Is it Possible to Formulate a True “Sugar-Free” Ice Cream?
To produce such a product, it
would be necessary to remove not only the conventional added sweeteners, as in no-sugar-added (NSA) products, but the lactose contributed by conventional dairy ingredients as well. When lactose
is removed, the composition of the finished product is outside the requirements of the ice cream standard of identity, making it necessary to refer to such a product as a “sugar-free
frozen dairy dessert” (SFFDD).
Removing lactose is a key first step. Hydrolyzing lactose into glucose and galactose does not reduce total “sugars.” Thus, SFFDD hinges on availability of milk-solids-not-fat where
lactose and salts are otherwise removed (ultra-filtered milks; see column in September 1999 Dairy Foods). This process can produce undesirable flavors and functionalities. Milk protein isolates
(MPI; > 90% total milk protein) are ultimately the milk protein ingredients of choice. Selection criteria include the proper balance of function, flavor, color and ratio of casein-to-whey
Besides sweetness, SFFDD composition must also provide other functionalities of sweetening systems. These include bulking, management of freezing point and water immobilization. Two useful
ingredients are maltitol syrup (MS) and digestion resistant maltodextrin (DRM). MS is a novel polyol composition that can provide all the sweetness and a portion of the functional elements of
sugars. DRM can provide the additional bulk and management of freezing point needed. Since DRM is a dietary fiber, its use supports various “good-for-you” claims. In combination,
both MS and DRM produce a frozen water profile that adds smoothness, creaminess, and resistance to heat shock. Neither MS nor DRM negatively affect flavor (either naturally occurring or added)
quality or intensity, so the base mix remains technically neutral relative to flavor.
The choice of fat source is limited to butter and anhydrous milk fat (AMF). Butter (unsalted) is the preferred choice for a variety of reasons. Virtually any fat content can be formulated, but
low fat (<3 g total fat per serving) options offer significant support for a variety of health-related claims.
Selection of the stabilizer and emulsifier system is critical to achieving superior eating quality and resistance to heat shock at ultra-low finished product weights. Conventional
stabilizer/emulsifier combinations could be considered. Of particular interest is the use of improved microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), a.k.a. cellulose gel, as a critical component. This
ingredient makes unique contributions to achieving superior eating qualities, heat shock resistance and high overruns without threat of over-stabilization properties. Emulsifier selection and
use follow the same guidelines that apply to conventionally sweetened fat-modified products.
Overruns in access of 130%, depending on mix composition and claims to be made, are possible. This allows maximizing of total fat and minimizing total sugars.
As with all fat- and sugar-modified frozen desserts, flavor is the ultimate test. Proper mix ingredient selection and formulation is a start. The base mix must be compatible with support and
delivery of the finest of flavors. A properly formulated, SFFDD can support a broad range of flavor profiles. Care in formulating is required to make sure flavor selection, type and amount is
compatible with marketplace expectations.
Here is our recommended starting composition for a SFFDD: 4.7% milk fat, 3.5% MPI, 6.0% DRM, 23.0% MS (dry basis) and 0.60% of the advanced MCC-based system.