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Disruption in Sugar and Sweeteners: Consumer Priorities Triggering Change

March 2021

While sugar legislation has played a part in reshaping the sugar and sweeteners market, consumer demands are just as important, and look set to transform this industry. This report examines current consumer attitudes towards sugar and sweeteners, as well as new products that are trying to appeal to consumer thinking. The report then examines the effect on the ingredients industry as R&D investment and the rise of new technologies paves the way for new ingredients and new methods of sweetening.

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Key Findings

Consumer reasons for sugar reduction have become more nuanced

The huge media coverage over the last decade relating to sugar and the onset of non-communicable diseases makes it unsurprising that consumers are looking to reduce sugar intake. However, consumer reasoning for this is not solely rooted in a desire to see specific clinical benefits but stems from a belief that cutting sugar intake will increase general healthiness.

Sweetener development shows potential for future sugar reduction

As manufacturers consider reformulating, ingredient suppliers are working on new options. These include allulose and fermented stevia, both of which have been in development for some time. Both in theory can enable significant sugar reduction, however both have obstacles - technical and regulatory - to overcome.

Permissible indulgence leads to treats with added benefits

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers have turned to comfort foods such as snacks and sugary products. As they look to do this with fewer consequences, reduced sugar items have become attractive as have products with added functional or health benefits, which include adaptogens and botanical ingredients.

Natural sweeteners not sought after but still integral

While consumers want to cut sugar, there is no great clamour for natural sweeteners such as stevia, which has seen decelerating growth. However, as sugar taxes are imposed and with negative perceptions of artificial sweeteners hard to shift, natural sweeteners retain huge importance to manufacturers and suppliers as a tool for sugar reduction and as such innovation here remains high.

A market remains for artificial sweeteners

Despite artificial sweeteners seeming highly unpopular with consumers, steady growth has continued. This has been due to their entrenchment in low calorie carbonates as well as the fact they provide a cost-effective method of cutting sugar use entirely in beverages.

Introduction

Scope
Key Findings
360 ? view of disruption in sugar and sweeteners
Arresting sugar and sweetener growth a challenge
Carbonates and confectionery pivotal to sugar reduction innovation

What Consumers Want

Sugar supersedes fat reduction and diet
Consumers playing the long game with sugar reduction
No added sugar in demand
Artificial sweeteners failing to win consumers’ hearts and minds
A lack of trust despite regulatory assurance
Stevia falling short of great expectations
Natural sweeteners perfectly acceptable but not desirable
COVID-19 and permissible indulgence pave way for innovation
Sugar taxes look to find the efficacy sweet spot
Can front-of-pack labelling influence consumer attitudes to sugar?
No consensus on how best to inform consumers

Reaction of The Industry

Manufacturers see the value of no added sugar
Reassurance underpins use of no added sugar claim
Consumer attitudes drive shift to naturally unsweetened products
Manufacturers taking note of artificial sweetener fears
Strong value proposition allows artificial sweeteners to endure
Sugar taxes keep the door open to high intensity sweeteners
Sugar reduction a risk for Coca-Cola and Pepsi
Beverage giants shifting focus to low calorie options
Coca-Cola with Coffee: Health by stealth?
Further demand expected for permissible indulgence
Ice cream shows how to marry health and indulgence
Sugar reduction in chocolate confectionery: Lessons still to be learnt
Beyond sugar: Increasing snacks’ appeal

Innovation in Sugar Reduction

Failure of Coca-Cola Life shows natural is not enough
Stevia development (1): Risking natural status for zero sugar reward
Stevia development (2): Key suppliers upscale stevia capabilities
Future sweeteners (1): Allulose ticks technical and regulatory boxes
Future sweeteners (2): Plenty of potential and plenty of issues
Sugar reduction technologies (1): Sweetness without additives
Sugar reduction technologies (2): Cutting sugar with enzymes
Choice of sweetener about more than sweetness
Suppliers move away from one-size-fits-all approach to sweetening

Future Direction

Consumers: Sugar consumption to remain front and centre
Manufacturers: Understanding consumers key to action on sugar
Suppliers: Must capitalise on regulation and consumer perception

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