Honey’s use in the baking industry is growing in popularity as consumer cravings for natural and clean-label products have shoppers reaching for both breads and sweet goods that are indulgent but maintain a better-for-you perception.

To sweeten and flavor these products, the retail and in-store bakery segments are turning to honey, a natural sweetener that delivers much more than just sweetness. Honey gives bakers an exceptional flavor profile and marketing boost, all in a natural ingredient that is familiar and welcoming to consumers.

There are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, originating from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossom. This simple yet complex variety of flavors allows food manufacturers to launch complete product lines of honey-sweetened foods, all with different flavor profiles.

For example, a product with buckwheat honey offers a robust flavor, while a clover or alfalfa honey provides a simpler, lighter honey taste. In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are stronger in flavor.

Because of its high fructose content, honey is sweeter than sugar, allowing bakers to use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness. When substituting honey for sugar in formulas, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the formulas.

Bakers also will have to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning; reduce any liquid called for by 25% for each part of honey used; and add 1% baking soda for each part honey used.

Honey can be used as a complete or partial replacement for almost any sweetener. However, differences in formulas and baking environment make substitution guidelines slightly different dependent on the formula.

In bakery foods, honey performs many roles beyond sweetening bakery foods. Products that contain honey dry out more slowly and have a lesser tendency to crack. This is due to honey’s hygroscopicity. Honey also provides more uniform baking with a more evenly browned crust at lower temperatures as a result of the sweetener’s fructose content.

Honey also imparts an improved aroma at relatively small percentages (up to 6% by weight of the flour) in sweet cakes, biscuits, breads and similar products. The high acidity of honey (avg. pH 3.91) also helps inhibit mold growth in bakery foods and extend shelf life.

Honey naturally coats, binds and thickens products, improving body and mouthfeel. Because it is water soluble, honey is easily added to a variety of mixes and can be pumped or extruded in a variety of manufacturing processes.

The National Honey Board expects the popularity of honey to increase as the sweetener industry continues to be scrutinized by the media and medical community. Since honey is produced in Mother Nature by bees, manufacturers that sweeten their products with honey don’t have to worry about the perception consumers will have when reading an ingredient listing.

To learn more, visit www.bakingwithhoney.com.