“At the start of the last century, most people worried whether they’d be able to put food on their plate: today, they’re more concerned about whether their plate has too much food. A modern-day version of Oliver Twist would likely be clinically obese rather than going hungry,” he said in a Euromonitor International blog post.
He said that sugar has indeed become a problem, with soft drink and confectionery manufacturers, specifically in Western Europe and North America being called on to act responsibly. “This will make it more difficult for these products to achieve organic value growth.
“The problem of relying on sugary products in a period where sugar is a public enemy will prove tricky for manufacturers to resolve.”
World’s sugar intake
Daily sugar consumption is particularly high in the US, UK and Germany, which are three of the top 10 global spenders on packaged food. “On average, these countries consume 73.3 grams per day of sugar from packaged food – nearly double the global average,” he said.
But a range of products is set to experience a decline in volume consumption over the next five years, according to a study published by the market research firm. Semi-skimmed milk is expected to contract by 2% over the forecast period, equivalent to 750 million litres, it said.
“It is not just confectionery that contributes to the high consumption of sugar... Dairy and bakery products, such as packaged bread and pasteurised milk, also rank highly,” he said.
Is reformulation the answer?
Though some products have tried to reformulate, not all have been successful. Soft drinks that have used sweeteners such as stevia for example, have been met with an ambivalent response said Skelly, referring to Coca-Cola’s Sprite brand in particular. “[It] has seen a significant decline in sales since it reformulated its recipe,” he said.
Some companies in the UK and US have made efforts to resize their confectionery products to meet a voluntary target of less than 250 calories per pack, but results there too have not always been positive.
Last year Mars faced a challenging time when it saw sales drop 14.4% due to reduced bar sizes.
However, Skelly said that reducing pack size has significantly contributed to companies’ abilities to meet their voluntary targets.
“[But] manufacturers are making these decisions as a result of increasing pressure on the cost of ingredients,” he said, pointing to the price of cocoa, which rose by 25% per metric tonne in 2014, while the price of sugar declined per pound over the last five years.