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Sugar as bulking agent in strawberry jam making.

Sugar for bulking: natural volume while performing added functions

14/09/2021 By Ibrahim Belo in Food technology Liquid sugars, Properties & functions, Soft brown light sugar

While sugar is generally thought of as an ingredient used for sweetening, it performs several other core functions that are equally important. In this blog we focus on how pure sugars and syrups naturally bulk their applications, adding vital weight and volume to commercial food and beverage products.

What is a bulking agent?

Bulking agents, often referred to as carriers or fillers, are carbohydrates used to add volume or weight to food and beverage products without having adverse effects on the intended taste or function. They are often used in conjunction with high-intensity sweeteners (HISs) which do not bulk – HISs just provide intense sweetness – and therefore the bulking agents are required to add volume.

Some mistakenly believe that bulking agents do not change the nutritional values or calorific content of an end product. However, bulking agents are not calorie-free. They may offer reduced calories, but they are not calorie-free.

How does sugar bulk?

Sugar naturally acts in the same way as a bulking agent. Of course, its bulking capabilities vary depending on the pure sugar or syrup used, and the nature of the end product. Pure sugars differ in density, depending on the concentration of the pure sugar product and the temperature at which it is used during production.

White bread spread with marmalade.

Pure sugars and syrups bulk preserves highly effectively, resulting in a thick but spreadable texture. 

For example, sugar is a key ingredient in marmalades, jams and other preserves and makes up much of the ‘bulk’. Without sugar, preserves would be watery substances because the pectin from fruit attracts water molecules that sugar, using heat as a catalyst for the reaction, is able to bind. As a result, it acts as a humectant and creates stability in the preserve.

Bulking applications and the benefits pure sugars bring

Pure sugars and syrups used for bulking are chosen for their unique multifunctional capabilities. Let’s look at three sugar bulking examples below, starting with preserves.

White granulated sugar is typically used for jams and marmalades as it dissolves easily and has a neutral flavour, which injects sweetness without overshadowing the fruit flavour. Furthermore, it can bind the water molecules more efficiently than syrup to create a thick and sticky jam texture. However, depending on the fruit flavour or where the fruit is lower in acid, demerara sugar or cane syrup may be preferred to develop a mellower flavour.

Cake selection on white plate.

Pure sugars add weight and volume to cakes while developing a light texture and perfect crumb.

Crystalline sugars do not need to be coarse to bulk either. Take soft brown light sugar for example. It has a fine-grain texture, and it is used to add volume to hundreds of different types of cakes, making these cakes bulkier while preserving lightness in texture.

And bulking does not only apply to food products. Sugar bulks soft and alcoholic drinks alike. In these applications, sugar adds body and develops mouthfeel, meaning the drink tastes better in the consumer’s mouth. Using a soft drink example, liquid sugar is often used because it is granulated white sugar that has been produced in liquid form. In turn, this helps manufacturers streamline their production and save on heat, energy and labour costs.

Young couple with glasses of refreshing cola indoors, closeup

Pure sugars bulk beverages – both soft and alcoholic – by developing body and mouthfeel.

Function beyond flavour: sugar’s natural versatility

Bulking agents used to be inexpensive because their main purpose was to support product measuring and packaging. Today though, many want to use them with HISs to replace sugar.

But sugar’s natural bulking properties cannot be easily replicated because sugar performs additional functions while also bulking. Food technologists and product developers tasked with reducing calories and creating products with ‘sugar-free’ labels may look to replace sugar with HISs and bulking agents but, by removing sugar, may have to introduce a range of other ingredients to replace the other roles that sugar fulfils. In so doing, they may potentially compromise the quality of the product.

Where sugar can bulk, preserve, sweeten, flavour and colour – to name just a few – each of these would need replacing with alternative ingredients if using a bulking agent and HISs. A food and beverage product can therefore quickly become full of artificial additives and empty calories, all in the name of reducing sugar content. Not only does this create a less natural product, but it can also add to the cost of sourcing, transporting and manufacturing to include these other ingredients.

On the other hand, pure sugars and syrups provide a wide range of functional benefits to products in one ingredient, and therefore, food and beverage manufacturers get more – more functional performance and more quality. So, for a superior end product, there is only one choice – pure sugars!

With over 90 years of pure sugar expertise at our disposal, we are well-placed to support you in formulating and developing your application. To learn more about our products, please contact our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

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