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.
This research explores the effect of sugar replacement using 4 different sugar replacers, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, at 2 sugar replacement levels, 25% and 50%, on the sensory and physical properties of 3 caramel coating systems varying in sugar and lipid type and amount. The caramel coating systems are representative of the coating material found in commercial caramel popcorn products. Results indicate that isomalt and maltitol are preferable sugar replacers in the caramel coating systems studied. Additionally, this research identified key physical parameters, including glass transition temperature and moisture content, and sensory parameters, including stickiness, toothpacking, cohesiveness, crumbliness, force to pierce sample, to monitor when reducing or replacing sugar in caramel coating or other low‐moisture confectionary systems.