Invert Sugar in Food Products

Invert sugar is a mixture of fructose and glucose monosaccharides obtained from hydrolyzing sucrose. Invert sugar syrups are used extensively in the food industry.
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Invert sugar, also known as inverted sugar or invert syrup, is chemically and physically different from granulated sugar. Available commercially in liquid form, invert sugar is sweeter than granulated sugar with greater digestibility. It has a sticky consistency and is typically transparent but can be yellow-brown. Due to their unique properties, invert sugar syrups are used extensively in the food and beverage industry.

What is Invert Sugar?

Invert sugar is a mixture of fructose and glucose monosaccharides obtained from the hydrolysis of sucrose.

Invert sugar syrups are thick, liquid, and hуgrоѕсоріс, easily аbѕоrbing mоіѕturе and extending the shelf life of the products in which they are used. They also slow down the crystallization process that may occur. Invert sugar can be substituted in place of sucrose or honey. 

Glucose Chemical Structure
Fructose Chemical Structure

Source: Wikipedia

How is Invert Sugar Produced?

Both acidic and enzymatic hydrolysis methods for invert sugar production involve the hydrolysis of furanosidic linkages in sucrose molecules to yield fructose and glucose monosaccharides.

  • Acid Hydrolysis: The traditional method of invert sugar production from sucrose using mineral acids like H2SO4 and HCl suffers from low conversion efficiency (65-70%), high ash content, and undesirable products (7-8%). Additionally, the invert sugar produced is dark in color. The potential presence of impurities in the product is a disadvantage of acid hydrolysis due to uncontrollable parameters when converting from sucrose to fructose and glucose.
  • Enzymatic Hydrolysis: Invertase enzyme hydrolyzes sucrose to glucose and fructose. Enzymes are preferably immobilized as they allow repeated usage and prevent contamination of the reaction product. The enzymatic hydrolysis method is recommended due to its nearly 100% conversion efficiency for sucrose. The disadvantages associated with acid hydrolysis can be eliminated. 
  • In-Situ Conversion of Sucrose to Invert Sugar: Invert sugar syrup may also be produced without using acids or enzymes by thermal means. Two granulated sucrose and one part water can be simmered for five to seven minutes to convert a modest portion to invert sugar. Inverted sugar is automatically produced when making jams by combining the sugar with the acid in the fruit and heating it. This invert sugar positively affects the shelf life of jams and prevents crystallization. Most of the sugar in honey is also inverted sugar.

Applications in the Food Industry 

Invert sugar plays multiple roles in the food industry. The intrinsic properties of invert sugar make it a convenient alternative to sucrose, glucose syrups, and fructose syrups. 

SweetenerInvert sugar is highly sweet. It imparts sweetness to the products in comparatively lower concentrations than sucrose. 
Flavor EnhancerInvert sugar enhances the overall flavor of the food product when used along with other flavor ingredients.
HumectantThe high water-binding capacity of invert sugar contributes to its humectancy. 
Viscosity ModifierInvert sugar syrup has high viscosity. It can improve the viscosity of food formulations.
Energy SourceInvert sugar is an instant energy source containing glucose and fructose.
Shelf-Life ExtenderWhen used in higher concentrations in a formulation, invert sugar extends the product’s shelf life by lowering the water activity.
StabilizerInvert sugar syrup has high viscosity. It improves the viscosity of food formulations.

Product Examples

TypeExamplesBenefits of Using Invert Sugar
BakeryCookies, Bread, Pastries, Cake– Soft & moist texture (due to moisture retention & resistance to crystallization)
– Browning and color development
– Improves crust quality and makes it softer
– Faster yeast activation
Confectionery Hard Boiled Candies, Soft Candies, Chewable, Gummies, Candies Fruits, Icing, Glazing– Softer & chewy texture
– Better humectancy
– Improved texture
– Enhanced color
ConvenienceJams, Jellies, Marmalades, Squash– Improved taste (greater sweetness)
– Prevents crystallization
BeveragesNon-Alcoholic Beverages, Energy Drinks, Sports DrinksHard Boiled Candies, Soft Candies, Chewable, Gummies, Candies, Fruits, Icing, Glazing
ChocolatesDark Chocolates, Milk Chocolates, Compound– Higher sweetness
– Flavor enhancement
DairyIce Cream, Frozen Dairy ProductsHard Boiled Candies, Soft Candies, Chewable, Gummies, Candies, Fruits, Icing, Glazing

Properties of Invert Sugar

Physical FormLiquid, Syrup
ColorPale yellow to amber to dark brown
Shelf Life>2 years
Storage Temperature & ConditionsStore in dry area. Storage above 40°C can lead to spontaneous decomposition.
Molar Mass360.312
Appearance Thick viscous syrup
Density 1.00211 g/cc
° Brix65 – 85 ° Brix
Reducing Sugar Content45-60 %
Boiling Point>105ºC
SolubilityCompletely soluble in water
Claims (*Product Specific)Organic*, Non-GMO*, Halal*, Kosher*

Typical Formulations


Here is an example of a cookie formulation table with invert sugar along with the weight of ingredients: 

IngredientWeight (g)
42% High Fructose Corn Syrup241
Invert Sugar Creamed260
Light Agave Nectar240
Amber Agave Nectar239
All Purpose Flour231
Baking Soda2.9
Plain Salt2.2
Pure Vanilla Extract3.6
Unsalted Butter115

