Starch sweeteners / Glucose syrups

A sweet choice of possibilities

The starch molecule consists of a large number of glucose units. Glucose has been essential in the food industry since the 19th century, when Europeans sought to substitute products for cane sugar which was in short supply. The industrial process of starch hydrolysis first appeared in 1811 when German scientist KIRCHOFF discovered that it was possible to give a sweetened character to starch by heating with water and sulphuric acid. Later during the 1960’s enzymatic technologies began to be used in the industry for starch hydrolysis: this interest in enzymes for use in the starch industry has increased significantly. Starch sweeteners meet the demand of sweetening mixtures and bring additional functionality to many sectors (beverages, confectionery, dairy products…), contributing to the texture, colour stability and flavour of the final product, while also remaining economic. For example, glucose syrups are used in confectionery mainly for their anti-crystallizing role, while in brewing they are especially used for their sweetening power. Glucose syrups can adapt, as with the starch from which they result, into a considerable variety of products, each developing specific properties. The hydrolysis -by the important choice of the enzymatic transformation- allows the production of very broad ranges of products with a wide spread of sweetening capacity, texture and taste.

Sugars/Sweeteners produced by the starch industry include:

Glucose syrup

Glucose syrup (term used as a legal designation for labelling purposes)* is a refined, concentrated aqueous solution of glucose, maltose and oligomers of glucose obtained by controlled partial hydrolysis of edible starch. It may contain small amounts of fructose obtained either by conversion of glucose or by hydrolysis of edible inulin.

Glucose-Fructose syrup (GFS)

Glucose-Fructose syrup (term used as a legal designation for labelling purposes)* is a glucose syrup which contains between 5 and 50% fructose on dry matter basis obtained either by conversion of glucose or by hydrolysis of edible inulin.

Fructose-glucose syrup (FGS)

Fructose-glucose syrup (term used as a legal designation for labelling purposes)* is a glucose syrup which contains more than 50% fructose on dry matter basis. The most common type contains 55% fructose, although production within Europe is minimal.

Isoglucose

Isoglucose (term defined by the EU sugar regime) derives its name from its production process. It is a fructose produced by isomerisation with enzymes which convert glucose into fructose. Isoglucose is produced from glucose and contains at least 10% fructose. From a labelling perspective, they are either glucose fructose syrups of fructose glucose syrups.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)(term not used in the EU but only in the US and in some other regions in the world for a GFS or FGS). It is most commonly 42% or 55% fructose containing syrup. The use of HFCS developed more in the US than in the EU because in Europe since 1970 a production quota is in place for glucose syrups including more than 10% fructose, in the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Dextrose

Dextrose (term used as a legal designation for labelling purposes)* is a purified and crystallised glucose.

Fructose

Fructose (term used as a legal designation for labelling purposes)* is a purified and crystallised fructose.

Maltodextrins

Maltodextrins (they are not defined in the “EU sugars directive”). An EU starch industry definition exists published in Starch 43,6,247 (1991) that describes them as nutritive saccharides consisting of glucose and its oligomers and polymers, with a dextrose equivalent (DE) of less than 20. They are prepared as white powders or concentrated solutions by the partial hydrolysis of gelatinized food starches.

Polyols

Polyols are low caloric alternative sweeteners. Some of them are produced using starch as a raw material. Those which use starch as a raw material are:

  • Sorbitol is purified sorbitol obtained by reduction (hydrogenation) of glucose. Sorbitol is found in fruits such as apples or pears.

  • Sorbitol syrup is formed by reduction of glucose syrup and composed of sorbitol, mannitol and hydrogenated saccharides.
  • Maltitol and maltitol syrup. Likewise, while maltitol is purified amtitol (reduced matose), maltitol syrup is mainly composed of maltitol with sorbitol and hydrogenated oligo- and polysaccharides.
  • Polyglycitol syrup consists mainly of maltitol and sorbitol and lesser amounts of hydrogenated oligo- and polysaccharides and maltrotriitol. It is manufactured by the hydrogenation of a mixture of starch hydrolysates consisting of glucose, maltose and higher glucose oligomers. Similar to the catalytic hydrogenation process used for the manfufacture of maltitol syrup.
  • Mannitol is purified mannitol (reduced mannose) produced by hydrogenation of sugar solutions containing glucose and/or fructose.
  • Erythritol is purified (reduced erythrose, a 4-carbon sugar). It is obtained by fermentation starting from glucose. It is found in fruits such as pears, melons and grapes, as well as foods such as mushrooms and fermentation-derived foods such as wine, soy sauce and cheese.

Caramel

Colouring caramels are liquids or solids with a brown dark colour, water soluble, obtained by a controlled action of heat on food sugars. The principal use is the colouring of foodstuffs. They improve the appearance of products, giving some colour and eliminating the colour variations. The use of colouring caramel began around 1840 in a broad range of products, such as alcoholic drinks (beers, liquors, brandies, rum, whisky), carbonated beverages, (colas…), soups and sauces, vinegars and condiments, preserves, dairy ice creams, bakery products, biscuit factory and confectionery and pharmaceutical products. Aromatic caramels are liquids or solids with a brown dark colour, water soluble, obtained by a controlled action of heat on food sugars. The principal use is the colouring of foodstuffs. They improve the appearance of products, giving some colour and eliminating the colour variations. The use of colouring caramel began around 1840 in a broad range of products, such as alcoholic drinks (beers, liquors, brandies, rum, whisky), carbonated beverages, (colas…), soups and sauces, vinegars and condiments, preserves, dairy ice creams, bakery products, biscuit factory and confectionery and pharmaceutical products.

*For the terms mentioned above as being used as legal designation, the so-called EU “sugars directive” (Directive 2011/111/EC) provides a definition and specifications.

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