Sensory and Physical Effects of Sugar Reduction in a Caramel Coating System

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Sugar reduction in processed foods is a pressing and complex problem, as sugars contribute important sensory and physical properties to foods. Composed of sugars and lipids, caramel coating systems, like the coating in caramel popcorns, exemplify this challenge. In order to probe the feasibility and consequences of sugar reduction, both sensory and physical properties were measured for 3 types of caramel coating systems. Four commonly used sugar alcohols, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, and sorbitol, with different thermal properties and relative sweetness values were chosen to replace sugar in the caramel coating systems at 25% and 50% sugar reduction levels. Full sugar (control) and reduced sugar caramel coating samples were prepared in duplicate. Ten trained panelists participated in a 6-wk descriptive analysis panel to define and quantify the intensity of important sensory characteristics. All 24 sensory terms generated by the panel differed significantly across caramel type and sugar replacer. Thermal properties were measured through differential scanning calorimetry, and textural properties were measured through texture profile analysis. Replacement of sugar with sugar alcohols was found to decrease the glass transition temperature and systematically alter the hardness and resilience of caramel samples. Principal component analysis of sensory and physical data revealed that caramel coating type dictates caramel aroma, aroma by mouth, taste, and aftertaste, while sugar replacer and replacement level dictate texture. This research represents the first comprehensive study of the effects of sugar reduction in a caramel coating system and suggests successful strategies for sugar reduction and key parameters to control in reduced sugar systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1935-1946
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of food science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • caramel coating
  • descriptive analysis
  • glass transition
  • sugar alcohols
  • texture profile analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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