When it comes to consumers and sugar, it’s complicated. That was the conclusion drawn by Corbion’s  consumer research on the new sugar label regulations, presented during the session “Could Purchase Intent Be Influenced by New Sugar Label Regulations?” on Sept. 9.

Marge O’Brien, senior manager, global insights, and CJ McClellan, manager of global marketing, both of Corbion, surveyed 800 primary shoppers online and interviewed 15 primary shoppers in person about their label-reading and purchasing habits. In light of the Food and Drug Administration’s revision of the Nutrition Facts Panel, Ms. O’Brien and Mr. McClellan researched what consumers knew regarding the changes and how it impacted buying habits for bread and sweet baked goods. Sixty-seven per cent of respondents were unaware of the label changes at all, and those consumers who said the label has some impact on their purchasing decisions were nearly twice as likely to call out the added sugars than those who reported the label would have a low impact on their decisions.

However, consumers sit on a wide spectrum in regard to their attitudes regarding sugar. Corbion found that consumer responses ranged from believing sugar is the most dangerous ingredient to not caring about sugar reduction at all.

“If your core consumers don’t look at labels, you have to think about how you’re going to handle that as you reduce sugar,” Ms. O’Brien said.

When projecting the potential negative impact of the added sugar line, Corbion compared responses between those who knew about the label changes and those who did not. In these findings, there was a definite spike in negative impact — as much as 75% for sweet goods and 74% for bread — on purchases among consumers who were aware.

“We believe this spike is aspirational,” Ms. O’Brien said. “We think the reality will probably be closer to a quarter of consumers.”

In the end, Corbion’s research showed that the market is complicated, and consumer demands are often at odds with each other.

“Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all products, and it’s a tough fragmented market,” Ms. O’Brien said.

A multitude of factors go into purchasing decisions besides nutrition: taste, price and shelf life. Often, consumers refuse to sacrifice taste or price for sugar reduction, particularly when it comes to sweet goods.

“It’s a challenging market, and you need to put the time and energy into discovering and understanding your core consumers and what they want,” Ms. O’Brien said.