These ingredients have been used in baked goods for thousands of years and are benefiting from back-to-basics mentality of the consumer, as well as manufacturers’ drive to cut artificial sweeteners and refined sugars from their ingredients lists.
Honey can easily substitute for ordinary sugar in baked items such as bread and cereals where it contributes similar attributes like color, extended shelf life, structure development and browning. Malt extract also adds a darker color to baked goods. One challenge of the ingredients is they each have a distinctive flavor.
Honey benefits from its status as a natural ingredient. Sales in the United States have soared during the past five years, while those for sugar have slumped, according to a recent Mintel report. U.S. sugar sales dropped 16% from 2011-2016, although it still remains the most popular sweetener. Meanwhile, sales of honey soared 57%.
Ingredient suppliers claim malt extract also is on the rise and tout it as a more nutritious alternative to sugar for use in baked goods. However, the enzymatic activity of malt extract means it could weaken gluten structure, leading to smaller, uneven products and a moist, gummy texture after baking.
One of the main barriers honey and malt extract pose for manufacturers is their very distinctive flavors. It would not be possible to switch out sugar or high fructose corn syrup in an existing product without having a major effect on how it tastes. These sweeteners could be used to develop new products in which the flavor of honey or malt extract is a desirable characteristic. Their sticky texture also is useful for binding products like seed- or nut-dense bars.
Apart from the bakery sector, both sweeteners are also commonly used in beverages, especially in Asia.
For honey, increased demand is also beneficial to the broader agricultural sector. With bee populations under threat, a strong honey market effectively subsidizes the cost of crop pollination. The value of honey serves as an indirect payment for pollination, without which global food supplies would collapse.