Not So Sweet: Sugar Consumption in Decline due to Growing Consumer Health Concerns

Not So Sweet: Sugar Consumption in Decline due to Growing Consumer Health Concerns


When it comes to staying healthy, consumers are all too aware of how the foods we eat can affect our overall health. In fact, Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey shows that 59% of Australian consumers say they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. One of these dietary choices includes avoiding sugar.

Almost a quarter (24%) of Australian consumers follow a diet that limits the consumption of sugar, while 44% say they avoid sugar as an ingredient – 10 percentage points higher than the global average of 34%. Of the Australian consumers who avoid sugar in their diet, 30% do so because someone in their household has a medical condition that prohibits its consumption; while 56% choose not to buy sugar as they believe it is harmful to their health and that of their family.

These growing health concerns have translated into declining sugar sales in Australia. In the 12 months ending April 2016, volume sales for total sugar dropped by -3.5% versus the year prior. The key segments that make up the sugar category – white, raw, caster and brown – all recorded declines. Most of the decline was due to category contraction – that is, Australian households, on average, buying less sugar every year and buying it less often. In fact, Nielsen Homescan data shows that as many as 16% of households only purchase sugar once a year.

Despite these trends, there are still growth opportunities for manufacturers that operate in the sweet space. For example, the premium sugar segment (includes coconut sugar, cane sugar, palm sugar, etc) which currently represents just 4% value of the total sugar excluding sweetener category, recorded 35.1% growth versus the previous 12 months. Introducing and heavily promoting varieties like these could help attract the category’s lightest buyers – independent singles and young transitionals – who are also typically the most health-conscious.

Beyond the sugar category, manufacturers who produce sweet treats should also look to accommodate consumers who are taking steps to opt for better-for-you food choices, while still wanting to treat themselves – albeit a little less sinfully. More than a third (36%) of Australian consumers say they wish there were more low sugar/sugar free products on the shelves.

Cost, taste and convenience are still very important influencers to purchase these products. Manufacturers that innovate by incorporating ingredients and preparation methods that improve the nutritional profile of their product portfolio will be strongly positioned to succeed.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Ingredient and Dining-Out Trends Report. If you would like more detailed country-level data from this survey, it is available for sale in the Nielsen Store.


The Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey was conducted March 1-23, 2016, and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 63 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample for both surveys includes internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behaviour of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion.