- An Innova Market Insights survey found three in five U.S. consumers would prefer to reduce their sugar intake rather than replace it by consuming artificial sweeteners, Food Ingredients 1st reported.
- Lu Ann Williams, innovation director for the market research firm, told the publication this shift is being seen as consumers choose savory snacks over sweet ones and drink reduced-sugar beverages. She noted beverages such as kombucha and Aperol Spritz have become very popular yet are not sweet.
- As manufacturers respond to these consumer demands, more opportunities for sugar reduction are coming into play, Innova Market Insights said. They include substitutions and alternative tastes sourced from functional formulations and blends, next-generation sweeteners and other technological developments.
The findings from this latest Innova Market Insights survey dovetail with conclusions from other recent studies about consumer attitudes toward sugar consumption. People are increasingly viewing foods and beverages as too sweet and are concerned about weight gain, diabetes, cavities and other negative health impacts linked to excess sugar consumption.
According to a Kerry white paper published last year, this trend could have ramifications for the CPG industry as more consumers actively manage their sugar consumption by increasingly cooking at home, controlling portion sizes and purchasing fewer packaged foods and beverages.
Soda companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have responded by introducing smaller cans proven to be wildly popular with consumers. The higher profit margins also have helped the soda giants increase revenue even as volume sales of soda fall. And global food giant Nestlé created a "hollow sugar" that causes a person to perceive the same level of sweetness but still consume less sugar.
Meanwhile, consumers are turning away from artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose — all of which are sweeter than table sugar and can be used in smaller quantities as a result. Their touted health attributes also have been questioned. A European analysis published earlier this year found no compelling evidence non-sugar sweeteners boost health or help people lose weight.
As a result of this trend, new product launches featuring "low/no/reduced sugar" label claims jumped 45% in 2017 compared to five years prior, Kerry found. Products with "no artificial sweeteners" claims climbed 4.4%, and those with "no added sugar" claims increased 2.6% during the same period.
Sarah Schmansky, vice president of Nielsen's fresh and health wellness division, told Food Dive last year that 50% of consumers planned to limit their sugar intake by purchasing "no sugar added" products. She noted more than half of consumers were avoiding artificial sweeteners in 2017.
Manufacturers trying to respond to evolving sugar consumption trends are turning to natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, maple syrup and monk fruit, among others, despite the higher cost. Some CPG firms may simply cut back on sugar in their formulations rather than have to note its inclusion under the "Added Sugars" portion of Nutritional Facts panels.
Different strategies are being pursued to reach sugar-reduction goals. Nestlé has patented a technique for using cacao fruit pulp to sweeten chocolate that doesn't require more added refined sugar. Israeli startup DouxMatok raised $22 million earlier this year to scale up and commercialize its offering that reduces sugar content by up to 40% but still maintains the same taste profile.
Americans typically consume more than 13% of their total daily calories from added sugars, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Still, as people continue to cut back on sugar, food and beverage companies of all sizes will be under pressure to deliver the sweetness people desire. While sugar has been shunned by consumers, many still want it in the foods they eat — just less of it.