Less sugar, a top priority for consumers
TUCSON, Ariz. – Seventy-two percent of consumers say they try to reduce or avoid sugar, and the number one way they do this is by drinking more water than calorie-drinking beverages, Kris Sollid, RD, Senior Director, nutrition communications, International Food Information Council (IFIC), said March 1 at the International Sweeteners Symposium.
“Reducing sugar is a big thing,” Sollid told attendees of the symposium, which is sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association and the Sweetener Users Association. IFIC’s annual Food and Health Survey showed that 45% of respondents said eating less sugar was their top goal in 2022, outperforming weight loss and improving diet health . About 20% of consumers think sugar is the most likely source of weight gain, while about 30% think all calorie sources cause weight gain, he said.
However, consumers aren’t necessarily turning to low-calorie or artificial sweeteners in their attempts to reduce their sugar intake, Sollid noted. There is a slight preference for consuming sugar over low-calorie sweeteners, and consumers prefer sugar over artificial sweeteners, which they consider “unhealthy”.
Consumers also prefer sugar for taste, which remains the main driver of food purchases, Mr Sollid said. Consumers rated taste as the top driver of food purchases in each of the 17 years that IFIC has conducted its Diet and Health survey, with other drivers including (in order of preference ) price, safety, convenience and environmental sustainability, according to the survey. .
Mr. Sollid noted that consumers tend to consider “total sugars” rather than “added sugars” as the first item in the carbs section on food labels, with total carbs second and added sugars third, followed by dietary fiber and sugar alcohol. Across the label, consumers look at calories, total sugars, sodium, total carbohydrates, protein, and added sugars, in that order, with the latter two tied for fifth.
“Labels have an impact,” Sollid said, for both in-store and online purchases. At the same time, terms like “natural” and “herbal” on labels appeal to people even if they don’t know what those terms mean. The term “sustainability” is a weak driver of consumer purchases, but consumers care, he said.
While he noted that some pandemic-related behaviors, such as increased home cooking and more snacking, have returned to 2021 levels, others, such as increased meal delivery and buying shelf stable foods online, have not.
“Our lives have probably changed for good,” Mr Sollid said.
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