Understanding consumer preference for low-calorie and low-sugar products

Worldwide concern over increasing rates of obesity and its related health consequences such as diabetes has grown significantly over recent years. Reasons for this surge in body weight include the ubiquity of high-calorie fast foods and drinks, with consumers seeking both speed and convenience when it comes to their dining experience.

Low sugar or no sugar? Different patterns for different categories

DSM’s Global Insight Series surveyed 5,000 no/ low sugar product users from across France, US, Argentina, Mexico and Australia about their beliefs and behaviors around these popular products.

In every category, except soft drinks, consumers are slightly more likely to have bought a low-sugar option than a sugar-free option. The three most frequently cited reasons for choosing low or no-sugar options were all related to weight and health. Almost half (49%) of people surveyed said they chose lower no-sugar options to lose or maintain weight. Globally, 42% said they made these choices because they were concerned about diabetes and 39% because they were concerned about a threat to their health. Interestingly, just 20% of respondents said that they preferred the taste of low/no sugar products. 

"Reducing added sugar means re-thinking milk flavorings as even natural fruit flavors can come with a hit of sugar while many favorite flavors – such as chocolate and caramel – depend on sugar for the sweet taste that consumers love."

What is going on in consumers’ minds when they scan the shelves for a sweet product without the calories?

The survey data suggest that consumers seeking to limit sugar intake do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to purchasing decisions for the different foods and beverages they consume. More than twice as many (41% vs 20%) have opted for a sugar-free carbonated soft drink versus a sugar-free juice and, while 40% have chosen a low-sugar yogurt, just 20% have opted for a sugar-free version of the flavored yogurt. Understanding what drives this aspect of different decision making per category may hold promise for manufacturers launching products that offer no-sugar options in low-sugar strongholds and vice versa.

Consumer interest in low- and no-sugar products is high in all markets surveyed and the awareness of the health implications of too much sugar is significant and increasing, especially in the emerging consumer markets. The popularity of low- and no-sugar options demonstrates that consumers still want to be able to enjoy sweet-tasting drinks and snacks although their perceived buying behavior varies quite substantially per category.

Food Fact

Of those surveyed, 69% agree/strongly agree that they are concerned about the impact of excess sugar consumption on weight.

DSM Solution

DSM's Maxilact® helps dairy producers hit the sweet spot with lactose-free dairy products that reduce sugar in dairy products by up to 50%. 

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Published on

09 May 2019