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Why is there sugar in food?

Besides bringing sweetness, sugar also contributes to several of our food’s sensory properties such as colour, texture and taste. In some products, sugar can act as a natural preservative.

The primary function of sugar in food is to add sweetness. Sugar has a clean, sweet taste with no aftertaste and it is the reference against which other sweeteners are compared. Beyond its sweetening properties, sugar provides structure and volume and, while enhancing some flavours such as fruit flavours, it suppresses bitter and sour flavours; it also helps give an appetising colour to many foods. In other foods such as jam, sugar also acts as a natural preservative; decreasing the sugar content decreases the shelf-life. The sugar content can be replaced or reduced in some foods, but no single ingredient can replace sugar in all foods and replicate its many functions at the same time. Therefore replacing sugar often results in the use of several additional ingredients and additives.