The war on sugar continues, and brands are racing to reformulate and innovate to meet the demand for low sugar products without compromising taste. But what are consumers looking for when it comes to sweetened food and drink?

Research from GlobalData reveals that American consumer preferences towards sugar and sweeteners have shifted over time. In the US, consumers have not only become more attentive to the sugar and sweeteners used in their food and drinks, but “natural” has also increased its influence.

According to GlobalData’s Q4 2017 consumer survey, 29% of Americans find the claim “natural sweetened” most appealing when choosing food and drinks; an increase of 12 percentage points compared to 2014.

This sentiment aligns with strong preferences for “natural” generally as consumers perceive such products to be intrinsically healthier. Indeed, when asked what “healthy” means to them, the same 2017 survey revealed that 56% of Americans consider it to mean “natural,” placing it above all other response choices including “low fat” and “low sugar.”

The claims “no added sugar” and “contains real sugar” have become less influential over the same period, likely highlighting greater awareness among Americans that products making such claims are likely to still be sugary, even if the source is naturally occurring or “real”.

Americans are increasingly rejecting sugar in all forms, and actively seek out natural low-sugar alternatives to satisfy their cravings for a sweet treat or beverage. The challenge for brands is to ensure such products live up to the taste expectations of consumers, especially given the challenges brands face. This includes, for example, overcoming aftertaste issues often associated with food and drink made with sugar-alternatives such as stevia.

Source: GlobalData’s Q4 2017 and Q4 2014 global consumer surveys

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