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Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Product Reviews/Comparisons: Brown “Sugar”

Since the holidays are pretty much upon us, my quest for a sugar substitute combination that makes good icing and gives a good brown sugar flavor has somewhat intensified.

Today I want to focus on two brown sugar substitutes. The LC-Sweet Brown by LC Foods  and the Ideal Brown Sweetener by Heartlands..


{For photo source, please click on image}




Please note that these are my personal opinions, based on my personal circumstances, tastes and uses, so all this is of course very subjective! I would also like to mention that neither companies know me from Adam 0r probably care about my assessment of their product - this is just me saying what I think/taste/find.


Now, I have to say right up front - most if not all the LC Food products do contain varying amounts of inulin and their sweetener’s main ingredient is inulin. If you can’t tolerate Inulin or high fiber type sweeteners or foods, this is likely not going to work for you!


In addition to the inulin, the LC-Sweet Brown  also contains other soluble dietary fiber, digestion resistant polydextrose fiber, cocoa, sucralose, organic stevia rebaudiana leaf natural herbal extracts, natural luo han guo monk fruit, and natural flavoring.


As a rule, I tend to tolerate fiber based products MUCH better than sugar alcohols (with the exception of erythritol and  xylitol, which I have no to little problems with.)


The Ideal brown sweetener contains maltodextrin (from corn, not wheat,) dextrose, sucralose and xylitol, with xylitol being the main ingredient. If you are sensitive to any of those things, that one isn’t going to work for you!

So, bearing the above in mind,  here we go:


LC-Sweet Brown “Sugar”

To be honest I was quite intrigued by the photo on their website! It looked totally like real brown sugar! And the entire time I was waiting for my package to arrive, I was trying to figure out how they got it to look that real considering the ingredients were all really fine, pale to beige and very powdery rather than crystalized!

Well, I could have saved myself a bunch of time wondering, as it didn’t look like that. In fact, it looked like a combination of fine, pale to beige, powdery ingredients.

Had I clicked on additional images, I would have seen their package. I am not entirely sure why it is necessary for the product listing to have a close-up images of real brown sugar, which is an entirely different product really, even though it tastes similar! I do find it a little misleading, but that’s just my personal pet peeve.


Anyway, the taste test. It tastes pretty good!

It does have the sweetness of brown sugar, it has a distinct note of molasses and caramel to it for sure. Even though a fine powder, it does have a certain stickiness to it when it gets wet. Definitely a brown sugar contender in some applications! I can still taste the inulin and the sucralose a bit when I take a bit on my finger, but I doubt it would make that much difference in baking etc.

I tried a little over some LC hot cereal and it was pretty tasty!


When you read my recipes, you see that I really like to use the Ideal Brown Sugar substitute, so how does it compare to that one?

Just on taste, it could go either way, even though I do have a preference for the Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute!  The Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute has a “cleaner” brown sugar flavor in my opinion! I know that both contain sucralose and I have of late become very sensitive to that flavor (as in I taste it too much) but in the Ideal brand it doesn’t bother me - it doesn’t quite jump out like in the other one.

But I like the flavor of both and they are very good in simulating the brown sugar sweetness and flavor.


However, they really differ on some other points, like carb count, availability and price to name a few!


The LC-Sweet Brown is $ 7.98 per package (+ s/h.) The package contains  about 1.5 cups of LC-Sweet Brown (7 oz.) The company website is the only place to source it, from what I can see.

It is used cup for cup in recipes, which means that you use as much of it as you would in a recipe calling for sugar.

The Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute is more widely available, especially as of late, as Ideal® can also be found in new purple packaging at Kroger®, Ralphs®, Fry’s® and Fred Meyer® stores across the country. 

Amazon has always been a good source for Ideal Sweeteners too, which is especially handy when you are a prime member as you don’t pay shipping.


For the moment, the ideal sweetener is usually somewhere between $4.99 (locally for me, but then of course there’s sales tax) and $5.89 on Amazon. Amazon does however have a coupon code listed that brings it down to $4.89. Netrition sells them too and their price is right at $5.49, which is a good price if you can’t get it locally or you’re not an Amazon Prime Member.

The last time I was at Fry’s, I also noticed that they had coupons and little product samples, right with the product in combination with the launch of the new product/packaging. I’m not sure how long that will last though!


Anyway, my point is that there is a substantial price difference. Ideal sweeteners are also cup for cup substitutes, but their package contains about 4 cups, the equivalent of 2 lbs. of sugar sweetening power.


