More consumers want to reduce their sugar intake this year than did in 2019, but price and taste still played a bigger role in purchasing decisions than sugar reduction.

That’s according to a new FONA International report, “Sugar & The Voice of the Consumer.” FONA commissioned a nationwide survey about sugar and then compared the findings to a similar study the company did in 2019.

The report showed that 50 percent of consumers wanted to reduce their sugar consumption, which was up 8 percent from 2019.  However, 54 percent of consumers FONA surveyed are consuming the same amount of sugar that they were one year ago.

And the figures vary by age. Only 31 percent of 18–23 year olds said they wanted to reduce their sugar intake, and 38 percent of the same age group believe that they have a healthy relationship with sugar.

FONA’s survey also revealed that 70 percent of consumers surveyed stated that taste was more important than grams of sugar per serving. And 62 percent of consumers surveyed stated that price is more important than grams of sugar per serving.

“It is no surprise to me that consumers value taste over grams of sugar per serving. No matter what category I conduct a survey on, taste always comes to the top as a priority to consumers and ultimately what drives brand loyalty and repeat purchases,” said Pamela Oscarson, consumer insights manager, FONA International.

So why do consumers want to cut back on sugar? Unsurprisingly, the top reason consumers gave was weight loss, which was cited by 37 percent of survey respondents. However, that is down 13 percent since 2019, when 50 percent of consumers surveyed were reducing their sugar intake to lose weight.

So how are consumers reducing overall sugar intake?

  • 67 percent are drinking water instead of caloric beverages
  • 37 percent are eliminating certain foods/ beverages
  • 37 percent no longer add table sugar to foods /beverages
  • 30 percent use the nutrition facts panel to choose foods/beverages with less sugar
  • 29 percent reduce the number of calories they consume each day

FONA also asked consumers specifically which foods and beverages are being reduced and/or eliminated from their diets since reducing their overall sugar intake. This data revealed some good news for the confectionery industry. While candy was the top food being reduced or eliminated by consumers in 2019, in 2021 it’s carbonated soft drinks.

Specifically, the research showed that:

  • 58 percent were cutting back on carbonated soft drinks
  • 54 percent were cutting back on candy
  • 51 percent were cutting back on baked goods

So how are food companies responding to all this? Well, there has been a 54 percent increase in new products with a sugar reduction claim since 2017. Specifically, since 2017, there have been 5,290 products introduced with a sugar reduction/elimination claim in North America.

The “no-added sugar” claim is the top claim, with 54 percent of the products with sugar reducing claims featuring that. That’s followed by “sugar-free” at 29 percent and “low-no sugar” at 17 percent.

The top growing categories from 2019-2020 with new products and a sugar reduction/elimination claims include:

  • Meals & Meal Centers +200 percent
  • Breakfast Cereal +126 percent
  • Sports & Energy Drinks +126 percent
  • Alcoholic Beverages +111 percent

FONA suggested that companies view all these findings, which paint a complex picture of what consumers are looking for, as an inspiration.

“This creates an opportunity for product developers to create great tasting and healthier products that consumers are looking for,” the company said.

To view the full report, visit FONA’s website.