Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

Sugar’s role in the manufacture of ice cream

With the latest heatwave to hit the UK seeing consistently high temperatures in the late twenties, consumer ice cream sales have rocketed. The UK take-home and bulk buy ice cream market was worth a considerable £1.2 billion in 2018, and with the current climate in the UK, 2020 should return similar figures. With this backdrop in mind, we look at why ice cream manufacturers need pure sugars to produce their frozen products.

Injecting sweetness to a mature market

The current boom in ice cream sales should not come as a surprise. The UK is one of the top ten ice cream consuming countries in the world, with the average citizen consuming approximately seven litres of ice cream per year. These latest figures indicate that the UK’s appetite for ice creams is only going upwards. However, today’s market would not be thriving if it were not for the crucial role that pure sugars play in ice cream manufacture.

The average UK citizen consumes seven litres of ice cream per year.

Of course, pure sugars are natural sweeteners that inject much-needed sweetness into an ice cream’s flavour. Indeed, sugars directly affect the taste of any ice cream produced, with different sugars producing subtly different results depending on the intended flavour of the ice cream. Many domestic producers tend to only use straight sucrose in their homemade recipes, but for optimum results, we recommend being more creative with the sugar constituent.

Light cane muscovado sugar is a fine grain sugar with a light colour, which develops the taste of the world’s most popular gelato, vanilla flavoured ice cream. Its natural toffee characteristics add sophistication to the vanilla ingredients, with the sugar’s colour also changing the appearance of the end product from white to golden.

Light cane muscovado sugar is also a better choice for artisanal producers creating another highly popular flavour, caramel flavoured ice cream. Again, its toffee flavoured qualities better lend themselves to the caramelised flavour of the ice cream. This nuanced flavour can help differentiate the best caramel flavoured ice creams from other recipes.

Why is sugar used in the manufacture of ice creams?

Crucially, pure sugars do more than just add sweetness and flavour. Commercial manufacturers rely on sugars for more functional purposes, such as helping to bind the other ingredients in the mixture or lowering the freezing point of the ice cream. These functional properties are imperative to industrial ice cream manufacture. Indeed, without pure sugars, ice creams would not just taste differently, they simply would not exist.

Typically, there are two types of pure sugar products that are most commonly used in commercial ice cream manufacture. These are liquid sugar and invert sugar syrup. Both applications provide innovative solutions to large-scale manufacturing challenges, which further indicates that functionality is as important as flavour.

Invert sugar syrups depress the freezing point of ice cream, preventing the formation of large ice crystals.

Liquid sugar is more commonly used to streamline a manufacturer’s production timelines. The sugar injects sweetness and adds bulk to the ice cream being produced, but as it is a liquid solution, it also removes the packaging and handling from the production process, therefore expediting manufacturing timelines. This is a considerable benefit for industrial producers, as it reduces costs and increases margins.

Invert sugar syrup has a more unique application in the manufacture of ice creams. Before explaining its functions though, we should clarify that there are two main varieties of invert sugar syrup, partial invert and full invert. Ice cream manufacturers more commonly use full invert sugar syrup.

Significantly, the full inversion of the syrup increases the sweetness value of the sugar by around 40%, and it also depresses the freezing point of the ice cream being produced. Therefore, by preventing the formation of large ice crystals, fully inverted sugars enable the ice cream to be soft and pliable when produced at scale. This increases the scoopability of the ice cream, which is a must for any ice cream that is widely sold or consumed.

It is worth noting that the production of invert syrups is a complex chemical process. However, this production process can be altered to meet a client’s unique product requirements, providing the technical team has the necessary expertise to innovate in such a way.

Ragus has over 90 years’ experience manufacturing liquid sugars and invert sugar syrups for industry. Contact us on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk to speak with a member of our customer services team today.