Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Can syrups take the place of sugar in bakery?
With the government targeting refined sugar as part of its drive to cut obesity, bakers can use syrups to create sweetness in baked goods. A change such as isn’t without impact on the final product. Knowing this, can we estimate what swapping refined sugar with syrups may bring?
A national change
The drive to reduce sugar consumption in the UK is far from new. For years, government initiatives have aimed to reduce intake from the average national diet in a bid to reduce the high levels of obesity experienced in the UK. As part of a wider effort to encourage a balanced diet and healthier lifestyle, recent changes hope to produce a result of bakers replicating that desired sweetness in baked goods in a new way.
Public Health England is a government organisation that provides research, guidance, and regulation on health issues that affect the country. As an executive agency within the Department of Health and Social Care, they have been an instrumental part of the drive to improve the health and wellbeing of the country – including its intake of sugars and confectionery goods.
Crystalline sugars and syrups are both provided by Ragus.
New ingredients, new recipes
Things are not quite as simple as they may seem, however. While it may seem innocent enough to change sugar to syrup in a given recipe, it can have a profound impact on the final product. Syrup instead of sugar will produce a food item that has marked differences in its moisture levels, appearance, crumb, and overall texture.
This poses a challenge to bakers; do they comply with efforts to swap to the use of syrups and risk altering their portfolio of baked goods, or do they stay true to their previous recipes in order to protect their business and the consistency of their products? For many businesses, their product lines are the result of expensive and in-depth research and product development. To adjust to syrups instead of sugars requires, in many cases, a sustained and phased approach where new recipes are trialled and brought to market.
The ability of businesses to perform this in response to an effort to improve public health will naturally vary; some companies will have the ‘luxury’ of being able to accommodate the risk of changing product lines, whereas other businesses – particularly smaller ones – will show understandable reluctance in changing that which works for them already.
Sugars and syrups are used in a wide variety of food products.
But when it comes to reducing the sugar content of baked goods, syrups offer potential as they are sweeter and have other benefits. Ben Eastick, Director at Ragus, explains: “Depending on the exact type of syrup used, they are around 40% sweeter than granulated sugar (sucrose). Because of this, less syrup is needed in a given formulation. Syrups also perform the role of a binding agent, moisture attractant and flavour enhancer, as well as aiding and controlling colour development in baking.”
Treacles, for example, can add a robust flavour, are a natural food colourant, and are high in minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Cane treacle is a popular choice among confectionery businesses and is prized for its ability to act as a natural food supplement that contributes to vitamin B6 daily requirements. And although syrups can cost around 20% more than sucrose, Ben Eastick says this should be countered against their advantages. “Syrups are ready to mix and so reduce pre-mixing time, energy usage, and labour costs. And depending on volume and application they can also reduce raw material volume held in stock, potentially providing an organisation with additional cost-savings and efficiency benefits.”
A board member and co-leader of the business, Ben is responsible for our marketing strategy and its execution by the agency team he leads and is the guardian of our corporate brand vision. He also manages key customers and distributors.
In 2005, he took on the role of globally sourcing our ‘speciality sugars’. With his background in laboratory product testing and following three decades of supplier visits, his expertise means we get high quality, consistent and reliable raw materials from ethical sources.