Consumers globally are looking to reduce the amount of sugar they consume; however, reduced-sugar versions of products aren’t necessarily appealing either as they are typically associated with artificial ingredients, which many consumers don’t like or trust. Alarmingly, just 8% of French consumers agree with the statement, “The food industry would only use low-calorie sweeteners if they are safe,” illustrating the image problem low-calorie sweeteners need to overcome.

As such, many consumers are turning away from certain sugary foods altogether in favor of products that are naturally low in sugar. According to Mintel’s Sugar and Sweeteners US 2016 report, nearly one quarter of Americans say they are buying less foods and drinks containing sugar than they did last year, indicating a real threat to producers of products in sweet categories.

Although consumers are trying to reduce the amount of sugar they consume, they don’t like their favourite treats being reformulated either. Only one in five UK consumers would be more likely to purchase reduced sugar versions of cakes, ice-creams and chocolates, compared to the standard versions.

Nestlé introduces hollow sugar

In what could be a possible solution to this problem, Nestlé announced in December 2016 that it had found a way of reducing the sugar content of its chocolate ranges by 40% using hollow sugar particles. The company claims the new particles dissolve faster to deliver a sweeter sensation more quickly than standard sugar, and that the resulting products should taste just as sweet with less sugar. Nestlé plans to start rolling out the new products in 2018.

What we think

Just 15% of US females agree that health plays a role in their chocolate confectionery purchase decision

Hollow sugar could be a game-changer for chocolate confectionery – but only if the sensory qualities of the resulting chocolate are unchanged. Chocolate is an indulgence category, and Nestlé risks brand damage if consumers believe the sensory profile of well-loved products has suddenly changed. Our research shows that health is not particularly important to consumers when purchasing chocolate confectionery as just 15% of US females agree that health plays a role in their chocolate confectionery purchase decision.

Brand-owners such as Nestlé are under significant pressure from governments to reduce the amount of sugar in their ranges. These pressures are driving companies to make their confectionery products more healthful, regardless of whether consumers are attracted to healthier versions or not.

Emma is a Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, based in London where she covers nutrition health and wellness, ingredients and additives, emerging trends, food labelling and regulation across all categories. Prior to joining Mintel, Emma worked as a Food Technologist for a major UK retailer taking ownership for product quality, nutrition, safety, ethics and legality, and ensuring compliance with internal brand standards.

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