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Consumer sugar awareness ‘quite limited’: Cargill survey

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

When consumers were interviewed 47% of respondents perceived stevia to be a natural product. ©iStock
When consumers were interviewed 47% of respondents perceived stevia to be a natural product. ©iStock
Despite the drive to reduce sugar content in foods, consumers are still bewildered as to which type of sugar alternative is the healthiest.

Findings from an IPSOS consumer survey commissioned by Cargill revealed that when consumers were asked to identify different types of sugars and sweeteners, one third were unable to recall any type of sugar or sweetener.

Only 1% of consumers specifically named  isoglucose (glucose-fructose syrup) as a type of sugar with honey, cane, white sugar, fructose and stevia mentioned when subjects were prompted.

“This result of 1% means that glucose-fructose is not top in the minds of consumers,”​ commented a spokesperson for Cargill.  

“When isoglucose was prompted more people recognised it. People mostly know what is in the kitchen where they recognise more ingredients.”

What about salt and fat?​ 

bread_and_salt_sodium_reduction_iStock
Salt, along with fat were considered not essential to omit from the diet when compared to sugar. ©iStock

Consumers were also asked about their attitudes toward sugar, in which a third (33%) mentioned they actively reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, when compared to other ingredients such as fat and salt.

“If you look at what brings you calories, all macronutrients bring calories,”​ the spokesperson said.

“It is not an effective approach to only focus on one ingredient if you want to decrease obesity. Overall calorie intake and diet patterns and lifestyle plays a role as well.”

Although 52% of the consumers interviewed perceived white sugar to be a natural product, stevia received a score of 47%.

Approximately 80% of consumers indicated white sugar was the ingredient they would most avoid, due to its link with obesity. 71% of the consumers surveyed commented that sugars were fattening.  

Sugar types ignored?

Interestingly, purchasing habits were decided by the amount and number of sugars listed on the label, rather than the actual type of sugar.

Purchases appeared to decrease when both sugar and isoglucose were combined on the label.

This suggested a perception among consumers that there was a higher sugar content, when in fact the total quantity of sugars remains unchanged.

When consumers were asked to give a reason why they would not purchase a full caloric beverage, over half of the respondents indicated that sugar content was the main barrier.

This was a consistent response for both soft drinks and fruit juices, regardless of the proportion of sugar/isoglucose they contained.

“The fact we distinguish all types of sugar in the ingredient list on the label seems to be confusing to consumers,” ​the spokesperson noted.

“In Europe already much more information is provided on specific sugars and calories when you compare to other regions.”

Over 1,000 consumers, aged between 18 to 65 years, from each of the representative European countries were surveyed, including the UK, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Poland. 

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