Source: Clemson University 

Confectionery Hard-boiled Candy

Here is an example of a confectionery hard-boiled candy formulation table with invert sugar along with the weight of ingredients: 

IngredientWeight (parts)
Very high maltose syrup (20.5 % water content)450
Invert Sugar (Solid content 80-80.6% with >77% invert content, pH 4.5-5.5)62
Citric acid3.3
ColorAs required
FlavorAs required

Source: Google Patents 

Invert Sugar Formulation Considerations

Physical FormsSyrup, Solution
StabilityHeat: Stable <180 °C
Oxidation: Stable
pH: Most stable under acidic conditions 
Hygroscopicity: Hygroscopic
Nutritional ProfileCalorific Value: ~312 Cal/100g 
Glycaemic index: >65
DosageUp to 40% or more, depending upon the application

Comparisons with Other Sweeteners

Invert Sugar vs. Sucrose

Chemical– Higher solubility due to fructose, which is more soluble than sucrose.
– Unlike sucrose, invert sugar is a reducing sugar as it contains two reducing sugars, glucose and fructose. 
– Invert sugar solutions can have comparatively low water activity due to higher concentration.
PhysicalUnlike sucrose, invert sugar is always available in syrup/solution form.
FunctionalInvert solutions can be prepared at concentrations as high as 80% at ambient conditions (due to the higher solubility of fructose and glucose). Sucrose solutions of such high concentrations tend to crystallize at ambient temperatures. Invert sugar can participate in Maillard’s reaction. It contributes to the color of the product due to browning. The lower water activity and higher osmotic pressure of invert sugar retards microbial growth.
Nutritional– Higher solubility due to fructose, which is more soluble than sucrose.
– Unlike sucrose, invert sugar is a reducing sugar as it contains two reducing sugars, glucose, and fructose. 
– Invert sugar solutions can have comparatively low water activity due to higher concentration.
SensoryInvert sugar has a higher sweetness intensity – ~20-25% more for dosage as half of sucrose (w/w), due to the presence of fructose, which is 1.8 times sweeter than sucrose.
DosageInvert sugar is comparatively sweeter than sucrose. To attain a similar degree of sweetness, a lower dosage is necessary. 
CostInvert sugar is comparatively higher in cost.

Source: Clemson University

Invert Sugar vs. HFCS

Both high fructose corn syrup and invert sugar syrup contain high fructose and glucose. HFCS is produced by enzymatically converting corn syrup almost entirely to glucose and then adding other enzymes that change some of the glucose into fructose. The resulting syrup (after enzyme conversion) contains approximately 42% fructose and is HFCS 42. Similarly, HFCS 90 and HFCS 55 are available. 

HFCS requires a few extra steps from corn to syrup form, making it slightly more processed than organic invert syrup. The main benefit of organic invert syrup is that it generally contains fewer additives than HFCS and is less likely to contain genetically modified ingredients.  

Invert Sugar vs. Honey

Invert sugar is sometimes referred to as artificial honey. Most of the sugar in honey is invert sugar, which bees naturally produce while transforming nectar into honey. For this reason, invert sugar is preferable for bee feeding.

The glucose and fructose composition of honey and invert sugar is similar. As illustrated below, some other sugars are also found in honey in smaller concentrations. 

ComponentHoney (%)Invert Sugar (%)
Maltose7.2Not detected
Sucrose1.5Not detected
Higher Sugars4.2Not detected

Source: Kusum  

To learn more about alternative sweeteners, check out our Periodical entries for Maltitol, and our Comparison of Sugar Alcohols.

Degree of Inversion

The extent to which the sucrose in the syrup solution is converted to glucose and fructose denotes the degree of conversion. Some manufacturers make partially inverted sugar known as medium invert sugar. Medium invert sugar is when some of the original sugar is unchanged, resulting in a content of 50% table sugar and 50% invert sugar, with properties of both sugars. 

Safety & Regulatory Considerations

FDA InformationThe FDA lists invert sugar as a GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) substance. The ingredient can be used in food with no limitation other than current good manufacturing practices.
FAO and EU According to Sugar for Human Consumption Regulations (FAO, 2004) and The Council of The European Union, the definitions and requirements for invert sugar are set as follows: Invert Sugar Syrup: The aqueous solution, which has possibly been crystallized, of sucrose that has been partly inverted via hydrolysis, in which the invert sugar content (fructose/ dextrose quotient 1.0 ± 0.1), must exceed 50 % by weight of dry matter. Also, the dry matter should not be less than 62 % by weight with ash content <0.4%. Invert Sugar Solution: The aqueous solution of sucrose partially inverted by hydrolysis, in which the proportion of invert sugar does not predominate, with dry matter >62% but invert sugar content (fructose/ dextrose quotient 1.0 ± 0.1) being between 3%-50%. 

Identification Numbers

CAS Number8013-17-0
EC Number232-393-1

Permitted Additvies

Invert sugar solutions and syrups form the food category 11.3. The additives allowed in this category as per GSFA are as follows.

Food Additive or GroupMaximum Level
Riboflavin300 mg/kg
Sulfites70 mg/kg

Fun Facts About Invert Sugar

  • Invert sugar is often used in baking and confectionery because it has properties that can improve texture, extend shelf life, and prevent crystallization in certain products like candies, chocolates, and fondants.
  • Invert sugar solutions have been used in intravenous (IV) drips in medical settings. The combination of glucose and fructose can provide a quick energy source for patients, particularly in emergencies.
  • The name “invert sugar” relates to its light inversion properties, documented as early as 1836

Additional Resources