cake and 45% in iced biscuits, the document stated, before citing the importance of looking not only at the sugars contributed by the base product, but also the levels of sugars contained within fillings including icing and chocolate coatings.

 “Our member companies are constantly innovating to meet the demand from shoppers and consumers for great-tasting, nutritious and affordable foods and drinks,” FDF director general Ian Wright said: “FDF is committed to giving our members - particularly small and medium-sized businesses without large R&D resources - the help they need to reformulate their products successfully.”

Jenny Arthur, head of nutrition and product development at Leatherhead Food Research, added: “Reformulating products is a challenging task, as sugars are multifunctional ingredients delivering a variety of roles in different products. We hope this guide will give companies practical advice to help them create products with an overall reduction in sugars, while still delivering on taste, texture and mouthfeel.”