How Consumer Perception of Sugar Impacts the Industry
Sugar is in nearly everything we eat, in various forms. It has become increasingly taboo, and many consumers are choosing to spend more money to make healthy choices and avoid added sugar in their diet. The perception of sugar is changing, and that perception is impacting the food industry dramatically. How is consumer perception shifting, and how will this affect the industry in the coming years?
Is Sugar Dangerous?
Sugar has been a subject of contention for years, as more and more studies emerge that paint sugar as the villain of the story. The average American gets about 14 percent of their calories from sugar, and studies have tied it to everything from type 2 diabetes to obesity and heart disease, which has led many people to lower the amount of sugar they consume in their diet.
Much of this is due to consumer education. In just eight years, the percentage of Americans who believe dietary sugars are the primary cause of weight gain has tripled. Diet-related diseases are growing in prevalence, and consumers are making smarter food choices. What does this mean for the food industry?
An Ingredients Shift
Consumers are looking for alternatives to sugar in their diet, and many are turning to natural alternatives like honey or stevia, or artificial sweeteners like Sweet’N Low or Splenda, to cut down their sugar calories while still retaining that sweet flavor they know and love.
When it comes to recipes, this has triggered a shift in the industry. Companies must create new recipes that either contain less sugar while retaining the flavor consumers have come to love, or invent entirely new products that contain less sugar.
Companies that change the formulas of their existing products need to implement large-scale marketing campaigns, as well, if they hope to regain any consumers who have turned to different brands that offer a comparable product with less sugar. Updating product packaging with the new ingredients is one way to get this information out there. Other methods include sending coupons or other paperwork to existing customers, either electronically or in the mail, to let them know about the positive changes.
New Packaging Strategies
Some companies are taking a different approach to this consumer perspective shift. Instead of placing their product in a single large package, many companies that market sugary snacks or products have changed their packaging size. They now offer these same snacks in individual snack size or “calorie” packs, making portioning easier for health-conscious consumers.
This single-serving packaging sizing encourages consumers to enjoy their favorite sweet treats more intelligently, and are much simpler than trying to portion out a large bag of cookies or potato chips.
Nutrition information on packaging is also getting smarter, designed to help consumers make smarter choices about their diet. Traditional nutrition labels are confusing for consumers to read, and while they contain all the necessary information, it can be more challenging to determine where the calories in the food come from. A proposed newly redesigned nutrition information label would have color-coding to make it easier for consumers to tell where their calories are coming from — a valuable tool for anyone who is tracking their nutrition or macro-nutrients, like fat, carbohydrates and protein.
How is this shift impacting the food industry? With upward of 77 percent of surveyed individuals stating they are actively trying to limit or avoid sugars entirely, food manufacturers have to change the way they look at sugar and other sweeteners that are in their recipes.
Manufacturers can choose to switch to artificial sweeteners, but nearly half of surveyed consumers had an unfavorable opinion of these artificial alternatives, and a large-scale change could drive even more customers away. The shift will continue to impact the industry in the future.
Nutrition has always been essential, but more and more consumers have begun to take a closer look at their sugar consumption. The entire food production industry will have to shift its outlook to retain customers and create products consumers will enjoy for years to come.