Mintel: Consumers Avoid Total Sugars More Than Specific Sweeteners

Although many beverage brands have turned their attention toward innovative sweeteners, a recent study shows that most consumers aren’t yet doing the same.

Consumers are more focused on reducing total sugars in their diet and don’t pay as much attention to specific sweeteners, according to a recent study by Mintel, a global research supplier.

The study found that between 17 and 26 percent of carbonated soft drink (CSD), yogurt and bread brand purchasers are looking to reduce total sugars in their diet, while only 1 to 5 percent of these consumers avoid specific sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. The study, which was commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association, surveyed 2,400 primarily household grocery shoppers.

“These findings directly contradict the unfounded buzz around specific sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup,” said Sara Martens, vice president of The MSR Group, a business insights provider. “Consumers aren’t responding to product formulation or menu item adjustments based on specific sweetening ingredients, and food and beverage industry decision-makers should consider this before investing in costly modifications.”

The study also found that 18 to 20 percent of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper drinkers are looking to reduce total sugars in their diet, while just 1 to 2 percent of these consumers avoid a specific sweetener.

When conducting the study, Mintel performed a 13-question telephone survey that found reasons for consumer considerations of calories, sodium and sugars or sweeteners when buying CSDs. As shown in the graph below, the most common response was: “I am watching my calories and/or weight.” Other common responses were: “sugar/too much sugar,” “health reasons/nutrition,” “I watch sugar to avoid or limit diabetes,” “I prefer to limit or watch sugars and sweeteners,” and “I prefer light or sugar-free products.”

Source: Corn Refiners Association and Mintel

Despite the fact that most CSD consumers aren’t thinking about sweeteners, some beverage brands view stevia and other natural sweeteners as a key to sustaining the CSD industry. Last week, the Coca-Cola Co. announced the launch of Coca-Cola Life, a cola sweetened with sugar and stevia. The new product was released in Argentina and will expand its footprint if it succeeds in the pilot market.