The top factors driving consumers to avoid sugar are weight management (31% of consumers agree you lose more weight by cutting out sugar than eliminating fat) and future health concerns, Mintel found.
“What’s interesting when looking at younger consumers, age 18 to 34, they had selected more reasons as to why they’re looking to limit sugar such as concerns about dental health and how it affects the appearance of their skin,” Mintel associate director of food science, Stephanie Mattucci, told BeverageDaily at IFT.
Avoiding sugar and artificial sweeteners alike
Not all consumers have a sweet tooth and there is opportunity for beverage manufacturers to provide a range of products at all sweetness levels; meanwhile, deep sugar reductions are not always necessary for a beverage to resonate with consumers, Mattucci added.
Consumers are just as concerned about eliminating regular sugar as they are artificial sweeteners, according to Mintel, giving rise to non-nutritive sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. As an example, nearly half of consumers (49%) believe diet soda is just as unhealthy as regular soda.
“We’ve seen non-nutritive sweeteners starting to increase, largely driven by stevia,” Mattucci said. “There were some interesting examples… that blended sugar and monk fruit to do a partial reduction of sugar, getting at least a 30% or 15% reduction.”
Even though consumers are interested in natural sweeteners, few (16%) are willing to pay more for products using naturally-sourced sugar substitutes, according to Mintel.
The growing prevalence of kombucha and drinking vinegars are also evidence of shifting taste preferences, Mattucci added.
Added sugar not top of mind concern…yet
The deadline to comply to the FDA’s Nutrition Facts panel changes has been delayed, but when it does go into full effect (possibly as late as 2021), “added sugar” content will be called out on labels. However, it is still unclear how most consumers will change their consumption habits based on the new labeling.
“In terms of consumers perception of added sugars, less than three in ten consumers are more concerned with added sugars than natural sugars,” Mattucci said.
“As we start to see those labels starting to appear in the market I think it will continue to shift consumers’ perception of those types of sugars.”