Consumers More Likely to Avoid Total Sugars Than Specific Types

Consumers avoid total sugars more than they avoid any specific sweetener, according to a new brand-level consumer attitudes and behavior study about food and beverages from Mintel Research Consultancy.

Whether it is Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Yoplait, Dannon, Nature’s Own or Sara Lee, approximately a quarter of soda, yogurt and bread brand purchasers (between 17 and 26 percent) say they are looking to reduce total sugars in their diet. In contrast, a nominal 1 to 5 percent of consumers purchasing these brands cite avoiding a specific sweetener, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

“These findings directly contradict the unfounded buzz around specific sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup,” said Sara Martens, consumer research expert and vice president of The MSR Group. “Consumers aren’t responding to product formulation or menu item adjustments based on specific sweetening ingredients, and food and beverage industry decision-makers should consider this before investing in costly modifications.”

The study explored 34 brands across 13 of the highest-volume food and beverage categories. The findings align with previous Mintel research examining consumer attitudes and behaviors around food and beverage ingredients both broadly and at the category level.

“Looking at the series of research Mintel has conducted during the last two years, we see that regardless of how finely you slice the data, consumer concern remains more focused on total sugars than any specific type,” said Martens. “And regardless of what consumers say they are trying to avoid, it doesn’t translate into purchase behavior.”

The survey explored label reading and avoidance among 2,400 primary household grocery shoppers. As was the methodology for all prior studies, unaided questioning delivered unprompted, top-of-mind opinions and statements to capture truest consumer attitudes and most likely behaviors. Unaided questions were used in combination with aided questions to allow for additional probing of key topics.

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