Report: Declines in sugar consumption could sour the industry
- Consumers are cutting back on sugar and sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup for a variety of health and weight management reasons, such as obesity and diabetes, according to a report from global financial services company Rabobank.
- To satisfy growing consumer demand for healthier and less sugar-sweetened products, food and beverage manufacturers are reducing the amount of sugar used in the products they make, both through reformulation and product size changes.
- Rabobank projects a 5% or more reduction in sugar usage across the global food and beverage sector during a two-to-three-year period that could offset any anticipated growth in consumption of the sweetener in developing markets.
Health trends are driving consumers toward healthy, better-for-you food and beverage products that contain less sugar and artificial sweeteners. Initiatives like the recent "month without sugar" and state soda taxes are keeping sugar-reduction top-of-mind for consumers, too.
The Food and Drug Administration initially required food manufacturers to include how many grams of added sugars are in packaged foods and drinks as part of a redesigned nutrition facts label, but the deadline has been pushed back. Still, food and beverage giants are busy reducing sugar and other sweeteners in their product formulas or replacing these ingredients with healthier, natural alternatives.
Nestle has engineered a way to naturally restructure the sugar molecule that reduces the amount ingested. The confection giant plans to add the new sugar to its products in 2018, which will allow the company to use up to 40% less sugar without compromising on product sweetness. Stonyfield, the largest U.S. organic yogurt maker, recently announced it will reduce added sugars by as much as 40% in some of its lines.
Soda makers also have introduced smaller cans and more low calorie drinks — many turning to stevia, monk fruit and other sweeteners instead of sugar. Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple and PepsiCo have all made a commitment to reduce the number of sugary drink calories that Americans consume by 20% before 2025.
Manufacturers such as Pyure also have been quick to bring different stevia-based products to the market as sugar falls out of consumer favor. Stevia naturally provides 300 times the sweetness of sugar, with no calories and zero on the glycemic index. This natural potency allows brands to use far less of the ingredient. Companies like Unilever are using stevia as a fill-in to reduce sugar content in their products without compromising taste or mouthfeel.
According to Bloomberg, global CPG producers cut sugar and salt from about 20% of their products in 2016 in response to the growing consumer demand for healthy products. A survey of 102 CPG companies found 180,000 products were reformulated last year alone — double the amount in 2015. Should this trend keep up — and all indications are that it will — the detrimental outcome for the sugar market as predicted in Rabobank’s report could become reality.
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