Sugar Reduction: The Voice of the Consumer

August 9, 2019
Consumer Health

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Living a healthier lifestyle is top of mind for consumers and reducing their overall sugar intake is a key way they’re looking to get there. It’s a top concern voiced by consumers of all demographics. To dive into the topic deeper, we’ve commissioned a nationwide survey to see what consumers are saying. What we’ve discovered: 56% of consumers are consuming less sugar than they did a year ago and 73% are interested in “no added sugar claims.” We also have the details on how exactly consumers are changing their habits, from avoiding high-calorie beverages to omitting table sugar to seeking specific label claims. Let’s explore some powerful purchase drivers and of course, — opportunities for you — because even behind this consumer movement, life is sweet.

Taste remains key.

Consumers have always wanted it all—and by that we mean “have their cake and eat it too.” Who wouldn’t love if sugar didn’t have calories and didn’t contribute to unwanted weight gain, cause cravings and affect health conditions like diabetes? But in reality, it does all that, so finding the right balance to live a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. Our research shows that consumers are looking to reduce sugar intake and looking for natural alternatives to sweeten their foods. All this with the ultimate expectation that foods & beverages still must taste good.

Weighing all the options when you are deciding on specific items to stock the pantry, is no easy task. We asked consumers what’s more important as it relates to food and beverage purchases. When asked to choose between grams of sugar per serving and both price and taste, our consumers stated that taste and price are more important than grams of sugar per serving. These top purchase drivers will continue to dictate consumer purchases as they try to find a happy medium between taste and health.

Weight loss is the primary reason consumers are reducing their overall sugar intake.

  • 56% of consumers say they are consuming less sugar than one year ago.

  • 42% of consumers would like to reduce the amount of sugar they consume.

Cutting Back

While 56% of the consumers we surveyed are consuming less sugar than they were one year ago, only 42% of consumers are stating they would like to cut back. Weight loss is the primary reason consumers are cutting their overall intake of sugar according to 50% of consumers surveyed. Only 15% of consumers are reducing their sugar intake for specific health conditions and 10% for increased energy. There are many ways that consumers can cut back, but the top action consumers have taken is to drink water instead of caloric beverages with 73% of consumers selecting this action.
Top Actions to Reduce Overall Sugar Intake

  • 73% drinking water instead of caloric beverages

  • 57% eliminating certain foods/beverages

  • 36% using the Nutrition Facts Panel to choose foods/beverages with less sugar

  • 35% no longer adding table sugar to foods/beverages

  • 32% reducing the number of calories I consume each day

What's Being Eliminated?

We asked consumers what foods and beverages are being reduced and/or eliminated from their diets since reducing their overall sugar intake. The categories that rose to the top should be no surprise — they are the in fact the categories that contain the most sugar.

  • 68% candy

  • 62% carbonated soft drinks

  • 56% baked goods

Sugar Reduction/Elimination Claims

56% increase in new products with a sugar-free claim from 2017-18

According to a recent Mintel survey, 74% of consumers agree that a healthy diet should be low in sugar and there is definitely an array of products for them to choose from. Since 2014, there has been 4,668 new products introduced with a sugar reduction/elimination claim in North America. The no-added sugar claim has the most new products, but we are seeing greater growth in products with a sugar-free claim. The top categories with new products and a sugar reduction/elimination claims include:
1. Juice
2. Snack/Cereal/Energy Bars
3. Fruit Snacks
4. Meal Replacement Beverages
5. Flavored Water

No Added Sugar

73% of consumers stated that the "no sugar added" claim is important.

As the nutrition facts panel on products are changing, consumers are becoming more aware of newly available details such as added sugars. The claim of “no added sugar” is starting to pop up as a front-of-pack claim. As consumers begin to dig a little deeper, it is influencing their overall purchasing decisions of products. 63% of consumers surveyed stated, “I will re-think purchasing the product now that I know the grams of added sugar.” We predict this new addition is going to affect consumer loyalty to products they have purchased and consumed for a long time.

Having the “no added sugar” claim may seem like a great way to help consumers understand what is being added to products but can also be a bit confusing because it doesn’t address total sugar. According to a recent Mintel survey, 57% of consumers say that is misleading for a food product that is high in naturally occurring sugar to be labeled as “no added sugar.” This may cause consumers to be a little more skeptical and dig a little deeper to uncover the actual amounts of sugars in the products they consume.

The Takeaways

From our research we have learned that the majority of consumers want to decrease their sugar consumption. Many are well on their way with this personal initiative since 56% are consuming less sugar now than one year ago. We also know that taste and price are more important than the overall grams of sugar in food and beverages. This speaks to the opportunity for food and beverage brands to capitalize on this trend. The opportunity IS taste. The sugar reduction quest is a personal one for consumers. If your product provides an enjoyable experience while also helping consumers achieve their health goals — you secure your spot in their pantries. What’s more, reformulating existing products to reduce sugar, while maintaining your signature taste is an opportunity to expand and retain your existing consumer base.

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Let FONA’s market insight and research experts get to work for you. Translate these trends into bold new ideas for your brand. Increase market share and get to your “what’s next.” Our technical flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. Let’s mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution.

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