- A global survey by DSM shows more than half of consumers in eight countries said they check the sugar content of foods before buying them, according to Ingredients Network. At the same time, consumers say they're actively avoiding artificial sweeteners and prefer products labeled "only natural sweeteners” or “no sugar added.”
- The survey also found consumers want to take charge of their sugar intake and expect food manufacturers and retailers to play a key role. More than 60% said manufacturers and retailers should do more to reduce sugar or create lower-sugar versions of their products.
- These trends were strongest among women, consumers younger than 35 and people with children. About 50% of women are more concerned about sugar intake than three years ago (versus 44% of men); 59% of consumers ages 26-35 always or almost always check labels for sugar content (versus 55% for the general population); and 64% of people with children have researched the health risks of sugar (versus 55% of people without children). The survey was conducted in July with 8,000 consumers in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, U.K., Germany, Spain, Vietnam and Japan.
These survey results shouldn't surprise food manufacturers and retailers since the trend away from sugar has been on the rise for some time. In fact, reducing sugar content in food and beverages is a main focus for manufacturers today as consumers in the U.S. and elsewhere continue to prefer healthier products and clean, transparent labeling.
The updated Nutrition Facts panel — which will appear on products made by large manufacturers by Jan. 1, 2020 — requires a line item indicating added sugars. Consumers have indicates they want this information, even if they don't always check it. Their demands — coupled with manufacturers not wanting to post huge sugar numbers — have spurred several different sugar-reduction innovations, including artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners, hollow and faster-dissolving sugar molecules and flavor boosters.
Rabobank has projected 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 in developing markets. 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.
While some companies are trumpeting their sugar reduction, others — such as DanoneWave — have been reducing total sugar and fat in the company's yogurts but without sharing the method. The company told Fortune it believes advertising reduced sugar and fat can cause consumers to assume the product won't taste as good and damage sales.
Consumers — particularly women, millennials and parents, as the DSM survey notes — also want transparency, so being straightforward about goals for reducing sugars between now and when they start using the new nutritional label might be a wise move. Then, when the buying public looks at a label for sugar content, they'll know not only how much is there, but how and why the reduction was achieved.