Functional Roles of Sucrose in Foods

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Refined sucrose is added to foods for more than just its sweetness. The difficulties inherent in producing low-joule products using intense sweeteners attest to this. For example, sucrose contributes to the bulk and texture of cakes and cookies and it provides viscosity and mouth feel in liquids such as soft drinks and fruit juices. Sucrose is also a powerful preservative and contributes the long storage life of jams and confectionery. In frozen products like ice cream, sucrose has multiple functions: It acts as an emulsifier, preventing the separation of the water and fat phases; it lowers the freezing point, thereby making the product more liquid and 'creamier' at the temperature eaten. The presence of sucrose retards the crystallization of the lactose in dairy foods and milk chocolate (tiny crystals of lactose feel like sand on the tongue). In canned fruit, sucrose syrups are used to prevent mushiness caused by the osmotic movement of sugar out of the fruit and into the surrounding fluid. Because sucrose masks unpleasant flavors, sugar syrups are used as carriers for drugs and medicines, especially for young children who cannot swallow tablet formulations. In products like yogurt and coffee it masks the acidity or bitterness and balances the sugar-acid ratio in fruit juices and cordials. Lastly, sucrose is a substrate for fermentation. It is added as food for the yeast in bread-making and beer-making. But it is converted to alcohol and other products in the process and therefore not consumed as sucrose. For all these reasons, when manufacturers design a low joule-low sugar product, they find that many substances need to be added to perform all the roles that sucrose did alone.

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