Blueberry muffins
Fruit ingredients have long been considered a natural way of adding sweetness to baked goods.

Inherently sweet source

As the survey showed, fruit ingredients have long been considered a natural way of adding sweetness to foods, including baked goods. With the new labeling requirements, however, there are some limitations on how juice ingredients affect sugar content.

According to the final rule, a food manufacturer must declare as added sugars the amount of sugar in a juice ingredient that is above and beyond what would be contributed by the same volume of the same type of juice when reconstituted to 100%. For example, if 15 grams concentrated apple juice, which has 6 g sugars, is added to sweeten a muffin, and the same amount (15 grams) of 
100% apple juice contains 1.7 grams sugar, then 4.3 grams of the sugars in the apple juice concentrate would be considered added sugars in the muffin.

Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients recently introduced a number of 100% Carolina-made sweet potato ingredients, which can replace artificial sweeteners and other unpopular ingredients in clean label applications. One such ingredient is a cloudy sweet potato juice that contributes sweetness to baked goods while adding flavor, color and a nutritional boost. There’s also a clarified version that is an alternative to high-fructose corn syrup and sugar and, at the same time, contributes vegetable content, according to John Kimber, chief operating officer of Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients.

CIFI sweet potato ingredients
Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients recently introduced a number of 100% Carolina-made sweet potato ingredients.

“Our product development team has successfully created applications with compelling nutritional profiles, as well as sensory appeal,” he said. “This includes a brownie sweetened solely with sweet potato juice concentrate. These new ingredients do a great job solving clean label issues and will allow food brands to add the health trend appeal of sweet potatoes to a wider range of applications.”

The power of honey

A range of viscous syrups extracted from various grains and plants are recognized as minimally processed sweeteners direct from Mother Nature. Honey is likely the most common, especially in the baked goods sector. Containing fructose, glucose and some higher saccharides and produced exclusively by bees, honey has a sweetness similar to sucrose and often contributes color and flavor to the application.

“Honey’s advantage as a sweetener is its marketability, its story that has always started with the honey bee,” said Keith Seiz, spokesperson for the National Honey Board. “It complements today’s clean label formulating trend, and many marketers are bringing honey to the front of the package to clearly communicate to consumers its inclusion in a packaged food.”

Mr. Seiz emphasized that honey is honey — regardless of who or what country supplies it — which supports its pure and simple reputation.

Liquid honey
Liquid honey is extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining and is typically free of visible crystals.

“Honey is a pure product that does not allow addition of any other substances,” he said. “Codex Alimentarius is very explicit and states ‘honey sold as such shall not have added to it any food ingredient, including food additives, nor shall any other additions be made other than honey.’ ”

This is not to say that all honey is created equal. In fact, honey varies in color, flavor and even consistency, based on the flowers from which worker bees extract nectar that eventually becomes honey. The colors of honey form a continuum of water-white to dark amber. Light-colored honey typically has a mild flavor, while the darker colors are more intense.

There are three types of honey, with liquid honey being the most common. It is extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining and is typically free of visible crystals.

Powdered honey
Dried honey is derived from pure liquid honey and includes processing aids.

“Dried honey is derived from pure liquid honey and will include processing aids and other ingredients,” Mr. Seiz said. “The honey is dried to a low moisture content. This gets converted to free-flowing powders, flakes or granules with a minimum 50% pure honey content.”

Both liquid and dried products are used as sweeteners in food formulations, with the former having additional functions, such as ingredient binder and humectant.

The third type of honey is known as whipped or creamed honey. It is sold in a crystallized state and at room temperature is used as a spread much like butter or jelly.

Whipped or creamed honey
Whipped or creamed honey is sold in a crystallized state and is used as a spread much like butter or jelly.

In grain-based foods, such as hearty breads made with ancient, sprouted and whole grains, honey can round out bitter notes and robust textures. It also functions as a natural shelf life extender because it inhibits mold growth in baked goods by binding moisture. This same property makes it a useful humectant in gluten-free baked goods, which tend to dry out and stale easily.

There are important considerations when working with honey and in product reformulations. This is because honey can be as much as 1.5 times sweeter than sugar on a dry basis. Honey also contains enzymes that can break down other ingredients in a formulation, impacting the finished ­product. Honey tends to speed up the Maillard browning reaction in baked goods, so time and temperature often needs to be adjusted.