Sugar Producer

August/September 2021

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20  Sugar Producer AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2021 Increasing Awareness of Sugar's Origin Majority of consumers moderate their intake, but sugar remains the sweetener of choice FROM THE SUGAR ASSOCIATION Courtney Gaine, R.D., Ph.D. | President & CEO To effectively communicate with consumers about sugar, we must regularly get a handle on how they think and feel about sugar. Through consumer research, such as the Sugar Association's 2021 benchmark survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers, we can get a pulse on the current consumer sentiment around sugar and develop messages that aim to increase their knowledge and address misperceptions. We find it's always important to meet people where they are when it comes to talking about sugar. Below we cover a few of our (and others') recent research highlights that hopefully will help you understand that state of consumer thinking a little bit better. A majority of consumers now believe sugar is natural. In 2018, less than a third (only 29 percent!) of consumers viewed "table sugar" as naturally occurring. However, fast-forward to 2021, and this number has nearly doubled, with more than half (54 percent) of consumers believing "table sugar" to be naturally occurring, suggesting people are more familiar with sugar's origin. And, when asked about real sugar, beet sugar and cane sugar, the numbers get even larger, with 80, 69 and 85 percent of consumers, respectively, connecting these terms to their natural origin. Taste is most important. When presented with a list of attributes to consider when making food and beverage purchases, consumers rate safety and taste as most important. Sugar tops the list of ingredients that people say make food and beverages enjoyable to eat. Healthy and natural rank lower on the list of attributes impacting purchases. Consumer data from other sources confirms the power of taste, with 70 percent of consumers saying taste is more important than grams of sugar per serving, and 62 percent saying that price is more important than grams of sugar. Overall, 80 percent of consumers report they regularly or sometimes read the nutrition information on food and beverage packaging, including the nutrition claims on the front of packages, the Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredients list. But even when a product includes strong health or functionality claims, the product must also deliver on taste. Speaking of Nutrition Facts Labels, when considering the information found in the Carbohydrates section of the label, 25 percent of consumers say Total Sugars information has the biggest influence on their purchases; 21 percent say the same about Total Carbohydrates information; and only 13 percent say Added Sugars content has the biggest influence. Knowing sugar intake recommendations boosts consumer confidence. While 75 percent of consumers say it's important to know the dietary recommendations for daily sugar intake, the majority don't know what that number is and think they can only have fewer than 40 grams per day. This is 20 percent less than the current guidelines of 10 percent of total calories (or 50 grams based on a 2,000-calorie diet). However, after learning about the recommendations, 40 percent of consumers say they are more confident about managing their sugar intake. Consumers aim to moderate their sugar intake, but sugar is no longer at the top of the "no-no" list. The number of people who limit their sugar intake decreased almost 10 percent between 2019 and 2020, and didn't change from 2020 to 2021. Overall, we found 70 percent of consumers look to limit their intake, with 43 percent of those people reporting that while they limit sugar, they also agree that it is fine in moderation. Twenty-seven percent of consumers report generally avoiding sugar. One notable shift from our 2018

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