Consumers are actively looking to change their diets by reducing their sugar intake and live healthier lifestyles. Although consumers are saying they look to reduce sugar, there are many challenges due to the urge to indulge when snacking. So, how can brands provide conveniently nutritious products that offer lower sugar content? 

Sugar consumption is something a significant percentage of consumers pay close attention to. According to research from the 2019 FMCG Gurus Global Active Nutrition study, which included 26,000 respondents, 44 percent say that they are aware or very aware of how much sugar they have consumed in the last 24 hours, compared to 41 percent who count calories and 39 percent who track fat or salt content. 

This suggests that people are particularly concerned about their sugar intake, even over ingredients typically linked to heart disease or high blood pressure. Despite the traditionally negative view of fat, sugar appears to have overtaken it as the main issue for consumers. According to insights from the 2019 FMCG Gurus Global Health and Wellness Report, which included 380,000 respondents, 46 percent of consumers say that they either ‘try to’ or actively avoid sugar, compared to only 12 percent that seek it out. 

Of those polled who were currently on a diet, half said they had looked to lose weight by reducing their sugar intake, reinforcing the clear connection that consumers have made between sugar and weight gain. Sugar is also linked to other health conditions, with 64 percent saying that they were aware or strongly aware of the link between sugar and diabetes. Ten percent indicated they were pre-diabetic, with 17 percent saying they were either Type 1 or Type 2. 

Despite their concerns, however, consumers are not always successful at meeting their own goals. A third of consumers say they pledged to reduce sugar intake a year ago, but have failed to do so. Research from the 2019 FMCG Gurus report The War on Sugar, which included 25,000 respondents, also shows that 51 percent of consumers say that they enjoy moments of indulgence where they pay no attention to nutritional intake, suggesting that when the urge to snack hits, they cast their intentions aside. One potential solution to this could lie in brands positioning themselves as both healthy and indulgent, filling the need for sweet, seemingly decadent sweets when consumers are in that moment. 

One of the issues with attempts to replace sugar in products is the negative feelings consumers have toward artificial sweeteners. Insight from the 2019 FMCG Gurus UK Country Profile survey, which included 1,000 respondents, shows only 11 percent of UK consumers associate artificial sweeteners with having a positive impact on their health, compared to the 51 percent who believe it to be negative. 

On the other hand, natural sweeteners are generally better regarded than artificial, with 66 percent of global consumers saying they believe them to be a healthier alternative to sugar. These also have issues, however, as consumers appear to be less familiar with them: 43 percent of consumers say they have consumed food and drink products with stevia as a sweetener, and 40 percent with xylitol, but those numbers drop to 29 percent for agave and 26 percent for molasses. This could suggest that consumer education is a priority, as well as potentially continuing to focus on the advantages of natural sweetener over artificial.