Time for candy makers to prepare for FDA added sugar label changes, says consultant

By Hal Conick

- Last updated on GMT

'I’d imagine most companies have already started thinking about what they have to do. If they haven’t, they should,' says Sweetener Users Association consultant
'I’d imagine most companies have already started thinking about what they have to do. If they haven’t, they should,' says Sweetener Users Association consultant

Related tags Nutrition Sugar Milk

US confectioners should ready themselves to declare percentage daily values for added sugars set at 10% of total calorie intake, which could be a regulatory requirement by 2018, says a consultant for the Sweetener Users Association.

The FDA is set to approve​ measures to point out both naturally occurring and added sugar on nutritional labels. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee​ has recommended that added sugar percentage daily values be measured against the presumption that no more than 10% of a person's calories, or just more than 200 calories, come from added sugars. This means many kinds of candy or soda would be as much as, if not more than, the daily calorie consumption.

Randy Green​, a partner at Watson Green and a consultant for the Sweetener Users Association​, said from what he has heard, these added sugar labeling changes will be finalized in early to mid-2016 and will go into effect by 2018.  

“I’d imagine most companies have already started thinking about what they have to do,”​ he told ConfectioneryNews. “If they haven’t, they should.”

Changing consumer consumption

Green said the current consumption of added sugar is somewhere between 13% and 16%.

“That means if everybody were to adopt these Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee recommendations, the consumption of added sugar would fall quite a bit​,” he said. “It isn’t that all of the sudden, everyone is going to stop consuming sugar, but the information on the facts panel and the guidance from the government will be different. Most people will say this is less favorable to sugar consumption.”

While Green said history shows most people do not completely follow these guidelines, the rules may eventually affect public perception of products with added sugar and have an impact on how companies formulate products to remove sugar. Consumers knowing that a product contains a lot of sugar and seeing the high percentage of a candy bar’s daily sugar are two different things.

“Those kinds of products, they’re treats; they’re indulgences,”​ he said. “Some companies feel it may give consumers too negative of an image. Others companies have supported the proposal. There are food companies on both sides of this. Implications for the sugar market per se are probably not dramatic in the short term … but food manufacturers may have incentives over time to reformulate, and that would be negative for sugar demand.”

NCA opposes daily percentage value

Christopher Gindlesperger, vice president of public affairs and communications of the National Confectioners Association​ ​(NCA), told ConfectioneryNews that his organization supports the labeling change to provide consumers with the ability to make better choices. However, the organization opposes the daily value percentage because “the science doesn’t exist to support it”.

“The highest quality of scientific evidence should be used to inform any new labeling standards.  And any new proposed standards should not create unnecessary confusion for consumers,”​ he said. “Also, it’s worth noting that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is balancing the calories you consume from all foods – including candy – with those you expend through physical activity and exercise.”

In the FDA’s proposal on its website​, it cites multiple expert groups, such as the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization, that recommend decreasing the intake of added sugar as well.

“The government has no specific recommendation for added sugars,”​ the FDA said. “Including added sugars on the new Nutrition Facts label would allow consumers who want to limit their added sugar intake to compare various brands of similar products.”

Unexpected sugar

While many products would have the same sugar content as added sugar, such as candy bars, other products may contain more sugar than consumers expect.

Green said consumer confusion is a concern that has shown up in a number of comments from companies to the FDA. The dairy industry, for example, could see some odd effects from this shift, as lactose is a sugar that naturally occurs in milk.

“In a dairy product, such as flavored milk, you’re going to have a diff number for total sugars and added sugars,”​ he said. “Say the milk itself has about 13 g of lactose and 10 g of added sugar, that’d be 23 g total. However, if consumers misunderstand what that means, they may add the 2 numbers together, they may think it has 43 g of sugar.”

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