Polyols, commonly known as sugar alcohols, represent a class of versatile ingredients widely utilized in the food industry, particularly in confectionery products. These compounds exhibit a sweet taste, though not as intense as sucrose, making them valuable sugar substitutes. Renowned for their low-calorie content and minimal impact on blood sugar levels, polyols have become essential components in the development of sugar-free and reduced-sugar confections.

Common polyols include erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol.

polyols play a pivotal role in confectionery, offering a sweet alternative with unique functional properties. Understanding their chemical nature, extraction processes, and physical attributes is essential for food scientists and manufacturers seeking to create innovative and health-conscious confections.

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Source and Processing

Polyols can be sourced from various natural raw materials. For instance, sorbitol and mannitol can be derived from fruits and seaweed, while xylitol is often extracted from birch wood or corn cobs. Erythritol is naturally found in certain fruits and fermented foods. The production process involves hydrogenation or fermentation of sugars, followed by purification to obtain the desired polyol.

Main function in Confections

Polyols serve a crucial role in confections by providing sweetness, bulk, and texture. Their ability to retain moisture enhances the mouthfeel of products, contributing to the overall sensory experience. Furthermore, polyols exhibit a cooling effect when dissolved, adding a refreshing sensation to confectionery items.

Molecular Structure

Chemically, polyols are polyhydric alcohols with multiple hydroxyl groups (-OH) attached to their carbon atoms. Common polyols include erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol. The unique molecular structure of polyols imparts sweetness without causing a significant increase in blood glucose, making them suitable for diabetics and individuals pursuing healthier dietary alternatives.


Hygroscopicity: Polyols display hygroscopic tendencies. This property helps maintain the desired texture and moisture content in confections, preventing them from becoming overly dry.

Crystallization: Polyols, especially xylitol and maltitol, have the propensity to crystallize. Controlling the crystallization process is essential for achieving the desired texture in confections, ensuring a smooth and palatable product.

Solubility: Polyols are generally soluble in water, contributing to their versatility in various food applications. This solubility aids in the uniform distribution of sweetness throughout confectionery products.

Shelf Stability: Polyols contribute to the shelf stability of confections by reducing water activity and inhibiting microbial growth. This extends the product's shelf life and maintains its quality over time.


In the United States, the use of polyols in food products is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Polyols are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used within specified limits. It is crucial for food scientists and manufacturers to adhere to FDA guidelines regarding the permissible levels of polyols in different food categories, ensuring the safety and compliance of their confectionery products. Additionally, accurate labeling of polyol content is required to provide consumers with transparent information about the ingredients used in the products they consume.

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