Do consumers prefer low sugar or no sugar? It depends on the product…


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The WHO recommends restricting intake of added sugars to less than 10% of calories, and to less than 5% for additional benefits
The WHO recommends restricting intake of added sugars to less than 10% of calories, and to less than 5% for additional benefits

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Almost two-thirds of global consumers are concerned about sugar intake – but the choice between low-sugar and sugar-free depends on the food or drink category, according to a new report from DSM.

The report surveyed a total of 5,000 people in five countries: France, the United States, Mexico, Argentina and Australia. It found that interest in low-sugar and sugar-free products was high in all countries, as was awareness of the detrimental health effects of too much sugar, including weight gain and poor management of type 2 diabetes.

The survey found that demand for zero sugar products was highest in the soft drinks category, with 41% of global consumers having bought sugar-free soft drinks, compared to just 20% who had bought sugar-free flavoured yoghurt or sugar-free juices.

But reduced sugar claims were most popular in the yoghurt category, with 40% of consumers having bought low-sugar flavoured yoghurt, compared to 29% who had bought low-sugar juices and 26% who had bought low-sugar carbonated drinks.

This could have far-reaching implications for product development, DSM said.

“Understanding what drives this aspect of different decision making per category may hold promise for manufacturers launching products that offer no-sugar options in low-sugar strongholds and vice versa,”​ it said.

From niche to mainstream

Meanwhile, consumers around the world no longer think of sweeteners as ingredients for dieters, particularly after well-publicised recommendations from the World Health Organization​ that intake of added sugars should account for no more than 10% of total calories – and no more than 5% for additional health benefits.

“Be it consumer demand or regulatory pressure, it is clear that leading food and beverage companies are looking for more flexible and versatile ways to tailor calorie content of their products to their target consumer audiences – all without compromising on taste of course,” ​ the report said.

“So once viewed as specialist products for people adhering to weight-loss diets or living with diabetes, products containing non-nutritive sweeteners have made the leap from niche to mainstream.”

The full report is available to download here​.

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