The ongoing war on sugar has shaped consumer attitude towards sugar and what excessive sugar intake is associated with. As more consumers have become conscious about their health and wellbeing in the last couple of years this is something that has amplified. As many consumers view sugar as a cause of obesity and link excessive consumption with health problems, sugar intake is something that people are looking to reduce.

Why turn to sweeteners?

FMCG Gurus consumer insights found that 66% of global consumers seek out products containing sweeteners as an attempt to avoid or moderate sugar intake. With a greater focus on improving diet and lifestyle to aid healthy ageing, more consumers are making efforts to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet. Additionally, plant-based sweeteners with free-from claims can appeal to health-conscious consumers looking for better-for-you options in their diets. This, alongside organic and sustainability claims, can help products containing sweeteners instead of sugar be seen by consumers as a guilt-free alternative. 

However, it is interesting to note that FMCG Gurus consumer insights found that 50% of consumers deem natural sweeteners to be healthy, but only one in four consumers are making active attempts to seek out products that contain them. This suggests that there is not enough motivation alone from natural sweetener claims on packaging and this is something that brands need to address.

Barriers for the sweetener market

One of the main barriers for the sweetener market is a lack of education.Many consumers are simply not educated enough about the different types of sweeteners on offer. Only 27% of global consumers regularly conduct research into different types of natural sweeteners. This highlights that consumers will seek out products where information is clearly available on the packaging about the sweetener content. The industry should address this and look for ways to encourage consumers to research and educate themselves on natural sweeteners. This can help avoid confusion where consumers might label a sweetener as artificial if they believe the ingredient sounds chemical, even if this is not the case. 

Another issue to address is cost. FMCG Gurus consumer insights found that only 29% of consumers were willing to pay a premium for food and drink containing natural sweeteners. In a time of reduced financial confidence with living costs on the rise, consumers are looking to cut they amount they spend on food and drink. Consumers can associate betterfor- you products with a higher price point and may avoid products with sweeteners due to this preconception. This also demonstrates that natural sweetener claims alone are not enough to influence consumers to pay a premium price. Again, brands should encourage consumers to understand about individual sweeteners rather than natural sweeteners as a collective. This can help them make informed decisions about the products they consume and the sustainability, heath and quality benefits of these ingredients.

 Most importantly, the biggest barrier that sweetener brands need to overcome is the sensory appeal of sweeteners. Globally, 57% of consumers state that natural sweeteners lack in taste and 36% state that they regularly experience a bitter taste when eating or drinking products that contain natural sweeteners. This is something that the sweetener market has been faced with for a long time. Consumers will want to seek out products that are guilt-free and healthier, but will not want to compromise on taste. The industry should continue to innovate and work on improving the taste of ingredients so consumers are more likely to turn to products containing sweeteners.