Consumer concern over sugar hits new high

6 Sep 2018

Sugar has replaced price as the top concern for UK consumers when buying food, according to a survey from the nation’s Food Standards Agency. Concern about sugar content is similarly high across Europe, so how should food and beverage companies respond?

Consumer concern over sugar hits new high

Sugar reduction has been a key issue for the food industry for several years as consumers repeatedly say they aim to cut the sweetener from their diets wherever possible. Continuing and rising concern about sugar suggests that this is a new normal in consumer behaviour rather than a passing trend. In 2016, for example, market research organisation Sensus surveyed 2,500 adults in France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Sweden and found that 60% said they monitored their sugar intake. A quarter of respondents said they actively sought out low sugar products.

In the UK, the FSA found in May 2018 that 55% of consumers were concerned about the amount of sugar in their food, up from 39% when the agency conducted its first Public Attitudes Tracker survey in 2010. Only 43% cited price as a top concern in 2018, down from 50-60% in previous surveys.

For manufacturers, there are several options when it comes to sugar reduction, including reformulating with natural sweeteners, such as honey, stevia or monk fruit. However, reformulating with such ingredients sometimes fails to deliver the sugar-like taste that consumers prefer. They also tend to come with a price premium compared to sugar, and some have functional shortcomings in certain applications, as sugar plays an important role in texture, mouthfeel and the browning of baked goods, for example. When it comes to well-known brands, companies are often hesitant to reformulate in case consumers reject the new version – even if it is better for their health.

In new product development on the other hand, where there is no existing sweetness profile tof mimic, using alternative sweeteners could be a smart strategy. Apart from a proliferation of new ingredient suppliers specialising in natural sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia, many established suppliers have also branched into this area as they have identified a major market opportunity. In the stevia space alone, Tate & Lyle has partnered with Sweet Green Fields, Cargill has entered a partnership with PureCircle, and Ingredion has partnered with SweeGen, Inc. More recently, Cargill has also collaborated with Evolva to produce the sweet components of stevia from fermentation, rather than through extraction from the stevia leaf.

Some manufacturers have also experimented with smaller portion sizes to cut sugar, meaning that the taste remains the same, but with less sugar per portion. Confectionery manufacturers in particular have embraced this approach, as they have struggled to find other ways to cut sugar without affecting taste and texture. In just the past two years, Nestlé has reduced the size of its KitKat bars from 45 grams to 41.5 grams, Mars has cut the weight of its packets of Maltesers, M&Ms and Minstrels by 15%, and Mondelez has changed the shape of its Toblerone bars, reducing the weight by about 10%.

For many companies, shrinking portions have not come with shrinking price tags, leading to complaints on social media. However, the FSA’s finding that UK consumers are more concerned about sugar content than price may go some way toward allaying concerns that sales could fall significantly as a result.

What is clear is that food and drink companies must respond to growing consumer interest in low- and no-sugar products, whether through reformulation, new product development, portion control, or gradual sugar reduction across product categories.

Read all the latest news on 'sweeteners'

Related news

India’s Avid Nutrilabs prepares to export functional coffee products

India’s Avid Nutrilabs prepares to export functional coffee products

24 Nov 2021

Functional instant coffee brand Jomo is forecasting demand for its product to grow by 10 times. In anticipation of that growth, the Avid Nutrilabs-owned company said it is preparing to distribute its product internationally. Next year, the company hope...

Read more 
Report: Global wine production is down despite rising export demand

Report: Global wine production is down despite rising export demand

19 Nov 2021

Global wine production is forecast to hit near-record lows this year, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). Production is 7% lower than the industry’s 20-year average and only slightly above the historically low production...

Read more 
Source Brewing brews a tribute to Beastie Boys with an IPA beer

Source Brewing brews a tribute to Beastie Boys with an IPA beer

10 Nov 2021

New Jersey-based Source Brewing is paying tribute to the legendary 90s group from its home state with the re-release of Intergalactic Imperial IPA. As a limited release last year, Intergalactic was one of the brewery's most popular creations, selling o...

Read more 
Coca-Cola acquires remaining stake in BodyArmor sports drinks

Coca-Cola acquires remaining stake in BodyArmor sports drinks

2 Nov 2021

Coca-Cola announced it is spending $5.6 billion to acquire the remaining 85% of the sports drink brand BodyArmor that it did not previously own. The Atlanta-based company initially took a 15% stake in BodyArmor in 2018.

Read more 
RTD alcohol market share to double by 2025

RTD alcohol market share to double by 2025

26 Oct 2021

Since 2018, volume sales of alcoholic ready-to-drink options have been growing more quickly than other major drink categories, according to new data from IWSR, a drinks market analyst firm.

Read more 
Grey Poupon introduces mustard wine, sells out in a day

Grey Poupon introduces mustard wine, sells out in a day

19 Oct 2021

In early October, the well-known, Kraft Heinz-owned Dijon mustard brand Grey Poupon announced it would launch La Moutarde Vin, a white wine infused with Grey Poupon mustard seeds.

Read more 
Blake Lively creates nonalcoholic mixer line Betty Buzz

Blake Lively creates nonalcoholic mixer line Betty Buzz

13 Oct 2021

Actress Blake Lively released a line of nonalcoholic mixers called Betty Buzz. The mixers come in five flavors: Sparkling Grapefruit, Meyer Lemon Club Soda, Sparkling Lemon Lime, Ginger Beer and Tonic Water. One bottle makes two cocktails or is an opti...

Read more 
Danone set to launch “dairy-like” segment

Danone set to launch “dairy-like” segment

8 Oct 2021

To help close the gap between dairy drinkers and plant-based milk acolytes, dairy giant Danone is launching a plant-based “dairy-like” segment in January 2022. Initially, the new segment will launch with two beverages: Silk nextmilk and So Delicious Wo...

Read more 
Ripple closes $60M investment round, targets global expansion

Ripple closes $60M investment round, targets global expansion

6 Oct 2021

Animal-free, pea-protein-based dairy maker Ripple Foods raised $60 million in a Series E funding round led by Rage Capital, Ajax Strategies, and S2G Ventures, with backing from OurCrowd, GV, Prelude Ventures, Euclidean, Fall Line Capital, and Tao Capit...

Read more 
Coca-Cola earns highest marks for sustainable packaging

Coca-Cola earns highest marks for sustainable packaging

5 Oct 2021

A new report from the non-profit As You Sow found that among the 50 consumer-facing companies whose packaging sustainability was analyzed, only Coca-Cola earned a grade of B, which was the highest mark extended to any of the companies. Below Coca-Cola,...

Read more