Sweet Inspiration: Spotlight on Added Sugar

Sweet Inspiration: Spotlight on Added Sugar

Today, consumers are taking a more hands-on approach to their health, which includes following proper nutrition guidelines to prevent or manage health issues. And one ingredient consumers are trying to keep a closer eye on how much they consume is sugar. Across the U.S., 22% of Americans are already taking matters into their own hands by restricting their sugar intake, while 52% are actively trying to avoid artificial sweeteners. According to the American Heart Association, men should consume a maximum of 37.5 grams of sugar and women 25 grams per day. However, with complex food labels and confusing ingredient names, it can be difficult to estimate daily sugar consumption.

According to Nielsen and Label Insight, there are 206 variations of high fructose corn syrup that manufacturers can list on a label, many of which consumers may not associate as an added sugar. With so many distinct names for high-fructose corn syrup, consumers may be surprised at how many products within the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) universe contain added sugar.  

But it’s not just consumers who are paying attention to what is in the food and drinks they consume. The U.S. Government has echoed these sentiments by introducing changes to nutritional labels in hopes of creating greater transparency. Among the changes coming in July 2018 is a callout on the amount of added sugars in the product. This change will help consumers be more aware of the quantity of added sugars in the foods and beverages they purchase and consume.

As this new labeling comes into effect, there are many categories across the grocery aisles that may be affected when consumers realize how much added sugar these products contain. In the yogurt category, a $7.6 billion category and one that consumers tend to consider a healthier option, 86% of items contain added sugars. And consumers are already taking note: 34% state that low sugar is an attribute that influences their yogurt purchase decisions. Sales across the yogurt category have declined 0.9% (for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2016), which translates to more than $68 million in lost sales. So once these label changes are implemented, it may create an even further shift in how consumers think about and purchase the category.

Sweetening products with added sugars certainly isn’t wrong, but the data shows that consumers care about the glycemic index in products. This creates opportunity for manufacturer innovation. Label Insight found that organic cane sugar syrup, organic agave nectar, honey, chocolate and vanilla extracts are just a few examples of natural alternative sweeteners that can be used to sweeten products and still keep within the low glycemic range. Products that contain these alternatives are growing across the store, as sales of these sweeteners grew 19% in 2016 over 2015 and 200% compared to four years ago!  

Helping consumers eat more healthfully may also drive healthier balance sheets for manufacturers and retailers. Over half of U.S. respondents (56%) strongly or somewhat agree they’re willing to pay more for foods and drinks that don’t contain undesirable ingredients. Manufacturers would be wise to keep an eye on consumers changing their diets and look to implement innovative, healthy ways to sweeten products using natural ingredients. Additionally, focusing on products across the board that are simple, convenient and promote less processing will help consumers make better decisions on the foods they use to fuel their bodies. And retailers who can stock these products will see happy customers coming back for more.


The insights in this article were derived from:

  • Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight
  • Label Insight
  • Nielsen AOD All Outlets Combined, Dec 31st, 2016
  • Nielsen Category Shopper Fundamentals 2015
  • Nielsen Report: What’s in our Food and on Our Mind: Ingredient and Dining Out Trends Around the World, August 2016