BELOIT, WIS. — A study released by ingredient manufacturer Kerry revealed new insights into consumer perceptions of sugar and other sweetening agents. As Americans become more aware of sugar’s health effects, they are increasingly looking for new ways to reduce their intake or turning to clean label alternatives.

After surveying more than 760 Americans, the company found that 46% would like to reduce their sugar consumption and 33% believe the ingredient is responsible for weight gain. In addition, the study noted that many consumers are unaware of how much sugar they are actually ingesting. Forty-eight per cent of them believe their daily sugar intake should be between 6 to 9 teaspoons, even though, on average, they consume 19.5 teaspoons per day.

Specific product categories also are receiving added scrutiny from consumers. Carbonated soft drinks (72%), cakes and pastries (65%) and packaged cookies (59%) are the top three products that contain too much sugar, according to survey respondents.

According to the study, consumers are turning to a variety of strategies to combat rising levels of sugar consumption. Some are cooking at home more (36%) and decreasing their purchases of packaged food and beverages (28%) while others are turning to portion control and low-sugar diets such as Whole30 and ketogenic.

When Americans do consume products with sugar, they are increasingly turning to traditional sweeteners. The company’s research found that sources such as honey (64%), sugar (59%) and maple syrup (31%) are the most preferred while artificial or unfamiliar sweetening agents such as erythritol (1%), acesulfame K (2%), and monk fruit (3%) were least preferred.

Although reduced-sugar intake is important to consumers, taste prevails as a top priority. Fifty-five per cent of consumers want reduced-sugar products to taste the same while 27% of them prefer products that taste less sweet. Managing these standards is paramount for food manufacturers looking to remain relevant with shoppers that adhere to healthier diets.

Kerry outlined three methods for food companies to consider when eliminating or replacing sweeteners. The ingredient manufacturer suggested balancing sweetness with functionality by blending sweetening agents in formulations to create high-quality products without sacrificing taste, costs or consistency.

Focusing on portion size is another option for bakeries to examine. Offering smaller products instantly reduces sugar content and appeals to a growing segment of snackers. Kerry also recommended combining sweet and savory flavors to counter a product’s sugar content. As consumers become more mindful of their eating habits, food companies will need to explore these changing attitudes and carefully manipulate products to meet these expectations. 

To view Kerry’s full report, click here.