Your Brain on Sugar - © viandaliving com

We SAY We’re Eating Less Added Sugar

A new global survey commissioned by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reveals that efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of consuming excess sugar are apparently working. But consumers still prefer sugar over artificial sweeteners, which a majority still say aren’t healthy…

Sugar Bear - © 2013

Kris Sollid, senior director of nutrition communications for the IFIC, presented the survey findings at the International Sweetener Colloquium held earlier this week in Tucson, Arizona.

Among the key findings: a solid majority of consumers – 72 percent – claim they are trying to avoid excess sugar, and the main way they say they’re doing that is by switching to water from sweetened beverages.

IFIC’s annual Food and Health Survey also found:

  • 45 percent of respondents said eating less sugar was their top health goal in 2022, ahead of weight loss and improved diet healthfulness.
  • 20 percent of consumers said they believe sugar is the most likely source of weight gain.
  • 30 percent said they believe all sources of calories cause weight gain, not just carbs.

The bad news

Alas, the survey also found that a majority of consumers still prefer sugar over alternative sweeteners, and a majority also favour the taste of sugar over that of alterative sweeteners, whether artificial or natural-source (such as stevia). Even with all the media chatter about artificial sweeteners, a majority of those polled said they still believe those are, “not good for you.”

In fact, taste, rather than health issues, remained the overall top ‘driver’ of for all food preferences and purchases in the 2022 survey, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience and environmental sustainability (in that order). Which underlines the reality that awareness doesn’t necessarily translate to action.

Labelling a factor

“Labels have an impact,” Sollid told Food Business News, both for in-store and online shopping. That’s not necessarily a great development, in as much as recent research shows that a vast majority of online food shopping sites don’t provide adequate or even any nutrition information on the products they sell – and online grocery shopping has been growing in leaps and bounds as a result of the COVID situation.

And the message to manfacturers is mixed again: The survey shows consumers are attracted by terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘plant based’ on labels – even if they don’t know what those terms mean. Which underlines the reality that awareness doesn’t necessarily translate to understanding, much less action.

My take

Awareness is a good start towards reducing the consumption of excess sugar by the masses. But there seems to be a disconnect between awareness and understanding, and understanding and positive action on the issue.

Could it be the power of humanity’s hard-wired addiction to the sweet stuff?

The fact remains: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions – and they’re apparently made of sugar.

~ Maggie J.