- A new Ipsos study found that 70% of Americans are either somewhat or very concerned about the level of sugar in their diets. The survey was conducted with more than 2,000 adults in the U.S.
- The New York-based independent market research firm also found that only 49% were somewhat or very likely to look for or use a substitute such as stevia, Splenda, agave or monk fruit.
- When asked which sugary foods concerned respondents the most, soda and carbonated beverages were at the top of the list. They were followed by juices, candy, desserts, canned fruit, condiments and flavored coffee. All of the findings came from three separate Ipsos polls done in the U.S. and Canada in September and October.
Americans have been worried about the amount of sugar they consume for a long time, and that concern is reflected in what they choose to eat and drink. Per capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners declined in 2017 for the third straight year. As consumers trend away from high fructose corn sweeteners and soft drinks, the use of refined sugar is also falling.
At the same time, critics say U.S. sugar consumption is still too high. Americans typically consume more than 13% of total daily calories from added sugars, according to the Food and Drug Administration. This can lead to obesity, cavities, diabetes and heart problems. As a result, some manufacturers have been limiting the amount of sugar in their products, others have started using sugar substitutes and many are trying to be transparent about the process.
Along with these industry efforts and those of individual consumers to cut back, more information will soon be available on labels so shoppers can more easily ascertain sugar levels in foods and beverages. Added sugars are getting their own callout on the new Nutrition Facts label, which will be required on all packaging by 2020 and 2021, and there are also efforts underway to require front-of-pack warnings about sugar content.
Soda and carbonated beverages are the products that most spark consumer concern about sugar, according to the study, with juice coming in at No. 2. These findings aren't surprising, since U.S. shoppers have been turning away from sugary beverages for some time and reaching for healthier, lower-calorie drinks such as bottled or sparkling waters, teas or kombucha.
In response, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have been innovating with new and better-for-you options, while juice manufacturers have been exploring functional add-ons such as probiotics and protein or going organic to convey a healthier image and enhance sales.
Makers of other sweet treats causing consumer concern in the Ipsos study — candy, desserts, canned fruit, sauces and condiments and flavored coffee — are adopting similar strategies. Nestlé has developed a hollow type of sugar the company said can reduce its use in candy bars by 30%. And ingredient makers have introduced low-sugar glucose syrups to help reduce the amount of sweetener used in formulations, yet retain the same taste consumers expect.
As consumers have become more distrustful of sugar, manufacturers have also invested a lot of R&D into natural substitutes. Although only 49% of consumers were somewhat or very likely to look for or use a sugar substitute in this latest study, more could come around as additional sweeteners are developed. And as long as Americans continue to be worried about the amount of sugar they're consuming, there will likely be more reduction strategies emerging in foods and beverages.