Many consumers confuse low-sugar products with low-calorie products. Is it easy to remove sugar from a product? What effect does this have on calorie content? The production of low-sugar products.
How are low-sugar products made?
A reduction in sugar content beyond a certain threshold is still not possible for technological, taste or marketing reasons. With the exception of sweetened drinks, the most simple example, the partial or total substitution of sugar by sweeteners often requires the alteration of the production process along with a reformulation of the food product, with the addition of ingredients or texturizing additives, flavourings, colorants and preservatives. Hence the existence of low-sugar products, which are not necessarily lower in calories.
In addition to its taste benefits, sugar (sucrose) plays a decisive role in the colouring, preservation and texture (smoothness, crunchiness, etc.) of end products. In fact, it has many technological qualities that are difficult to imitate: no additive can provide an exclusive substitute for sugar.
The most common option to drastically reduce the quantity of sucrose consists in replacing sugar with a set of additives or ingredients which restore the texture of the low-sugar product (with a gelling agent, a thickening agent or fat content, for example). Very often, it is necessary to add other additives to ensure the preservation of the product, because there is no longer an adequate amount of sugar to trap humidity in the food and to protect it from decay (development of microbes and enzymatic reactions).
Another solution is to keep the product, now more exposed to decay, in the fridge after opening, as is the case with low-sugar jams. In some cases, it is necessary to add colouring and flavourings, a role usually played by sugar in cooking products.
It is also possible to replace sugar by other ingredients containing carbohydrates, such as more fruit or by using sweeter varieties of fruit in low-sugar purées, or with more flour or fibre in biscuits. However, whether it concerns simple or complex carbohydrates, these sugar substitutes do not allow, in most cases, for a reduction in the number of calories. A low-sugar product therefore does not necessarily contain fewer calories.