Sugar Producer

November/December 2021

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28 Sugar Producer NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021 No One-Trick Pony Sugar: an ingredient of many talents FROM THE SUGAR ASSOCIATION Courtney Gaine, R.D., Ph.D. | President & CEO Sugar's talents go far beyond its distinguished sweet taste. Sugar is the star of the show in many of the treats and sweets that come to mind when we think about our favorite foods. But sugar is often a supporting actor, displaying one or more of its many other talents and contributing to the way foods look, feel and last. Sugar, Where Are You? Often, we are led to believe that sugar is hiding in many of the foods we eat. It's not hiding; however, it may be added to foods for reasons consumers may have not expected, and it is certainly waiting for the recognition it deserves for the many supporting roles it plays. A 2013 analysis of packaged foods and drinks purchased in American grocery stores found that 68 percent of products contain caloric sweeteners. To get a better idea of how many of those caloric sweeteners are sugar, Mintel analyzed the number of new food and beverage products launched into the marketplace from January 2016 through June 2019. In that time, there were just over 93,000 new food and beverage products launched into the marketplace. Of these products, 47 percent contained some form of real sugar from sugarbeets or sugarcane. The top categories for these new sugar-containing product launches were bakery, snacks, and prepared main course items. In fact, 79 percent of bakery items and 72 percent of the prepared main courses launched included real sugar. That's a lot of products; let's find out why! The Water Snatcher Sugar grabs the available water in foods. This is an important function because bacteria grow in moist environments. By soaking up the water, sugar acts as a preservative, preventing the growth of microorganisms that can spoil food. Many products such as jams and jellies, salad dressings and sauces, canned fruits and vegetables, beverages, breakfast cereals, breads and other baked goods rely on sugar as a preservative. And because water is so attracted to sugar, it helps to retain moisture, extending the shelf life of baked goods. There is one more reason the sugar and water relationship is so important: the ability to inhibit flour gluten development, which helps create the variety of textures seen in baked goods. A little sugar delivers a dense texture, like in a roll, whereas more sugar produces a fluffy texture, like in a cake. The Scorcher When sugar reacts with the protein in foods, it causes the food to become brown when heated, like the crust of bread. The more sugar a food contains, the more brown it will become. This browning is called the Maillard reaction. Sugar can also brown foods through a process called caramelization. When the sugar is heated, it breaks down and caramelizes. To make a beautiful caramel sauce, simply heat white table sugar in a pan and watch as it transforms! The Growth Expert Bread is made with baker's yeast, which feeds on sugar. When the yeast consumes the sugar, it releases carbon dioxide, which is what makes the dough rise and gives you the air pockets you find in yeast bread. Sugar also stabilizes the foam structure in egg white foams, like meringues, to allow air to be incorporated to create a tall, fluffy end result. A Real Character Sugar contributes to texture and mouthfeel in nearly every food category, from cookies and ice cream to cereal, salad dressing, canned fruits and vegetables, and beverages. The air pockets formed when you beat together butter or shortening with sugar give cookies a crumbly structure. When sugar is mixed with pectin (a starch found in fruits and vegetables) and an acid (like lemon juice) at a high temperature, the result is the gel-like consistency found in jams and jellies. Ice cream is creamy because sugar lowers its freezing point, slowing down the freezing process and preventing the formation of ice crystals. This creates a smooth, creamy consistency that's easy to scoop. Beverages sweetened with sugar feel thicker in your mouth than those that aren't—for example, chocolate milk, where even the non-fat version tastes very creamy.

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