So, not taking taxes and shipping cost into account, 1 cup of LC-Sweet Brown = $5.32 and 1 cup of Ideal Brown Sweetener = $2.44.


To me that is a huge difference right there, especially if you are planning on baking with the stuff and not just sprinkling a tsp here and there over something!  Not that Ideal is exactly cheap, but it is significantly cheaper in comparison. And the fact that there are price choices and local availability makes it even more attractive to me personally!


Now to the carb counts. LC-Sweet Brown definitely trumps the Ideal sweetener on that one!


If you are on a VERY low-carb eating plan, you’re going to love the LC-Sweet Brown! Once you subtract the fiber, it’s a zero g of net carbs sweetener!

The Ideal Brown Sweetener on the other hand has a whopping 24 g of carbs per cup, mostly due to the dextrose and maltodextrin (even though xylitol has some carbs too!) However, I rarely use it as the only sweetener in a recipe, so I have found the carbs quite manageable even on a VLC plan.

If it was on straight out of the pack flavor combined with carb-count alone, LC-sweet brown would definitely be right up there!


But now to the other big one - tolerance! This is one that is very personal to everyone. Some can tolerate xylitol and a variety of sugar alcohols just fine, other’s can’t, some are somewhere in between. Same goes for the high fiber ingredients!


Personally I can tolerate xylitol, the main sweetener ingredient in the Ideal sweetener really well as long as I don’t go totally excessive, but I tolerate massive amounts of fiber less well. Especially inulin and polydextrose! And in the case of the LC-Sweet Brown, one cup would have 144 g of fiber by my calculation and that is A LOT!

So even if you only use one cup and combine it with other sweeteners in a recipe like, let’s say a cake and you cut it into 16 slices, you end up with 9 g of fiber per slice and that’s before you’ve added any other ingredients, which in low-carb baking usually means fairly high amounts of fiber too. It may be too much for some.

However, if you are looking to increase the fiber significantly in your diet or a load of extra fiber doesn’t bother you - this may very well be the way for you!


To test how both hold up in baking, I set aside some batter from the Pumpkin Cupcakes and made one with the ideal brown sugar substitute as usual, and one with the LC-Sweet Brown. Everything else in the recipe was left exactly the same.

The coloring of the batter was a tiny bit darker with the LC-Sweet brown one but unless you have them side by side you would never know.

Tasting the batter, they tasted different, but both were very good. I can’t really say that one was better than the other, just different. Both were equally strong though and quite pleasant, with a good brown sugar flavor coming through! Like they were made with two different brands of brown sugar! And they were!


As you can see, they both also baked up equally well too. There were no differences in rise, density or “collapse”.




However, when it came to the taste test, I was surprised to find that the LC-Sweet Brown had lost some of it’s potency and it tasted almost bland in comparison to the other cupcake! I tested it quite a few times (there’s a reason why I made the tester cupcakes very MINI!)  and could tell each time which one was which, simply because of the distinctly lacking brown sugar flavor!

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t unpleasant - it just suddenly lacking that certain something that the other one definitely had! It seemed more “blah”, which was disappointing considering how well both had started out in the flavor of the batter!


So, to summarize:


LC-Sweet Brown


Synergy/texture/flavor in baking:

Carb Count:                                                   

General Availability:                              


Personal Tolerance Level:                 

Gluten Free:  Yes, as per ingredients, but they have a warning on their package that it is processed in a plant where wheat gluten are also processed!


So, LC-Sweet Brown gets a total of  17 out of a possible 31 stars (1 would be for being truly gluten-free which officially they are not) from me.


Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute 



Synergy/texture/flavor in baking:

Carb Count:                                                    

General Availability:                               


Personal Tolerance Level:                  

Gluten Free:  Yes


So, Ideal Brown Sugar Substitute gets a total of 25 out of a possible 31 stars from me.


Have you had a chance to test them? What has your experience been?


Stay tuned for the comparison on the confectioner’s sugar substitutes in the next few days!

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  1. Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBH Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 5 post on Nov. 08, 2011. Thanks again.

  2. Great review on these. I have some of the Ideal but I've never heard of the other one. And hey, I wrote you a quick response to your question on my blog!

  3. Wow, thanks so much for all the info...very much appreciated. By the way, do you have a button that I can grab to put on my website http://www.friendsweighingin.com that will link to your blog?



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