Exclusive: Making Healthy Biscuits – Dealing with Salt and Sugar

Products formulated with healthy ingredients are increasingly among popular choices with consumers. This article looks at what you can do to reduce the salt, fat and sugar content of biscuits, and how to boost the level of fiber.

Making biscuits healthy comes with process and taste challenges.


Health experts recommend that adults should consume a maximum of 6g of salt per day; however, research has shown actual consumption is around 9.5g/day, with a high proportion hidden salt added to processed foods during their manufacture. High consumption of salt/sodium causes increased blood pressure, which is directly linked to heart problems. The UK has been focusing on sodium reduction in foods since 2003 (nearly 15 years). Public Health England published the targets for 2017 in March of 2017 and the guidelines for biscuits are:

Sweet biscuits – all filled and unfilled sweet biscuits, whether coated (full or half) or not, breakfast biscuits and cereal bars.  

0.55g salt or 220mg sodium (average r)

0.95g salt or 380mg sodium (maximum)

Savory biscuits – all filled and unfilled savory biscuits. 1.3g salt or 520mg sodium (average r)

1.75g salt or 700mg sodium (maximum)

The sodium in bread comes from mainly the addition of salt added for flavoring. However, the sodium in biscuits is added to various compounds/chemicals used for flavoring and leavening purposes, some common sources are:

  • Salt – Sodium Chloride
  • Sodium Bicarbonate – Source of carbon dioxide
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate – Acidulant used in conjunction with sodium bicarbonate.

Reducing the salt content of biscuits and crackers can affect their flavor and make them less appealing. Producers have started to look at their leavening systems where there is potential to reduce the product sodium levels with less effect on taste.

Lowering the sodium content of biscuits is not straightforward. There may not be a single solution and a toolbox approach may be needed.


Various studies have reported the UK population is consuming too much sugar and have directly linked this to increases in adult and childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Public Health England has recently issued guidelines setting targets for maximum sugar content in all processed foods expressed as number of grams of sugar per 100g product. The targets are to be achieved by 2020 with an overall reduction for biscuits of 20% (5% reduction to be achieved in year 1).

These targets are sales weighted average targets and could be achieved by reducing pack sizes or reformulating the product. When reformulating, it’s important to understand that sugar is multifunctional.

Some of the most popular sugar replacers are:

  • Inulin – a group of fructooligosaccharides with different chain lengths and sweetness values
  • Fibers, such as polydextrose
  • Polyols – including the sugar alcohol groups: Glycerol, Sorbitol, Erythrytol, Maltitol, Xylitol, Mannitol, Lactitol.

Extremely sweet sugars, like fructose, have been used to prepare biscuits with reduced sugar claims as they can deliver similar sweetness to sucrose, but at much lower levels. However, in products that normally contain high sucrose levels, such as cookies or ginger nuts, the texture may not be the same when a sweet sugar is substituted for sucrose. Fructose could be blended with a material like inulin to give a similar texture as sucrose, but with fewer calories. Polyols can also be used as partial or total replacers for sucrose; however, the products must be labeled with the potential side effects and most polyols are not as sweet as sucrose, which may reduce the product acceptability.

About the author: Andrew Hughes is baking technology manager at Campden BRI

The full article on this topic was published in the Spring issue of Asia Pacific Baker & Biscuit magazine!

Read the second part of this feature – “Making Healthy Biscuits: Fat and Fiber” in Asia Pacific Baker & Biscuit, Summer, out soon in our online shop!

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