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Key Role of Powdered Sugar in the Food & Pharmaceutical Industries

Powdered sugar is a key ingredient of many food items and pharmaceutical formulations. Apart from imparting a palatable taste, it extends the shelf life of bakery products while imparting them a pleasant colour, tender texture, and fluffier form [1]. Size of crystal sugar is a major determinant of chocolate and cream quality [2].

Functions of powdered sugar are equally varied in drug making where it serves as an excipient, diluent, viscosity modifier, and a medium for sweetening, suspending, and granulating [3]. Powdered sugar also forms the foundation for medicated confectionery [3].

Grinding sugar is a delicate operation because it generates heat. Powdered sugar is explosive at high temperatures and sufficiently dense concentrations. Therefore, sugar grinding needs to be executed carefully. Besides, sugar can perform its described role only if the milling process does not tamper with its natural properties.

Sugar Grinding-5

Powdered Sugar in the Food Industry

Micronization or reducing particle size down to microns is a crucial processing stage in the food industry. Grinding and sifting are a part of micronization. The process improves the physio-chemical and functional properties such as [4]:

  • Solubility
  • Water holding capacity
  • Antioxidant capacity
  • Swelling capacity

Additionally, micronization preserves the food items by [4]:

  • Decreasing fermentation time
  • Delaying retrogradation
  • Reducing syneresis
  • Inducing gelatinization

Sugar particle size depends on application. Two main types of sugar used in the food industry are:

  • Confectionery or Icing Sugar has particles of approximately 50 µm (microns) average size [5]. For top quality chocolates, where the consumer should not feel the sugar crystals on his / her palate, the size has to be around 30-35 µm [6].
  • Baking Sugar is somewhat coarser and of 100-200 µm size [7].

jaggery-sugar-variety-with-sugarcane-2021-08-28-05-51-00-utc

Flavour and texture are the two fundamental determinants of chocolate quality as also the main parameters guiding the chocolate making process. Solid at room temperature (20-250C or 70-750F), chocolate must quickly melt inside the mouth (370C or 98.50F). Sugar influences the confectionery item’s:

  • Flavour [8]
  • Texture [8]
  • Life by discouraging bacterial growth [9]
  • Moisture Content [9]

 Baking sugar plays the following roles:

  • Imparts sweet flavour [1].  
  • Provides browning colour via the Maillard reaction as well as caramelization. The former involves the interaction of proteins and sugar at high temperatures while the latter is the result of heat on sugar. Both provide a delicious flavour and catchy appearance to baked foods [10].
  • Retains tender texture for longer durations [1] by delaying the formation of gluten [10]. Melting sugar spreads cookies during baking [11].
  • Boosts shelf life by slowing down staling [1].
  • Leavens or makes bakery foods fluffier [1]. Sugar provides nourishment to yeast which then generates greater carbon dioxide (CO2) thereby expanding the dough [10].   
  • Decorates via garnishing [1].
  • Stabilizes and stiffens whipped cream and meringues [12].

Powdered Sugar in the Food Industry

Active ingredients apart, drugs contain excipients, fillers or diluents, preservatives, lubricants, dis-integrant, binders, and colouring agents [13]. The pharmaceutical industry utilizes powdered sugar as a:

  • Excipient i.e. a means for delivering the active medical ingredient while being inactive [14].
  • Foundation for Medicated Confectionary [3] that comprises of hard candies, pastilles, chewing gums and the like used to treat minor ailments such as allergies, coughs, and colds [15].
  • Capsule and Tablet Diluent [3] that provides uniformity of content, achieves dosage form, and expands bulk volume [16].
  • Viscosity Modifiers alter the texture or thickness of the various ingredients. Lowering thickness makes it easier to pour drugs. They may also boost thickness to convert liquids to pastes, gels, or powders [17].
  • Sweetening Agent [3] to counter the unpleasant taste of certain ingredients [18].
  • Suspending Medium [3] improves drug stability, eliminate the bitter drug taste, and provide control over drug release. It also helps when the delivery vehicle cannot dissolve the drug [19].
  • Granulating Agent [3] expands particle size, thereby converting fine powders to granules that can be easily compressed. Moreover, granules are dust-free and flow freely [20].

Sugar Grinding-4

Finally

Sugar’s utility in the food and pharma industry goes beyond its obvious function of lending the sweet taste. And because it is such a crucial ingredient, sugar grinding is an equally critical operation. Of course, the explosive nature of sugar powder presents another challenge.

Since 1989, Cybernetik Technologies has served the Food, Pharma, Chemical, and Manufacturing industries through its automation solutions. Among our offerings is an ATEX- and cGMP-compliant Sugar Grinding Plant that handles the grinding, sifting, storage, and packaging operations at up to 2000 kg/hr and 40 µm particle size.


References

  1. Baker Bettie. “The Function of Sugar in Baking.”
  2. Karl Tiefenbacher. “Technology of Main Ingredients – Sweetners and Lipids.”
  3. Drugs.com. “Confectioner’s Sugar.”
  4. Atul Dhiman et al. “Micronization in Food Processing: A comprehensive Review of Mechanistic Approach . . .” Journal of Food Engineering. Science Direct.
  5. Sympatec GmbH. “Grain Size Distribution of Sugar in the Laboratory or Directly in the Crystallization Reactor.”
  6. Wafer and Waffle. “Sugar Crystals.” Science Direct.
  7. Adriane Campos. “Refined Sugar.” WhatSugar Blog.
  8. Jennifer Prince. “What makes Reducing Sugar in Chocolate so Challenging?” Nutritional Outlook.
  9. Laboratory Talk. “Analysis of Sugars in Chocolate Bars.”
  10. BC Campus. “17 Application of Sugar.”
  11. David Joachim et al. “The Science of Baking Cookies.” Fine Cooking.
  12. Baker Pedia. “Powdered Sugar.”
  13. Drug Topics. “Overview of Pharmaceutical Excipients Used in Tablets and Capsules.”
  14. Ibrahim Belo. “How is Sugar Used in the Pharmaceutical Industry.” Ragus.
  15.  Cargill. “Medicated Confectionary.”
  16. Encyclopaedia of Toxicology. “Diluent.” Science Direct.
  17. American Pharmaceutical Review. “Viscosity Modifier Excipients.”
  18. Pharmapproach. “Tablet Coating Process: Sugar Coating.”
  19. V. Manimaran. “Suspensions.” Webstor.
  20. Srinivasan Shanmugam. “Granulation Techniques and Technologies: Recent Progresses.” NCBI.

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