How does honey compare to sugar?27 Jun 2018
Sugar use is down and honey use is up as manufacturers look for natural sweetening alternatives – but does honey live up to the hype?
According to the European Commission, consumption of high sugar foods and drinks is contracting in Europe, down 1-2% across the EU over the past five years. It predicts a further decline of about 5.4% to 2030 as manufacturers cut sugar in their products in response to health concerns, and as consumers aim to reduce their own sugar consumption.
Meanwhile, many consumers see honey as a natural, healthier alternative to ordinary sugar. About 25% of the honey consumed in Europe is used as an ingredient in packaged foods and drinks, and although honey is not an innovative ingredient in itself, companies increasingly are innovating with honey in products like salty-sweet or spicy-sweet snacks, ready-to-drink teas and breakfast cereals. According to Eurostat figures, Germans consume more honey than any other European nation, at 23% of the total, while other big consumers include the UK, France, Spain and Poland. While honey consumption is strong across the continent, it is growing particularly rapidly in Ireland and many Eastern European countries, including Croatia, Latvia, Romania and Estonia.
Both sugar and honey qualify as added sugars in foods and drinks, and both can contribute to obesity and dental caries. However, honey is often touted as a source of trace minerals and – with its lower glycaemic index – as a potentially better choice for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Although the energy in honey may be released a little more slowly than the energy in sugar, it needs to be treated with the same caution as other sugars, according to specialist advice from organisations including Diabetes UK and Diabetes Ireland.
Like sucrose (ordinary sugar), honey is composed of glucose and fructose. These sugars in sucrose are bound together, but they exist as free sugars in honey, making it taste sweeter. This means some consumers may use less of it, perhaps negating honey’s slightly higher calorie content.
However, the honey varieties that spike blood glucose more slowly tend to be higher in fructose, and that in turn is unlikely to be beneficial, whether or not someone has diabetes. While glucose can be used by nearly every cell in the body for energy, fructose is broken down only in the liver, and emerging evidence suggests it may be more easily converted to fat.
As for the trace minerals and antioxidants in honey, the values are so low that honey cannot be considered a source of nutrients. There is about 11 mg of potassium in a tablespoon of honey, for example, while recommended daily consumption is 3,500 mg.
Even though honey is far from a nutritional powerhouse, it still has benefits for manufacturers.
From a functional perspective, honey can be used instead of sugar in many baked items such as bread and cereals where it contributes similar attributes like colour, extended shelf life, structure development and browning, and its stickiness can be useful for binding snack bars. Its distinctive flavour can be a challenge in some products – but it can also be played up as a desirable characteristic. Aside from real honey, honey flavours can also be used to add the health halo of honey to foods and drinks. Doehler, for example, recommends its honey extracts and flavours to add the “fine taste notes of honey” to enhance fruity and spicy products.
Food manufacturers using honey must also take care that their supply is genuine, as honey is one of the top targets for food fraud, according to a 2016 EU report. It found that about 20% of honey sold in the EU was suspected to contain foreign sugars, either in the form of sugar syrup or cheaper multifloral honey being sold as single source honey. Companies such as Eurofins and Campden BRI provide authenticity testing services that can ensure honey is genuine.
The bottom line is that honey and sugar are very similar from a nutritional perspective, but consumers’ perception of honey as a natural alternative to sugar is generally positive. What’s more, honey can bring interesting flavours and textures to a wide range of products.
Turning the spotlight on titanium dioxide
2 Sep 2019
Titanium dioxide has been the main white pigment used in the food industry for years, but consumer groups and regulators have raised questions about its acceptability. What options are available for manufacturers?Read more
The maturing trend for fermented foods
2 Sep 2019
Fermented foods most commonly appear in the dairy aisle in Europe, but with rising demand for plant-based foods, other areas may be ripe for long term growth.Read more
Industry innovates with new high protein ingredients
26 Aug 2019
Consumer interest in high protein foods and drinks continues to grow, and a few enterprising companies have responded to the trend by manipulating protein-rich ingredients to make them even higher in protein.Read more
What does the science say about CBD?
26 Aug 2019
Research into the effects of CBD oil has been hampered by strict regulation, but a growing number of consumers swear by its efficacy for a wide range of issues including relief from pain, anxiety, insomnia and depression.Read more
A matter of taste: Using AI to speed product development
19 Aug 2019
What if artificial intelligence could specify flavour preference in any given market? Several companies are using big data to do just that, and the trend is gaining ground.Read more
Exclusive: Fi Europe and Hi Europe enter a new chapter together
7 May 2019
Fi Europe, the leading trade show for food and beverage ingredients, and Hi Europe, its counterpart for health ingredients, will become co-located events, alternating between Germany and France.Read more
Stevia outpaces aspartame in new product launches
27 Nov 2018
The number of new stevia-sweetened foods and drinks overtook new products with aspartame in 2017, according to global data from Innova Market Insights.Read more
Nuts gain from awareness of healthy fats
19 Nov 2018
Demand for products containing nuts is on the rise, aided by ongoing research into their health benefits and growing consumer understanding of healthy fats.Read more
Cranberries show promise for improved gut health
19 Nov 2018
Researchers are just beginning to understand the link between the gut and many chronic health conditions, leading to growing interest in prebiotic ingredients. According to a new study, cranberries are the latest food to show prebiotic potential.Read more
Egg substitutes driven by vegan, allergen-free demand
13 Nov 2018
Egg replacers have long been used as a way to avoid to the price fluctuations often associated with real eggs, but recently interest has been driven by manufacturer demand for clean label and plant-based ingredients, allowing companies to make more veg...Read more
Are you a supplier
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation