Is there a sweet spot for food and drink brands looking to cut their sugar content?

November 16, 2017
3 min read

In 2017, Mintel research showed that more European consumers were concerned about sugar in food and drink than a whole range of other attributes including additives, colourings, artificial sweeteners, calories and salt. This concern has pushed added-sugars firmly into the spotlight.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about added sugars in their food and drink products, which are now widely perceived to be unhealthy. This is especially the case with sugars that are perceived to be unnatural, such as refined white sugar, which deters some consumers from purchasing products like confectionery.

As consumers across Europe are looking to reduce the amount of sugar they consume, they are in need of alternative options. Sugar-reduction and use of sweeteners are two ways to appease concerns, but products with reduced-sugar are not always better in their appeal to consumers. According to Mintel research, many associate the claim ‘reduced sugar’ with artificial ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, which are not liked or trusted by many consumers.

Indeed, just 8% of French consumers believe the food industry would only use low-calorie sweeteners if they were safe, highlighting the image problem low-calorie sweeteners need to overcome. Similarly, a large minority of UK consumers agree that if a sweet food/drink brand changed its recipe to replace sugar with sweeteners then they would be put off the product.

Consumers who seek to consume less sugar without consuming more sweeteners, are thus stuck between a “rock and a hard place”. Consequently, they are turning away from certain foods altogether, in favour of products that don’t contain sugar in the first place. According to Mintel’s 2017 report on UK consumer attitudes towards sugar and sweeteners, over two in five Brits who were concerned about sugar switched from sweet-snacks to savoury-snacks in the past year. While this lack of sugar alternative is a burden on consumers, their switching to other product categories is a real threat to brands in sweet categories such as confectionery. One solution could be sugars with a more natural image such as maple syrup and honey, as well as natural sweeteners such as stevia. Although the naturalness of these ingredients is a draw, the sensory qualities of the resulting product are affected – which is a concern for consumers.

But while consumers are trying to reduce the amount of sugar they consume, they don’t like their favourite treats being reformulated either. For manufacturers, this dilemma requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Smaller pack formats and smaller portions which provide reduced sugar intake without compromising sensory qualities could be a solution to this problem.

At this year’s Food Ingredients Europe (FiE), Emma Schofield, Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel, will take a deep dive into the dilemma on sugars and sweeteners. Join her to learn more:

  • During the Conference (Discovery Theatre) on Wednesday 29th November 12.20 – 12.50
  • At the Mintel stand in 0R81 – HALL 8
    • Tuesday 28th November 11.30 – 11.45
    • Wednesday 29th November 11.30 – 11.45
    • Thursday 30th November 11.30 – 11.45

Find out more about Mintel at FiE here.

Emma Schofield
Emma Schofield

Emma is the Associate Director, Global Food Science, covering nutrition health and wellness, ingredients and additives, new trends, food labeling and regulation across all categories.

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